On July 4, SyFy ran a Twilight Zone marathon. I recorded all the episodes I could and have been watching them when nothing much else is on. Twilight Zone is one of those great shows where many of the episodes have become famous cultural icons, often imitated or referenced in other shows. One famous episode is “It’s a Good Life” featuring a little kid who sends people “off to the cornfield” (his mother is played by Cloris Leachman, who became famous on the Mary Tyler Moore Show). Another is “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” an early role for William Shatner (who would become Captain Kirk a few years later), where he sees a gremlin on the wing tearing up the plane he is in.
It had to be difficult to make a show like this. You needed a different plot, a different cast, and different sets for every show. With TV seasons much longer back in those days, Rod Serling and the other writers had to come up with an awful lot of ideas, held in check by a pretty low budget and a 30-minute timeframe. Honestly, some episodes didn’t need the full 30 minutes. One famous show, “Eye of the Beholder,” was about a horribly ugly woman whose face has been treated to make her look normal, but spends almost the entire episode under bandages. Only at the end do they remove the wraps, and in horror discover that she still looks gorgeous by our standards (played by Donna Douglas, who would become Elly May Clampett on The Beverly Hillbillies), but terrible by their standards since they are all ugly (explaining why we haven’t seen any characters’ faces the entire show). That was probably a 5-minute idea stretched out to a whole show. Continue reading