On July 4th, SyFy Channel ran a TWILIGHT ZONE marathon. I recorded a few episodes and watched them the other evening.
When I was a kid, THE TWILIGHT ZONE scared the hell out of me. The funny thing is, I rarely saw the show. Back in the early '60s, Austin had only one television station, KTBC and they ran programs from all three television networks. My memory is that Channel 7 either rarely ran THE TWILIGHT ZONE or it came on after my bedtime.
So what scared me about it? The music for one thing. That creepy "di-di-di-di" opening theme spooked me no end whenever I did chance to hear it. The second thing that scared me was just the whole idea of the show. In my imagination, I just knew that the show would be scary and as we know, it's what you don't see that scares you the most.
I eventually got to see the majority of TZ episodes in the mid to late '80s when a station out of San Antonio reran the show in a late night slot on Saturday nights. This was back in the day when cable television meant you could get stations from other cities in the area. It was also the era of my first VCR and I taped and watched a lot of the episodes. I also had a book about the show that had a complete episode guide which helped fill in the gaps of my knowledge of the show.
I can't say with certainty that I've seen every episode but I've seen a lot of them, many of them several times over. The thing about TWILIGHT ZONE is that once you know the "twist" ending the suspense and surprise while watching an episode is slightly diminished. Instead of the destination, I now enjoy the journey, the way the scripts are crafted, the direction, the performances, everything that contributes to the overall quality of the program.
The episodes that I recently watched were: TO SERVE MAN (yes, the "cookbook" one), THE MIDNIGHT SUN (talk about Global Warming!), THE ODYSSEY OF FLIGHT 33 (terrific time travel adventure) and THE MASKS (a macabre Mardi Gras fable).
And of course the thing that made the series such a classic was the man behind the whole thing, the brilliant Rod Serling. His clipped, terse introductions to each episode have often been imitated but never topped. His vision was stamped all over the show and the success of the program and it's place in our pop culture history is due largely to his talent, imagination and drive.
There's a signpost up ahead...