You don't need me to tell you how important and how incredible The Twilight Zone is. And I'm talking about Rod Serling's original here, not that decidedly average 1980s incarnation, or the recent abortion hosted by Forrest Whittaker. The original 1950s/1960s program is arguably the finest science fiction series of all time, rivaled in my opinion only by the original Star Trek and the new Battlestar Galactica. Yet it was also a horror-themed show, and in that category, nothing EVER touched The Twilight Zone.
During its run of only five years, the show produced one unforgettable episode after another, and pinning down ten faves is no mean feat. But here are the ten I most look forward to during the much-anticipated Fourth of July marathons on TV. You might agree, you might disagree, but remember, these are only my personal favorites, amongst a sea of classic eps...
10. Kick the Can (2/19/62)
In an episode recreated in inferior syrupy Speilberg fashion for the 1986 movie, a man in an old folks' home discovers a way for he and his friends to be young again. Their one bitter and cynical comrade ridicules them, and only realizes the error of his way when it's too late and he is left behind as an old man.
9. Living Doll (11/1/63)
How can I forget the great Telly Savalas, as an insecure stepfather being tortured by a vindictive, evil little doll? Legendary Looney Tunes/Jay Ward voice actress June Foray provides the creepy voice of "Talky Tina".
8. It's a Good Life (11/3/61)
Taken from an original short story by renowned sci-fi author Jerome Bixby, this is another one adapted in lesser fashion for the movie. Lost in Space's Billy Mumy plays the omnipotent little boy who wreaks havoc in a rural town. Has the distinction of being the only episode with a sequel, which appeared in the recent reboot series. Bixby also wrote several Star Trek eps, including "Mirror, Mirror".
7. To Serve Man (3/2/62)
Pulp sci-fi workhorse Damon Knight penned this one, a classic that's still grim, despite being parodied to great effect in the movie Airplane. Aliens come to Earth with a book entitled "To Serve Man"--but unfortunately, "IT'S A COOKBOOK!!"
6. The Midnight Sun (11/17/61)
Al Gore's worst nightmare, as the Earth begins to boil under the heat of an enlarging sun, moving closer in its orbit. The sense of claustrophobia is so palpable. And of course, we have one of the all-time classic twist endings, as our main character discovers she was only dreaming--in fact, the Earth is getting colder. Doh!
5. A World of Difference (3/11/60)
I always had a soft spot for this installment, about a man who really believes he is the character he plays on a TV show. In one of the classic openers, we approach it from his perspective, as his normal daily life is interrupted by a film crew yelling, "CUT!" Great stuff, and definitely pre-figured things like The Truman Show.
4. The Hitch-Hiker (1/22/60)
Adapted from a radio play originally performed by Orson Welles, this one always had a kind of Hitchcock feel to it for me. After a nasty car accident, a woman begins spotting the same mysterious hitch-hiker everywhere she drives. Turns out the hitcher is really Death, and the woman never survived the accident.
3. Eye of the Beholder (11/11/60)
For many, the most iconic episode of the series. A beautiful woman turns out to actually be disfigured in a world in which everyone appears as what we would consider to be hideous monsters. Such a classic summation of what The Twilight Zone was all about. Have to love this one.
2. Nightmare at 20,000 Feet (10/11/63)
Bill Shatner plays a terrified passenger who discovers a monstrous gremlin on the wing of an airplane in this, maybe the series' most famous episode. It was adapted from Richard Matheson's first published horror story, and probably the only episode that was actually improved in adaptation for the 1986 Twilight Zone movie.
1. Time Enough at Last (11/20/59)
Maybe it's because I have such a love for Burgess Meredith, or the fact that I always related to his character, being an avid reader mysef. This one will always be my favorite. Meredith's character is so sympathetic, and the horror of losing the one thing that would make the apocalypse bearable for him is truly gut-wrenching. There's something about the sad cruelty of it all that makes this episode stand out for me above all the others.
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