Sunday, June 16, 2013

Twilight Zone: fifteen seconds of terror

OK, so. Here's how this started. I sort of go on and off some things, for example, The Twilight Zone, which I like watching (sometimes) because I remembered watching it as a little kid and being scared out of my mind. I wasn't allowed to watch it coz it was too scary, but I watched it anyway, or I had my older brother Arthur describe them to me, which was sometimes even better than the show.

He also described a show called Medic, which I now realize had Richard Boone in it whom I later liked in Have Gun, Will Travel and Hec Ramsey. At the time Medic was considered extreme because it dramatized medical procedures that you weren't a-spozed-ta know about. I never did see Medic, though I did find out something about gangrene.

With The Twilight Zone, everyone remembers certain episodes. They just stick in your mind somehow. This is unusual because the show went on for years and years and must have had hundreds of episodes. I'm watching them again on a very strange Newfoundland channel I stumbled on the other day. It's supposed to be "Canada's Superstation", but it isn't even in HD and has the most lame local programming, wrestling shows and entertainment hostesses with strong Newfie accents. 

Every night they show something called Scenes of Newfoundland, and it's always the same old guy singing a sea shanty and shots of a golf course. I won't get into the other shows, such as Newfoundland and Labrador Paranormal, which consists of two guys in lumberjackets sitting on the floor of a kitchen at night smoking cigarettes and yelling, "Hey! Come out of there!"

But they do show The Twilight Zone every night, which is what got me watching them again.

Rod Serling strikes me as an earlier incarnation of Stephen King, with his squinty-eyed looks and odd voice, his slight creepishness which - well, did he really talk that way all the time? When he talked to his mother, for example? Never mind. Certain episodes stick in your head, and in my case I think it was exactly three.

The one EVERYBODY remembers is the guy on the plane, the nuts guy just out of the asylum who starts seeing a giant teddy bear running around on the wing. It's one of the early examples of Shatnerian excess, and it's wondrous to behold. We forget how beautiful Shatner was back then, a real matinee idol - this was well before Captain Kirk, don't forget, when his hair had already begun to thin and his waistline to expand. (And isn't it strange how he has more hair now than he did then?)

There are a couple more Shatner episodes in the series in which he's much more subdued, but no less a fox. I always watch out for them.

This is a personal favorite because I like watching people fall out of windows. Three do in this episode, but this is the important one. In fact, I think four do, cuz the French guy ends up falling out too, but you know what? I left to get a drink of water, so we'll never know.

This one, though. It's the ultimate, the one I will remember on my deathbed, about the meek little man whose wife bosses him around and doesn't let him read, and then there's a nuclear war and all of a sudden he has all the books he wants, and all the TIME he wants, and his glasses fall down and then. . . When I saw it this last time, it was interesting because I had forgotten all about the giant clock lying on the ground. Of late I've been reflecting on such things, not just time but the way we keep time (as if we can keep it!) and try to clutch on to it. The surrealistic clock images in Safety Last! and Metropolis have a strange kinship with this dark dystopia, this blasted library full of books so long overdue they're nearly vaporized. I will leave to better minds the profound existential significance of that Cover Girl ad.


  1. Was my favorite show. Did you know his daughter just published a book about him? My Dad

  2. The reviews look good. Too bad I'm not reviewing any more or I could snag a free copy. It's interesting to revisit Cold War mentality and the alarmed sense that in the future, "computers will run everything". People had a huge dread of that, but somewhere along the line it almost disappeared. Compare to 1984, with Orwell predicting our every move would be watched and there would be no privacy. Does the name Snowden mean anything to you?

  3. OK then: so what were your favorite episodes?

  4. My memory's not as keen as yours, but the one of the guy in the bank vault (with the books and broken specs) and the one with Shatner on the plane do stand out.

    Snowden doesn't mean anything to me outside this context, but I haven't been reading much of the reams of material being written about him. What's been revealed thus far has been surprising only in that everything I've assumed all along has now been officially confirmed. I find the FISA Court revelation the most interesting.

    Orwell's prophesy failed to take into consideration the infinite capacity of people for irony and innovation, and the comparative ease of using market economics and passive entertainment over totalitarian fear to tame the masses. A much more apt and timely look at this phenomenon is Shteyngart's Super Sad True Love Story A truly landmark novel.