by Patricia Grandjean
May 4, 2011
09:01 AMBox Office
My "Twilight" Chronicles—No, not THAT "Twilight"
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I've long been a huge fan of "The Twilight Zone," that groundbreaking, multiaward-winning anthology series that ran on CBS for five seasons in the halcyon days of television (1959-63). I've seen most of the 150-odd episodes more than once, though not during the first run, when it aired past my bedtime: I caught up with a vengeance during the 1970s, when the series was in syndication on WPIX-11 in New York, and then, in the early cable days, on WSBK-38 in Boston. And yes, I've also taken in the recent Syfy Channel marathons when vegging out over the New Year's Eve or Fourth of July holidays.
Clearly, I'm not alone in my enduring fascination with the show—uncut episodes of the Zone are still available on Amazon and iTunes in a variety of media formats, and until recently, you could view all of them for free on Hulu. (That's changed now that each season is being released on Blu-ray; Season 4 is due to hit the streets May 17.) The Internet is riddled with podcasts, websites and superfan blogs analyzing TZ's every episode and enduring cultural influence, and it seems like few current TV series—especially "The Simpsons"—have missed the opportunity to pay homage.
But it's become clear that I don't really love all the same episodes that other admirers (or for that matter the suits at Syfy, who seem to play the same 30 not-so-great eps over and over again in their 48-hour marathons) do. Those fans seem way too obsessed with the gimmicky Zones like "To Serve Man" ("That book! It's a cookbook!" Whatevah) or ones that were kind of tritely moralistic from day one ("The Eye of the Beholder"—yeah, beauty is subjective, no one can legislate it, yada yada). Many of those episodes long ago become outdated or tiresome. Me, I like the Zones that were simply ripping good yarns, whether tense, or scary, or funny. The kind of stories you might invent out of your wildest dreams or tell around a campfire. Those never grow old.
So I figured it was time for me to come up with a list of my favorites—not just one Top 10, but two. (And then I thought I'd cite the 10 I'm most tired of seeing and hearing about, because they're endlessly overrated.) I also figured I could get away with doing this on our Connecticut Magazine website because the Zone's creator/producer, Rod Serling, lived in Westport during the 1950s. In interviews, both TV writing pioneer Reginald Rose (also a Westporter until his death in 2002) and actress Mariette Hartley (a native) confirmed this for me. Hartley actually recalled flagging his car down on Main Street to ask him for a job; unfortunately, he cast her in the Zone's "The Long Morrow," a forgettable episode if there ever was one.
Oh, and a disclaimer: No, these episodes aren't the only Zones I enjoy. Just the ones I'd take to a desert island.