Friday, June 30, 2006

Let Your Geek Flag Fly

I am not a geek. However, there are a few things that I will gladly geek out for. The Backstreet Boys. Bowling. MySpace. But when one thinks "geek," one usually thinks of that giant nerd magnet known as Sci-Fi. I'm not a huge sci-fi fan. I can't get into bizarre sorcerer role-playing games or obscure comic books. I don't even like a lot of science fiction movies and TV shows, because they generally focus on aliens or robots, neither of which really interest me. Sci-Fi stories also have a consistency problem. I've seen a lot of flicks and stories that start out with a cool premise but the whole thing completely deteriorates halfway through, leading up to a truly ridiculous ending.

There is one bit of Sci-Fi fare that stands apart from the rest. One show that I'm glad to get my geek on for. Submitted for your approval - The Twilight Zone.

Who doesn't love this show? People with no imagination, that's who. I seriously don't trust people who don't like TZ. I don't. They are people with no appreciation for creativity and probably giant cynics who live to suck all the fun out of everyone else's lives. Of course, this is just my opinion. But I'm entitled to it.

Rod Serling was a total genius, and that's not a word I use lightly. TZ's influence can be seen everywhere, from The Sixth Sense to The Simpsons. It's all about taking reality and shaking it, twisting it and standing it up on its head. And what else is TV for, if not to escape reality? TZ helps us all do just that. And as frightening as it might be if it truly existed, how many of us haven't secretly wished that there really were a Twilight Zone? I know I have. And in my Twilight Zone, I'm hanging out with the young Cliff Robertson having a bizarre, but great time.

Obviously, the show is a bit dated. With all the whiz-bang special effects that are in all the movies and TV shows now, some of the effects in TZ episodes are pretty cheap, if not laugh-out-loud funny. But, just like I don't trust people who don't like TZ, I don't trust people who like a movie or show purely for the effects. Sure, great FX are impressive and really punch up a great story, but if the story isn't there all the visuals in the world can't save it. (Put a diamond necklace on a piece of crap, and it's still a piece of crap.) With a great plot in place, cool effects are not necessary. Bad ones might be slightly humorous, but they still won't take anything away from the story. So, to people who say that The Twilight Zone sucks because of its outdated FX, you're tragically missing the point. Go to a KISS concert. Hang out at Universal Studios. You'll see lots of stuff on fire and you won't have to do any thinking.

For the rest of you who enjoy some thought-provoking, well-written TV entertainment, you're in luck. If you're new to TZ, or if you just haven't seen it in a while, the annual 4th of July marathon is coming up on the SciFi Channel. It runs from July 2 - July 4, so you all have plenty of time to play with your inner dork. The full schedule is a bit long, so I will just give you a list of some to watch for, including my personal favorite episodes and "classics" that no new or old fan should miss. Thanks to the Twilight Zone Cafe for compiling the schedule into a nice, neat little format.

07/02/2006 10:30 AM "A Passage For Trumpet" - One of 4 episodes starring Jack Klugman, and my favorite of the 4. Just a sweet little tale of life wasted and life renewed.

07/02/2006 12:30 PM "Twenty-Two" - This is one of those I was talking about where the effects are seriously groan-worthy. The female lead is also a horrifyingly bad actress. Still, this is one of those classic horror stories. A great, familiar urban legend given the TZ treatment.

07/02/2006 01:00 PM "The Little People" - One of many episodes that follow the "total jackass gets his comeuppance" plot. Who doesn't love that? And Sheriff Lobo is in this one!

07/02/2006 03:30 PM "Stopover In A Quiet Town" - A popular episode with one of the classic TZ twists. The lead actors could be body doubles for Rich Hall from Not Necessarily the News and Heidi Sweberg, who played George's fiancee, Susan, on Seinfeld.

07/02/2006 06:00 PM "The After Hours" - My 2nd favorite episode and a bona-fide classic. Lovely Anne Francis gets a bit lost in a department store when she goes shopping for a thimble. Talk about the times changing. Really, who buys thimbles anymore?

07/02/2006 06:30 PM "One For The Angels" - I think I've seen this one the most times, because SciFi seems to air it every other night. It's a good one though. Sweet and kind of humorous.

07/02/2006 08:00 PM "Living Doll" - I'm Talky BeckEye and you better watch this episode or I'm going to kill you. This episode was the inspiration for one of the best Simpsons Treehouse of Horror episodes, "Clown without Pity."

07/02/2006 08:30 PM "It's A Good Life" - Can you say "classic?" I think you can. And you better like this episode and think good thoughts about it or Billy Mumy will turn you into some freakish cornfield decoration.

07/02/2006 09:00 PM "Time Enough At Last" - Another classic. Burgess Meredith stars as the cute old guy who just wants people to leave him alone so he can read. Meredith also stars in 4 episodes. Now, I love Burgess. I've always wanted to adopt him as my grandfather. However, I've never been a giant fan of this episode. I find the ending unreasonably harsh. You tell me.

07/02/2006 09:30 PM "The Howling Man" - A rather polarizing episode among TZ fans. A bit of weird, religious drama, but I dig it. Very atmospheric.

07/02/2006 10:30 PM "Night Call" - Gladys Cooper is the shiznit. When I was little, this episode scared the crap out of me. I still get a little creeped out by the disembodied voice on the other end of the phone. Another urban legend-turned-TZ ep.

07/02/2006 11:30 PM "The Midnight Sun" - For me, this is the most original premise ever done during the series. With a lot of episodes, you can kind of guess the twist, but I never saw this one coming.

07/03/2006 01:30 AM "Come Wander With Me" - This episode gets trash-talked to death by many fans. It's not the greatest episode by any means, but I think it's a really interesting and unique storyline and has kind of a cool, creepy feel to it.

07/03/2006 02:30 AM "Printer's Devil" - Burgess again! This is one of the hour-long episodes from Season 4. This is my favorite of the hourlongs and also my favorite Burgess episode. It's amazing how much Burgess's devil resembles his Penguin from Batman. They smoke in quite the same fashion.

07/03/2006 03:30 AM "On Thursday We Leave For Home" - Fantastic episode. Another one-hour, starring another of my prospective adopted grandfathers, James Whitmore. Of course, he wasn't quite that old back then. But remember James as Brooks Hatlen in The Shawshank Redemption? Stop crying, of course you do. His character in this TZ suffers, what I feel, is an undeserved fate, but some people think he was a big jerk who got what he deserved. Those people are heartless.

07/03/2006 10:30 AM "Ring-A-Ding Girl" - A very underrated episode that I love, love, love. Good acting, good twist, great ending.

07/03/2006 12:30 PM "A Kind Of A Stopwatch" - My favorite!! One of the first episodes I ever remember seeing as a kid and one that left a big impression on me. A lot of movies have tried to copy this, most recently Adam Sandler in his "remote control that stops the world" movie.

07/03/2006 01:00 PM "People Are Alike All Over" - A classic with a funny twist. Roddy MacDowell stars, but not as an ape. Or is he? No, he isn't. Or is he??

07/03/2006 02:30 PM "Elegy" - Astronauts land on the wrong rock. A kindly old British fellow makes sure they pay for it, as nicely as he possibly can.

07/03/2006 06:00 PM "Long Distance Call" - More Billy Mumy. This time he spends way too much time chatting with his creepy, dead grandmother.

07/03/2006 07:00 PM "A Penny For Your Thoughts" - A classic, comedic episode in which Dick York develops special powers.

07/03/2006 08:00 PM "To Serve Man"
07/03/2006 08:30 PM "Eye Of The Beholder"
07/03/2006 09:00 PM "Nightmare At 20,000 Feet"
Three classics back to back. Of the three, "Eye of the Beholder" is the best. Everyone loves those Pig-faces. "To Serve Man" is still a good one, but it's one that really relies on the twist, so after repeated viewings it's just not quite as enjoyable. I've never felt that "Nightmare At 20,000 Feet" was so deserving of it's classic status. William Shatner reacting to the monster on the wing is fun for a while, but his other TZ, "Nick of Time," is much better. For some unknown reason, that stellar episode was left out of this marathon.

07/03/2006 10:30 PM "Will The Real Martian Please Stand Up?" - I think this can be put in the classic category now, even if it isn't as widely known as the above three, or "Time Enough at Last." This is definitely in my Top 10. One of those great "let's all point the finger at each other" episodes.

07/04/2006 08:00 AM "Death Ship" - An hourlong episode starring Jack Klugman and Artemus Gordon from Wild Wild West. Sorry, his real name escapes me right now. This is a good one that deals with the whole time-space continuum thingy.

07/04/2006 09:00 AM "A Game Of Pool" - Hey, it's Jack Klugman again! Here, he's oddly coupled with big man, Johnathan Winters at the billiard hall.

07/04/2006 12:30 PM "The Hunt" - A lot of fans hate this episode. It's one of my favorites. But, I love dogs and this is all about a man and his dog and their devotion to each other. It's so sweet.

07/04/2006 01:30 PM "Dead Man's Shoes" - Not really one of the finest episodes, but it's probably one of the most recognizable and one of the first ones I ever saw. When I was little, I was so afraid to try on my grandmother's old jewelry for fear that I would be possessed by her. I was a weird kid. This one has great, jazzy music throughout. I would love to have groovy music playing every time I walked down the street.

07/04/2006 02:00 PM "And When The Sky Was Opened" - Ohhh, this is one of the best. Probably my #3 favorite. First of all, Rod Taylor...hello!! He's a hottie. The other 2 guys (including Timothy Hutton's dad, who looks JUST LIKE him) aren't bad either. More astronauts in trouble. People who need stories wrapped up into neat little packages with everything explained won't like this. It's an awesome, surreal trip through the Twilight Zone where nothing makes sense. Viewing tip: Watch out for Rod's complete flip out, where he can't even seem to think straight enough to say anything but, "You're're're CRAZY!!"

07/04/2006 02:30 PM "The Last Flight" - Kind of a cool, underrated trek through time. Also includes one of the most unintentionally funny last lines ever.

07/04/2006 05:30 PM "Shadow Play" - Dennis Weaver stars as an inmate on death row. Or is he? Sort of. Another good exercise in trying to figure out "what is real and what is fantasy?"

07/04/2006 08:00 PM "The Dummy" - A young, adorable Cliff Robertson faces off with a hunk of wood. This episode is further proof of the absolute fact that dummies are creepy.

07/04/2006 08:30 PM "The Hitch-Hiker" - A classic episode with a great twist. If you like this, see the old movie, Carnival of Souls.

07/04/2006 09:00 PM "The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street" - More finger pointing! A terrific episode with a nifty message, that is only slightly marred by some serious overacting. (Check out the guy with insomnia. He seems to have at least slept through acting class.) Sheriff Lobo shows up again as the voice of reason, and that lispy Kellerman guy from Dirty Dancing is the town jerk.

07/04/2006 11:30 PM "What You Need" - Good, solid episode with one of the biggest jerk villains ever. Don't worry, he gets his. Viewing bonus: check out that hot baseball player in the diner!

07/04/2006 03:00 AM "Nothing In The Dark" - Gladys Cooper again, this time in a classic fan-favorite where she plays an old woman afraid of opening her door. She's no dummy though...she lets Robert Redford in the house!

I'd love to hear everyone's thoughts on the show, favorite episodes, etc. And no matter what you do this long weekend, be safe and have a great time!!


Les Becker said...

Being an "off-cable" kinda gal, it looks like I'm going to have visit the Sault Ste. Marie library again and see what's what in the TZ department.

I'm a BIG fan - and I agree with every point you made about people that don't like it. I don't trust them, either.

W. J. St. Christopher said...

What a great blog post! Where do you find the time to turn out such a mammoth offering?

You're on the money about TZ; no show "like it" has ever come close to it. And, Rod Serling -- so brilliant -- so hot!

I don't have cable, but do have most of the TZ eps on DVD. Maybe I'll stage my own hand-picked marathon, tomorrow.

Today, I'm marathon-ing "Due South" in honor of Canada Day!

Brooks said...

totally off post topic, but i'm sure you've seen pearl jam on vh1 "storytellers." i am watching it right now and it's incredible. if you haven't seen it, see it.

Writeprocrastinator said...

Hellva a posting and I appreciate the Herculean effort behind it, Becka.

Artemus was played by Ross Martin, I looked it up though I used to know that when "The Wild Wild West" was in heavy rotation.

I'm not the once rabid fan TZ fan that I used to be, I only watch three or four episodes a marathon. Yet I don't know anybody who will openly admit that they don't like this show, because as you pointed out, it basically means you don't like story telling at its finest.

Creative Screenwriting magazine had a wonderful article about Rod Serling and how he wrote the original screen adaptation of "Planet of The Apes." The studio put him through hell and in the final draft that he submitted to them, he had the Statue of Liberty's hand sticking out of the the one-fingered salute.

Teri said...

I haven't seen an episode of the Twilight Zone in years!

Lee Ann said...

I remember watching the Twilight Zone. It was definitely a show like no other. To Serve Man....and so many others. Yes, good memories.

I hope you have a fun and safe Fourth of July Beck!

oh evil one said...

eye of the beholder is my all time favorite.


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