The Twilight Zone (1959 to 1964 USA)

nick-of-time-rod-serling2“Submitted for your approval…” A pint-sized, chain smoking man’s clenched teeth intro to a wonderfully hypnotic, thought-provoking and ‘never ceases to amaze’ total quality Drama/Sci-Fi anthology series. This certainly put the one and only Rod Serling on the bigger picture map of television writing and producing, and was done in such a way that certain trends were set through its genre. In its day it was groundbreaking, but the thing which ensures that it maintains its magic even today is that the stories still work- I’d say at least a quarter of them have been ‘borrowed’ for other stories and novels.

A superb series that touched on short story parables of such worldly aspects as love, fear, inhumanity, and desperation-all done with a dramatic twist at the end which in most cases revealed a meaningful conclusion. Mr.Serling wrote most of the scripts for these classic tales and also gave other writer-friends such as Charles Beaumont and Richard Matheson (who is my favourite ‘T.Z.’ writer) their chance to shine in the 138 x 30 minute and 18 x 50 minute episodes. The series was a launching pad for many well-known actors and actresses such as Jack Klugman, Robert Redford, Burgess Meredith, Donna Douglas, and Anne Francis.

Such memorable pieces of work in the series, and some of my personal favourite half hour episodes, include: ‘Perchance To Dream’-‘The Shelter’- ‘Nick Of Time’-‘Walking Distance’-‘Time Enough At Last’-‘The After Hours’-”-‘The Eye Of The Beholder’-‘The Hitchhiker’-‘A Stop At Willoughby’-‘The Invaders’-‘Five Characters In Search Of An Exit’-‘The Lateness Of The Hour’-‘Twenty Two’-‘A Hundred Yards Over The Rim’-‘The Silence’-‘Nothing In The Dark’-‘To Serve Man’-‘The Fugitive’-‘The Little People’-‘Person Or Persons Unknown’-‘Little Girl Lost’-‘A Short Drink From A Certain Fountain’-‘Steel’-‘Living Doll’-‘The Fear’.

3thejungleIn between these 30 minute masterpieces comes Eighteen 50-minute in length stories that comprised the whole Fourth Season of ‘the Twilight Zone’. Some critics and fans were not impressed with this new format of the show, stating that it was too long to carry its usual punch-packing twist at the end. But among the lesser quality ones, there are some classics in there to be had, such as: ‘In His Image’-‘Death Ship’-‘The Valley Of The Shadow’-‘Miniature’-‘No Time Like The Past’-‘Printer’s Devil’-‘On Thursday We Leave For Home’.

But no matter what, there is something for everybody whether you are a first time viewer or a total ardent fan of the series you will always have your favourites. This is black & white TV at its very best with a series that won countless Emmy Awards for its creator: Rod Serling. No-one can dispute the fact that the Twilight Zone is classic television. In fact it has influenced nearly every genre. D-Day paratrooper Serling, who suffered nightmares about World War Two for the rest of his life, exhausted himself in the struggle to deliver three key qualities always in short supply on public airways– intelligence, innovation, and insight.

But watching this on dvd, one of the real guilty pleasures for me is the inclusion of Rod Serling advertising for Chesterfield Cigarettes. I love the way American TV was so upfront about making sure the viewer received the word from their corporate sponsors. Let me quote the great man himself about the virtues of this cancer stick: “Chesterfield King, gives all the advantages of extra length and much more. The great taste of twenty one tobaccos grown mild, aged mild and blended mild. No wonder they satisfy so completely.” Classy!

hitch-hiker

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