Sunday, July 3, 2016


In honor of the annual Twilight Zone marathon on the SyFy Channel (which kicks off tonight at 11:30), I offer a list—first presented here back in 2011—of my ten favorite Zone episodes.  By the time I was done, I’d included sixteen episodes, but let’s all pretend it’s a top ten list.  It sounds better that way.

“Time Enough At Last” which is first on the list, is probably my all-time favorite, perhaps because it’s the first one I remember seeing; but, really, the numbering doesn't matter:  they all hold an equal place in my heart, continuing—even after all these years—to echo on in the deeps of my psyche and soul.

1)  “Time Enough At Last”
Written by Rod Serling.  As noted, the first episode I remember seeing—I think I was five or six—and one that’s never let me go.  Burgess Meredith is brilliant as the bookish Henry Bemis:  a man, abused by the world, who’s never happy unless he’s reading.  The ending is the most tragic, and unfair, in all the Zone; but what touched me as a child, and still does to this day, is Bemis’s love of literature and the strange charms of being the only person left alone in the world.  By becoming a professional writer—someone who spends a good part of his life alone with his own imagination—you could say I became a Henry Bemis myself.

2)  “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”/”Nick of Time”
Written by Richard Matheson.  Two classic episodes starring the incomparable William Shatner.  In “Nightmare...”, Shatner gives a career-defining performance as a passenger fighting for both his life and his sanity on an airplane.  It’s a tribute to Shatner, Matheson and director Richard Donner that the first time I ever got on a plane, the first thing I did was look out the window to check and see if there was anything...strange out there on the wing.  In “Nick of Time,” Shatner is equally terrific in another Matheson story, this one delicately, and brilliantly, walking a fine line between the supernatural and the psychological.  And who could forget that bobbing devil-head?

3)  “Walking Distance”
Written by Rod Serling.  “Walking Distance” owes something to the work of Ray Bradbury—filled as it is with a longing for a simpler age of childhood innocence and merry-go-rounds—but the bittersweet soul of the story is pure Serling.  Gig Young gives a heartfelt—and heartbreaking—performance as a desperate man seeking solace in his own fragile past.  As perfect a TZ as was ever filmed, this is Serling at the very top of his game, using the show’s format to explore the human condition with a power and eloquence rarely seen on television, then or now.

4)  “A Stop At Willoughby”
Written by Rod Serling.  A companion piece to “Walking Distance,” this wonderful episode features James Daley—who went on to appear in one of my favorite Star Trek episodes, “Requiem for Methuselah”—giving a superb performance as a businessman longing for escape from the pressures of his life.  He finds it in a place called Willoughby—which may very well be Heaven itself.  Despite hints of misogyny—there are one too many harpy wives in Serling’s work—this is a deeply moving, and deeply magical story, that manages to transform tragic death into eternal triumph.  Many a time I’ve been on an Amtrak train wondering if the conductor would shout out, “Willoughby!  This stop is Willoughby!”  If he did, would I get off?  Would you?

5)  “A World of Difference”
Written by Richard Matheson.  Another Matheson gem, one of the very best of the Zones that question both personal identity and the nature of reality.  
Howard Duff is perfectly cast as a man trying desperately to escape an existence he believes is a lie and return to a life that everyone else claims is a madman’s delusion.   The moment when Duff is sitting in his office at work and an offscreen voice yells, "Cut!"—revealing the world we've been watching to be a movie set—is one of the most thrilling and disturbing in the series.   

6)  “The After Hours”
Written by Rod Serling.  Another challenge to personal identity, perhaps to our humanity itself.  “The After Hours” terrified and fascinated me as a kid.  It also had me wondering, every time I passed a department store mannequin, if there was more to them, and to the universe, than met the eye.  That, to me, was the greatest gift of The Twilight Zone:  it exploded safe assumptions and challenged you to look, really look, and discover the miracles hidden just beneath the skin of the world.

7)  “The Purple Testament”/”A Quality of Mercy”
Written by Rod Serling.  This pair of superb episodes, both inspired by Serling’s experiences fighting in the Pacific during World War II, always seemed of a piece to me.  Both are resonant with sorrow, outrage and compassion—and could only have been created by a man who’d witnessed the horrors of war first hand.  “Mercy’s” ability to shift perspective, to let us see war from the enemy’s POV, was a real eye opener to me as a kid.  It broke apart the simplistic good guy/bad guy paradigm that mass media, and our political culture, had been feeding my young, impressionable mind and helped me to understand that all of us—so-called heroes and so-called villains alike—are united by our humanity.

8)  “King Nine Will Not Return”
Written by Rod Serling.  Only Twilight Zone could give you thirty minutes of Robert Cummings staggering around in the desert alone, speaking primarily through interior monologue, and make it a classic.  Cummings, who learned his craft in movies but became a household name as the star of amiable, unchallenging sitcoms, proved that his dramatic chops were still intact with this wonderful portrayal of a man caught between past and future, guilt and madness.  The sand in the shoe at the end was the icing on the cake.

9)  “The Eye of the Beholder”
Written by Rod Serling.  Okay, go to the mirror, pull down your bottom eyelids, push up your nose and scare the hell out of yourself the same way those doctors and nurses scared the hell of you the first time you saw this episode.  A perfect mix of the aural and the visual, “The Eye of the Beholder” is skillfully directed by Douglas Heyes and beautifully acted by Maxine Stewart, who, hidden as she is beneath bandages, gives what is essentially the greatest radio performance in the history of television.  (When the bandages come off at the end, it’s a little disconcerting to find Elly May Clampett underneath.)  Serling loved to rail against conformity and totalitarianism (among other things)—and sometimes the railing overwhelmed the writing.  Here everything is in perfect balance.  Yes, there’s a point to be made, but it’s the humanity of the story that stays with you. 

10) “The Odyssey of Flight 33”
Written by Rod Serling.  A simple, brilliant premise:  a passenger jet lost in time.  What’s amazing about the show is that—despite a few briefly-seen effects shots, some equally brief stock footage and a handful of passenger reactions—the bulk of the story takes place in the cockpit of the plane.  It’s all talk.  And yet Serling manages to make us believe that we’re trapped on that plane along with the crew and passengers, adrift in the timestream—and that we may never return.  That’s called great writing, folks.

11) “Night of the Meek”
Written by Rod Serling.  The great Art Carney as a down-on-his-luck boozer who, on a snowy December night, finds himself transformed into Santa Claus.  Be forewarned:  this is no Tim Allen Disney comedy.  It’s a genuinely moving tale of redemption:  Serling at his sweetest, but not losing his edge, either.  A show that demands re-watching every 25th of December.

12)  “It’s a Good Life”

Written by Rod Serling.  Billy Mumy wishing people into the cornfield.  What more needs to be said?  Just this:  the moment when Mumy’s six year old terror Anthony Fremont turns Don Keefer’s character, Dan Hollis, into a human jack-in-the-box is one of the most chilling moments ever broadcast on television.  And what makes it work is how little we actually see.  Most of what we get is shadow and suggestion, letting our imaginations fill in the horrifying details. 

13) “To Serve Man”
Written by Rod Serling.  Three little words:  “It’s a cookbook!”  Yes, it’s all a little goofy, and there are some obvious plot holes, but, c’mon, “It’s a cookbook!”

14) “Death Ship”
Written by Richard Matheson.  The best of the hour long episodes, “Death Ship” is another Matheson gem that—as Marc Scott Zicree points out in his wonderful book, The Twilight Zone Companion (still the best TZ book out there, if you ask me)—skillfully straddles the line between science fiction and horror.  The performances by Ross Martin, Fred Beir and Zone repeat offender Jack Klugman are uniformly excellent.  This one sends a chill down your spine and pierces your heart at the same time:  an uncommon feat.  But, then, Matheson is an uncommon writer.

There are so many other episodes I could write about—”A World of His Own, “ “Nothing in the Dark,” “The Midnight Sun, “ “The Trade Ins” and “Number Twelve Looks Just Like You” spring immediately to mind—but I’ve got to stop somewhere.  And, since the entire series is available on DVD, Blu-Ray and a number of streaming platforms, you should have no trouble tracking any of them down and losing yourself in the wonders and terrors of The Twilight Zone.

All that said, I’m compelled to mention one more extraordinary episode that was part of the 1980’s reboot of the series.  (I sold my first television script to the 80’s Zone and I really should blog about that memorable experience one of these days.)  The episode, “Her Pilgrim Soul,” written by the brilliant Alan Brennert, isn’t just one of the finest episodes of any incarnation of the Zone—right up there with the best of Serling, Matheson and Charles Beaumont—it’s one of the finest pieces I’ve ever seen on television.  In fact, it’s so good, you’ve got to click on this link and watch it right now.

©copyright 2016 J.M. DeMatteis


  1. So its a time for reruns, eh? I can follow that...

    Oh Dematteis... you've opened a can of worms here. Now I have to list some of my favorites.

    "Mr. Denton on Dooms Day"- In a way it's hard to believe that this was so early in the show. I love it, a tale of a man who's been defeated; by the world, by booze, and finally by himself. And best of all when he finally gets what he needs to fix himself up, he knows it's only leading to his destruction. Truly this is the tale of a man's worth, and not told through the affect of him gone or through the lives he touched, as the oh so cliched way goes, but rather just through the man himself. classic.

    "third from the Sun"- Serling's reworking of a Matheson classic. It's funny, we all look back at this episode and say, "saw it coming." But come on the first time you saw it whether it was in 1959 or last week you were totally surprised. And the atmosphere hung as thick as late night dock fog. Constantly you are on edge with an odd sense of foreboding, I can only imagine what it was like watching this when it first came out when this all seemed so possible on our sun's third planet.

    "The monsters are due on Maple Street"- This is my all time favorite episode. In many ways it is the ultimate TZ episode. Everything the show was could be, and is remembered for is right here. The lesson and imagery are BOTH HAUNTING, It still pops into my head every time I loose power.

    "People are alike all over."- I don't know why I love this episode so much, I just do. It is hardly among the most impressive, or thought provoking, but it sticks with me.

    "Passage of a Trumpet"- I don't care what anyone says, Jack Klugman is amazingly talented. And unlike most writers who feel a need to rush a tale of suicide into a story of it being wrong and sacrifices too much of how one gets there, this doesn't. You can absolutely feel that this man, for all his talent, is beaten down and full of despair. This is not a causality of "gee ain't life grand" story telling, but rather a dance partner. Truly a tale of a city's dark side, and in the end a love letter... Eisner must have been proud.

    "The howling Man"- You know where the walk way ends when good intentions are your mortar. Well this as literal a view of it as possible, and the terror that stalks all honorable men's nightmares and leaves them too chilled to sleep.

    "Night of the meek"- Great. Where as Mr. Denton's odyssey is about a man's worth, this is a man's value shining through (A man's worth being him as he is and his value being his potential to others, in my m ind any way) ANd how can someone not love a story about a man who only once wants to see the meek inherit the Earth, and to be the biggest best gift giver of all? Don't we all have at least a little of that in us. Could This druinken St. Nick be Steve Rogers' long lost cousin? Soul brother? an astral projection of his goodness as he lay frozen? probably not, but don't they both give you that same beaming hope for mankind?

    "will the real martian please stand up?"- Finally a tale on this list that doesn't take itself too seriously. A fun tale that is saved from the depths of hokeyness from great characterization and a sense of fun.

    "Obsolete Man"- One of the best ending narrations to any episode. Truly a great slap in the face to any who would sacrifice their identity. Okay, okay, so yes it is somewhat reminiscent of Fahrenheit 451, but Rod makes it his own.Two ideology's clashing as violently as any, but all through the dialogue of two men, it's almost like a well played game of chess.

    "The grave" - no real lesson, but again everything is through a handful of people talking. Not necessarily scary, but definitely creepy as all Hell. And that end always sends chills up my spine.

  2. "The Hunt"-ONe of the most touching tales ever. This story could have ol' Rip replaced with a wife, or sibling, or parent or child, but the fact he's a dog packs more impact than any of those other choices. A tale of a humble man saved by his humble tastes and humble affections, and there is no problem with any of that. After all "in all the world there is no love as pure and uncompromising than a boy(man)'s love for his dog." And this proves it. Also, I like the idea of paradise being simple in the end.

    "To serve man"- "Goofy!?" This one scarred me to no end as a kid, and still does a little. Maybe that's because the idea of being prey is so engrained into our psyche from our ancient ancestors. Or maybe it's just a feeling that being dependent on someone else makes us vulnerable. Or maybe it's just the fact the aliens talk without even moving teir mouths and are always in a post-stroke like stare, I don't know. And okay o it's also the plot of 90% of EC comics Sci-fi tales (there horror is so highly praised, but there science fiction had a nack for the Shockley) TYhis one always makes me a tad uneasy.

    "In Praise of Pip"- you may like stories of Father's but as any true reader (or writer) of DC's Bat could infer from my listings of "Mr. Denton on Dooms Day," "people are alike all over," "Passage of a trumpet," "Night of the meek," and this tale, I have a soft spot for stories of losers and failures. In the end it's a tale of how it's never too late, too late to make good, too late to abandon our wicked ways, or too late to find nobility. and as they say "Most men, not all, but most, hald that greatest of God's gifts, the potential for a noble soul, though many, if not most, are not lucky enough to be able to tap into it." Also the first television show to mention the Vietnam war.

    "Probe & over and out"- classic.

    "I am the night color me black"- A tale of hate and the line we draw and the toll it takes on us. In the end no matter how good of a reason anyone has, no one really did anything for the right reason. And no matter if any action taken or mentioned in this tale is n a moral right area, they are still tainted. And the reverend's words to the condemned hold a good point. In our society we associate the term minority with race, or religion, or ethnicity, but what about the truer minorities, those of opinion and of thoughts?

    "He is alive"- one of only three of the hour longs I remember, and a good one. Like the topic of suicide in "passage of a Trumpet," this handle prejudice realistically. It's not treated as a boogey man, but rather as a real life problem that can be manipulated by people. And it smashes our delusion, the delusion that "It can't happen here." Terrifying, but in a very different way than any other except "The monsters are due on maple street."

    "Valley of the Shadow"- a simple tale with an often over looked conclusion, that any paradise that is exclusionary is indeed not paradise. I liked it.

    And an honorary mention to: "The printer's devil," "came wander with me," "the encounter," "I shot an arrow into the air," "Dust," "Twenty-two," "a game of pool," "Nothing in the dark," and "Changing of the guard," truly ll classics. And a special mention to what I believe to be the worst episode, "The bewitchin' pool"

    The great thing about the Twilight Zone is it was certainly about imagination, but just as much it was about the characters that drove it.

    Wishing you nothing, but goodwill and hipness from here to the stars,


    1. You mention so many episodes I love, Jack: "Night of the Meek," a true Christmas classic; "In Praise of Pip," which never fails to bring me to tears; "Passage For Trumpet" (and, yes, Jack Krugman was brilliant); "Nothing in the Dark," "A Game of Pool," "Changing of the Guard." And I'm sure we could list many more that could genuinely be called classics.

      And, yeah, "The Bewitchin' Pool" was just awful, wasn't it? But even that had an interesting idea behind it.

    2. Argh. Autocorrect changed "Klugman" to "Krugman"! (Shakes fists at the gods of A.I.)

    3. What is a Krugman anyway? We'll get to Vision for this. Damn, red faced bastard.

      SO, you didn't do a cut and paste like I did. Fair enough, glad to see it.

      "Bewitchin' Pool" an interesting idea? Eh... not to me. I'm not big on the whole, "magic of childhood" thing. It was going to be a miss for me one way or the other. It just went from a miss to ad.


  3. With the bi-annual tradition, I can't help but compare to now.

    I wonder if in the current era, people should maybe avoid the political/social commentary writing.

    It isn't that I don't like it, as some claim, it is more that I wonder if the art is lost.

    Just look at TZ, for all the commentary it was always first and foremost entertaining, it never feels like lecture.

    Ideally, when in the entertainment industry, you would get you point across in a way that can be enjoyed by someone who doesn't hold that opinion from the start.

    Now, it seems that it is more common to drive away people who do agree with the lack of subtlety.

    Its across all media, but lets just look at comics. GErber, O'Neil, and Nocenti all made such commentary a big part of their work. All made valid points. Most importantly, all were first and foremost entertaining. Just like... What do you know? Rod Serling.

    No one wants to be lectured, whether they agree with you or not, and you surely don't convert people that way.

    Merely an observation. File O for obvious here in the Twiligh... or, uh...Creation Point.


    1. Do you have your own eerie theme song to go with that observation, Jack?

    2. This is your accompaniment is your responsibility, not mine.


    3. I'll get to work on the Creation Point theme song right away.

    4. Wel, I'll see what I can allow when that is done. Just don't dillydally. We're trying to business here, Are we? I don't know, just get to work,... CHIP CHOP CHIP!


  4. Great list. I remember watching the 80s revival, and the one that really struck a chord with me was "A Message from Charity," written by Alan Brennert. It's about a teenage boy in the present day who forms a telepathic bond with a girl named Charity, who lives centuries ago, during Colonial times. Charity is eventually accused of being a witch (because of her knowledge of the future, courtesy the boy), and faces execution.

    When I was writing THE RAMPAGING HULK, I was kicking around the idea of doing my own riff on the concept--imagine Banner's frustration as he tries to stop the execution of a young woman cut off from him by hundreds of years. Alas, the series didn't last long enough for me to get around to it.

    1. Alan B was, and remains, a fantastic writer, Glenn (also a very nice guy: he was responsible for me selling my 80's TZ script) and "Message" was an excellent episode.

      Sounds like your Hulk riff would have made for an excellent story. Too bad you never got to do it!

  5. I heard a funny yet depressing anecdote.

    Apparently someone really liked some of Kurt Busiek's creator owned work. Makes sense, he's a good writer.

    So he contacted him and asked for recommendations. The thing is he pirated all teh work, and flat out told Busiek.

    Pretty funny.

    Also very depressing. People just don't consider theft, theft anymore... do they? Pfff internet.

    Here I am BUYING comics like and idiot... AN IDIOT, DEamtteis. I guess there is only one course of action. I'm going to have to pirate Scooby Doo Apocalypse.

    I mean come on do you need payment, and does DC REALLY need sales figures to know if people like something.

    Its a wacky world, Dematteis.


    1. Yes, we need payment and yes DC needs those sales figures!

      That said, I honestly don't mind people indulging in digital sampling. But if you sample an issue of (to use your example) a Busiek book and like it, then get off your ass and BUY it and SUPPORT THE CREATOR whose work you're enjoying. Hell, if you're into digital comics, you don't even have to get off your ass, just click on over to Comixology.

      It's not that different from when I was a teenager and a friend would loan me an album (remember those?) If I liked it, I would sometimes record it, taking the time to get to know it. And if I really liked the artist I made sure to go out and BUY THEIR STUFF. The sampling made me a hard-core fan and a hard-core consumer.

      It's the people who think it's okay to get everything for free that drive me nuts.

    2. I think "You don't even have to get off your ass" is the most perfect comixology slogan ever.


    3. I'll be happy to sell it to them! : )

    4. Complicated. There is a difference between borrowing something and going through means that exist only to pirate media.

      I'm not going to sit here and pretend that I never did things that were questionable involving media. In the end, a mix tape, burned CD, or other recording, is lesser but still related.

      I have done those things, but that doesn't mean that it was right or that now years later I condone it or the more modern methods. It simply means that I did it. End of story.

      There are plenty of things I did, or even sometimes do (surprisingly I'm not perfect, hold your gasps, please) that I can acknowledge were not the best idea.

      However, the REAL difference, is that I (and I suspect you didn't g to people and ask for things to bootleg. Why? Because legally they can take it, prosecute, or at the very least will not be fond of you.

      I burned CDs, but I wouldn't announce it. And borrowing is a very different beast from that. Recording a concert or bootlegging an album is illegal, lending isn't album isn't.

      Okay, I'm getting off topic, sorry.

      The issue, is that unlike you and I, this guy legitimately didn't consider it theft. Or is incredibly stupid, and voluntarily mentioned his crime to the victim, and if I remember correctly said he planned to still do it.


    5. Yep, it's a thorny issue. My main point is that, as a creator, I don't mind people sampling the work if it leads them to become fans and regular buyers. I DO mind people who want it all for free and don't take into consideration the fact that the people creating the work actually need to MAKE A LIVING.

    6. Well, unfortunately that's everyone these days. And it isn't age thing, everyone... or at least most people, want something for nothing. Nobody wants to pay for anything.

      People wonder why almost every movie is an adaption, well that is because that is what is guaranteed to bring in large groups of people. This is needed to off set the thousands if not millions who will pirate it.

      Almost every major form of entertainment has contracted in some way over the past decade and a half. With the exception of TV, which you don't pay for an individual showing. Do you think that's a coincidence?

      Pirating doesn't just take money from creators, or the companies that own them. It creates stagnation in various ways across entertainment, whether it is through stunts, hitting the same note over and over, or just lower quality.

      And while I do respect the idea that you are okay with it as sampling, and think that shows a good over all view, I think it is unrealistic to think that the majority of people will pay when they are used to getting it for free.


    7. I guess I have a little more faith in the majority than you do, Jack. : )

    8. Newspaper websites used to get far more visits, however most of them lost those visitors. The reason why is because many of them started charging for full articles. While the Times is the most well known example, it is far from the only one.

      So, I guess I'm saying that it must be nice to have that kind of faith in people, but the math just doesn't justify it for me.

      That being said, I do know someone from the comic store who started by opirating comics, and he went through at least big chunks of your captain America, as as his w work by Gruenwald, Englehart, Lee, Kirby, Waid, and Brubaker. So it does happen , just not very often.

      I will say that this gentleman is a Bernie fan. Also, interestingly he says he remembers the physical comics he buys much better than the digital ones.

      With him as the notable exception, I don't think simple math backs your optimism.

      Of course, if you want a more interesting chat about popular culture, it is the reason why it (along with PC culture) have exploded out so much in recent years.

      Its because the rise of moral and cultural relativity in the 60s left large groups of Generation X (born between 1961-1980) and Generation Y (1981-2000 births) without the philosophical center that previous generations have.

      So, they use these, along with shallower, yet more aggressive political discourse, and the need to be first to experience things, to fill that void. The void for larger concepts and guiding forces that we as a species need and crave.

      That ios why there are no more opinions on anything anymore, just personalized facts, nothing is okay just great or horrible, why so much of culture is references, and why the discussion of policy or movies is treated the same as a discourse on the nature of good and evil.

      And of course, why theft of media is tolerable in their minds. Its all inter connected.


    9. I remain optimistic.

      That said, interesting stuff and food for thought, as always. (I keep saying this: but you really need your own blog/website. You've always got such fascinating things to say and you should have a forum.)

      Also—I have a Gen X son and a Gen Y daughter and I can safely say that neither fits your paradigm. Nor do most of their friends.

    10. As someone born between 1961 and 2000, I don't think I fit into those paradigms either.

      But, not every baby boomer dropped acid or had massive amounts of unprotected... shall we say extra-curricular activities? They also didn't all become hyper self-absorbed (some would say more so, I'm ducking out) in the 70s and incredibly materialistic and conservative in the 80s. But it was enough to claim a trend.

      A mass group's actions does not necessarily dictate behavior of an individual. I pointed out that I land in teat 40 year period, and I don't think I could notice these trends if they were wholly descriptive of me.

      AS for you kids friends... this might shock you, but I have not met any of your kids' friends... at least as far as I know. So I can hardly be considered an expert on them.

      Keep in mind though, I'm not talking about criminal behavior... at least not for most. More of a drifting, searching, un... look it is hard to really get into it. Lost may be the best term, albeit one that still comes out lacking.

      I've seen it in the people I know, and I'm not sure it is the kind of thing you can pick up unless you spend a certain amount of time with someone, or know what to look for.

      The world is a weird place, always has been. It does seem like lost becomes a word more accurate to describe the species.

      I will say, there was an article a few years ago about how cult members have dropped significantly. It went on to say that while that sounds like a good thing, the reason for it is because our society stopped seeking deeper answers to life.


    11. Yes, one thing that was very true of the Baby Boomers (at least the circles I travelled in): they were seekers. I truly hope that need to dive within, to seek the Bigger Answers, is alive and well in the current generation.

  6. And in honor of America's day...


  7. "The Howling Man" remains my personal favorite.

    I like the mention of "Mr. Denton on Doomsday," Jack. An underrated classic to be sure. And the way it's played, you really don't know if Henry J. Fate is a devil or an angel until the very end.

    "To Serve Mankind" is one of those that you can take deadly seriously or just laugh at the pun, depending on your mood. Great ep either way.

    Another personal fav of mine that's not mentioned here? "A Nice Place to Visit." Pip's laugh at the end really sells it.

    "What You Need" is another one that always sticks out. Perfect story of a greedy man who brings retribution on himself.

    These lists are always fun. I almost feel like I'm doing a disservice to the show, as there will be another list of favorites that pop into my head on any given day.

    So many to choose from! I could go on forever...


    1. That "The Howling Man" is your favorite doesn't surprise me, David. Seems right up your alley.

      All excellent choices. Making a list of "best" (or even favorite) TZs is like making a list of "best" Beatles songs: There are going to be so many classics left out. That's the mark of greatness.

  8. Well, I can't argue with any of these. :)

    "Walking Distance" has became even more poignant since the death of my father some 9 years ago. As with "Field of Dreams", the idea of being able to talk to my father once more, grown man to grown man, is both heartbreaking & hauntingly beautiful.

    I'd add "Miniature" to that list, with the always wonderful Robert Duvall giving a fantastic performance, always going for the understated approach & making the scenes all the more powerful because of it.

    I recall reading that Serling admitted he couldn't write women well. In the case of "A Stop at Willoughby", it's true that Gart has a monstrous harpy wife ... but it can also be seen as a commentary on the 1950s, at least from our perspective now. Clearly things would have been better if she had the high pressure ad agency job -- she would have thrived at it -- while he stayed at home & pursued his inner dreams. But the times would never allow that. I wonder of a lot of harpy wives in 1950s dramas were unconscious depictions of capable, frustrated women denied the chance to develop their own considerable abilities. But of course the real monster in this episode is the "push-push-push" mentality of success, which is just as monstrous & powerful today.

    1. Good point about the "harpy wives," Tim. I've known women of that era who would have done superbly out in the (so-called) Real World but, because of the times, never had that opportunity—and they were incredibly frustrated because of it. That said, Serling was a product of those times and I don't think that (consciously at least) he was commenting on that syndrome. Of course I could be wrong, I've certainly been wrong before!

      "Miniature" is another wonderful episode that I don't always think of because it was a rarely-seen hour long episodes that was burned into my brain as a kid. And I agree about Duvall's understated performance. You could say he went for the miniature in "Miniature" and it worked.

    2. And of course I meant "WASN'T burned into my brain as a kid"!

      Don't know if that was auto-correct or me typing too fast!

  9. I agree, Serling was a product of his times, and women were often a scapegoat in the 1950s. It's fascinating (and exasperating) to see how the images of independent, competent women that appeared in so many 1930s & 1940s films suddenly disappeared in the 1950s. (Even in something like the Tarzan films, compare early 1930s Jane to 1950s Jane -- wow!)

    Anonymous mentioned the ability of shows like TZ to provide thoughtful commentary without sacrificing any of their entertainment quality. Yes, that's something that largely did get lost along the way -- at best, reduced to simplistic Very Special Episodes by the 1980s & beyond (And I do realize that I'm painting with a VERY broad brush here for emphasis.)

    I caught "It's a Good Life" last night, and that scene of poor Dan Hollis being turned into a jack-in-the-box IS one of the most disturbing things I've ever seen. And for the whole episode, how much is conveyed by Anthony's casual, cheerful mention of the things he's done, and the horribly shifting expressions of the faces of the adults, trying desperately not to think of their horror. Brrr! The shot of Dan's wife being restrained by her friends, their hands clasped over her mouth, her eyes wide with something far beyond shock & grief -- double Brrrr!

    1. "It's a Good Life" is a great argument for the power of understatement, for not hitting the audience over the head with everything. Today, when CGI gives us the ability to show anything we can imagine, we can sometimes rob the audience of imaginative power by spelling too many things out for them.

      Agree re: the portrayal of women in the 30's and 40's. The 50's were a decade where (in popular culture, at least) everything got squeaky clean, all the sharp edges were shaved off, and everyone got shoved into a pre-determined pigeonhole. But beneath that false surface was the crackle of the Beats, the Civil Rights movement and all the things that would explode through that facade in the 60's.

      One of the things that I still love about I LOVE LUCY is the fact that, in the heart of that ultra-white, sanitized decade, you had a show that featured a mixed marriage: a conga-playing, long-haired (for the time), hip-swiveling Cuban (in many ways, Desi was the Proto-Elvis), married to a woman who was desperately trying to explode out of her pre-determined role. And America loved it!

    2. That's not an entirely accurate view of media in the 30s-50s. Though, yes it has been less than even handed, it isn't quite that total.

      One of the most remembered movements of the era was Film Noir, which often would portray women in less domestic, and more complicated roles.

      Just look at your own genre, Lois lane may have had issues but, especially in the early days, was still a competent, strong, and brave reporter. This created a template for what superheroes needed in a significant other, and planted a seed for males to seek out more healthy relationships than their female counterparts.

      Beyond that, the Rosie the Riveter, and army nurse pushed the idea of women having strong place in society, and capable of taking on responsibility. This went beyond just propaganda and permeated the popular culture.

      And before that, the Great Depression pushed more women into more worldly roles, which is seen in the fiction of the era. Think how many movies of teh era have women able to keep up with the men, at least in verbal jousting.

      Before even that The 20s created a prelude to the liberated woman.

      Of course the nature of frontier life, factory work, and farm life had a view that American women had to be strong in some capacity from a long while before that.

      Some might even say it was classicist view, if you look at it, it was wealthy women in the 30s and 40s which would be more likely to have this trait, with poor or working class women shown as more capable.

      The idea you speak of has always had its place in AMerican culture, but it didn't become the de facto view until the first 15-20 years of the post war years, with the giant economic up step changing how many women NEEDED to work, and therefor creating a greater gap between the genders.

      Interesting fact, teh Quakers were among the first group to say that women should have equal say with women in the home, in teh 1600s. ANd given the fleeing to America for religious freedom in large numbers, they did have a certain amount of impact on the country as ti grew. Most notably, in becoming the backbone (and some even say genesis, but that is murky) of the abolitionist movement.


  10. The Twilight Zone, for whatever reason, never got the love and respect it deserved over here in the UK. A real shame, and our collective loss.
    I remember hungrily chasing episodes across the TV guides, all shown in the wee small hours, as a teenager and of the few that were shown almost all were wonderful TV.
    There was something entirely apt about the show being screening late, late at night, and I was more than happy to stay up to be suitably chilled.
    I can still recall clear as anything seeing the first episode one dark Friday night – Where Is Everybody? – and just loving it.
    Thanks for the awesome reminder, Mr D – you’ve got me Jonesing to see some again!


    1. I know what you mean about the show screening late. For years, in New York City, a local channel used to play TZ at midnight...and the episodes played even better at that hour, when the world was quiet, the streets were dark and the imagination was wide open.

      Glad you enjoyed the list...and thanks for checking in!