‘The Twilight Zone,’ from A to Z – The New York Review of Books

The [Twilight Zone’s] articulate underlying philosophy was never that life is topsy-turvy, things are horribly wrong, and misrule will carry the day–it is instead a belief in a cosmic order, of social justice and a benevolent irony that, in the end, will wake you from your slumber and deliver you unto the truth.

[…]

The show’s most prevalent themes are probably best distilled as “you are not what you took yourself to be,” “you are not where you thought you were,” and “beneath the fa├žade of mundane American society lurks a cavalcade of monsters, clones, and robots.”

This review of a new book, The Twilight Zone Encyclopedia (Amazon.com, Amazon UK) highlights all the things that made the series not only great in its time, but also an enduring television classic. It’s hard to imagine a series that was more influential on the American psyche at such a time of turbulence. The fact that it still has resonance is testimony to its unique vision.

I wish the series was more affordable in digital format. I bought the first season on the iTunes Store some time ago when it was $10, but each season is $35, which is excessive. I have the entire thing on DVD, and I just don’t have the time to rip them. You can get the whole set on Blu-Ray for only $70. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK)

Source: ‘The Twilight Zone,’ from A to Z | by J.W. McCormack | NYR Daily | The New York Review of Books

2 thoughts on “‘The Twilight Zone,’ from A to Z – The New York Review of Books

  1. I was 12 when “[The] Twilight Zone” premiered. I wasn’t a critical thinker, and missed the things that were — and remain — so terribly wrong with it.

    A handful of episodes — “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street”, “Eye of the Beholder” — are superb — or merely good (“The Fever”, “Nick of Time”), and show what the series could and should have been like.

    Rod Serling was tired of network interference. He wanted a format in which he could talk about Important Things without his stories being censored by S&P, or buggered by management people who wouldn’t know a good story if it sat on their faces. Unfortunately, the Twilight Zone is defined as the realm of imagination, between “the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge”. Anything can happen in one’s imagination. This unlimited freedom can lead to stories with no dramatic point, or are just plain stupid.

    Drama — plausible conflict, whether internal or external — is the heart of good storytelling. Remove that — and you don’t have a good story. An excellent example is “Night Call”, directed by the great Jacques Tourneur. The ending (spoiler!) is idiotic, with a downed phone line dangling over the deceased husband’s grave — as if that made communication with the dead possible. The script could be rewritten (with difficulty) to place all its events in the woman’s head. (If I ever have time, I’ll do it. I’ve rewritten Harlan Ellison, so I have no reluctance rewriting Richard Matheson.)

    Even in the realm of fantasy, Serling couldn’t escape the censors. “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” (the title of which has nothing to do with William Shatner’s acting) was changed from the short story, in which Shatner’s character grabs a gun from a sky marshall. “No, no, no, you can’t do that.” Even worse is “It’s a Wonderful Life”, in which the adults finally get fed up and murder a sadistic, self-indulgent child (Bill Mumy). S&P forced the change we see, in which the adults remain quiet and put up with his bullying. The parallel with Donald Trump is obvious, and this episode ought to be remade with the adults actually killing the child, to drive home the point.

    If 90% of “Twilight Zone” episodes were recycled for scrap silver, nothing of any value would be lost. Like most TV series, it’s largely junk,

  2. I was 12 when “[The] Twilight Zone” premiered. I wasn’t a critical thinker, and missed the things that were — and remain — so terribly wrong with it.

    A handful of episodes — “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street”, “Eye of the Beholder” — are superb — or merely good (“The Fever”, “Nick of Time”), and show what the series could and should have been like.

    Rod Serling was tired of network interference. He wanted a format in which he could talk about Important Things without his stories being censored by S&P, or buggered by management people who wouldn’t know a good story if it sat on their faces. Unfortunately, the Twilight Zone is defined as the realm of imagination, between “the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge”. Anything can happen in one’s imagination. This unlimited freedom can lead to stories with no dramatic point, or are just plain stupid.

    Drama — plausible conflict, whether internal or external — is the heart of good storytelling. Remove that — and you don’t have a good story. An excellent example is “Night Call”, directed by the great Jacques Tourneur. The ending (spoiler!) is idiotic, with a downed phone line dangling over the deceased husband’s grave — as if that made communication with the dead possible. The script could be rewritten (with difficulty) to place all its events in the woman’s head. (If I ever have time, I’ll do it. I’ve rewritten Harlan Ellison, so I have no reluctance rewriting Richard Matheson.)

    Even in the realm of fantasy, Serling couldn’t escape the censors. “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” (the title of which has nothing to do with William Shatner’s acting) was changed from the short story, in which Shatner’s character grabs a gun from a sky marshall. “No, no, no, you can’t do that.” Even worse is “It’s a Wonderful Life”, in which the adults finally get fed up and murder a sadistic, self-indulgent child (Bill Mumy). S&P forced the change we see, in which the adults remain quiet and put up with his bullying. The parallel with Donald Trump is obvious, and this episode ought to be remade with the adults actually killing the child, to drive home the point.

    If 90% of “Twilight Zone” episodes were recycled for scrap silver, nothing of any value would be lost. Like most TV series, it’s largely junk,

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.