Sunday, February 20, 2011


The Twilight Zone was such a groundbreaking series that it influenced our popular culture to a level many of us don’t even realize. From Rod Serling’s silky and smoke-filled introductions, to the inevitable twist ending, the Twilight Zone’s black and white years were doubtless its best. While many of the twists have become so well known in the ensuing years as to lost much of their sting, if you can imagine watching these broadcasts in the 60s on an old black and white set, you might just get a feel for how revolutionary it was. Here, in my humble opinion, are five of the best episodes of this series...

5. "Living Doll" - Even with a menacing Telly Savalas in the cast, make no mistake, the star is Talky Tina. The atmosphere is tense with parental conflict, and then little Christie receives a doll playmate from mom, and things get downright edgy. Too much money, claims Savalas' character, Erich. Talky Tina is a doll with an agenda, though, as she immediately understands that Erich is self-absorbed and abusive. The denouement is the last scene, in which Tina somehow is deftly positioned (or positions herself) at the top of the stairs in direct path of Erich as he investigates a noise in the middle of the night. Stepping on Tina, he loses his balance and falls down the stairs to his death. (airdate: November 11, 1963)
4. "The Monster Are Due On Maple Street" - Another prime example of tapping into Cold War paranoia, about a street in a small town that turns on its own when the power goes out, and talk of an alien invasion starts to surface. This story became so iconic, that it was used in classrooms as a perfect example of insular paranoia and auto-cannibalizing mistrust. The neighborhood dissolves under its own hatred and inability to trust people they’ve known their entire lives, and an angry mob forms, swiftly turning to murder and rioting. So where’s the twist in this story of small town hatred? The power fluctuations and general spookiness were caused by aliens, who plan to spread paranoia in order to take over the planet “one Maple street at a time”. The episode stars great character actors like Claude Akins and Jack Weston. (airdate: March 4, 1960)
3. "The Masks" - See this episode for one of the final roles in the long career of Robert Keith (father of Brian Keith). A dying millionaire (Keith) meets with his family on his death bed — and on the eve of Mardis Gras he forces them to done masks while they discuss his will. His daughter, her husband and their two children are all horrible people, and he makes each of them put on masks caricaturing their personality: a sniveling coward to his daughter Emily, a miserable miser to her husband Wilfred, a twisted buffoon to the grandson Wilfred Jr., and a self-obsessed narcissist to the granddaughter Paula. As the ailing Jason dons a skull mask, he charges them all to leave the masks on until midnight, or receive nothing of the substantial will. Suffering under the uncomfortable masks, they all plea to take them off as the night progresses, as their patriarch rails against their shortcomings, eventually exclaiming “without your masks, you’re caricatures!”, before dying. The four pull of the uncomfortable masks in relief, only to find their faces are now permanently stuck in that shape. (airdate: March 20, 1964)
2. "Nightmare At 20,000 Feet" - Long before he was helming the Enterprise, William Shatner was a legitimate actor. Not yet turned to King of ham-acting, he had two leads in Twilight Zone pieces. Shatner was great as the man recovering from a mental breakdown, insisting he sees a gremlin on the wings of an airplane, which no-one else notices. It’s a segment that’s been parodied widely, by everyone from The Simpsons to SNL. It’s also hilarious to watch it and compare flying in the 60s to now — everyone wearing suits, smoking cigarettes, and in seats with ample legroom. Ah, a golden age! (airdate: October 20,1963)
1. "Time Enough At Last" - This episode is penned by Rod Serling and stars Twilight Zone regular Burgess Meredith. As with many other Twilight Zone episodes, the specter of nuclear holocaust-based fear hangs heavily over the proceedings with Mr. Meredith surviving the blast in a bank vault. He ultimately breaks his reading glasses, though, before he has a chance to settle down with his long sought-after dream, the interruption-less task of scouring beloved volumes of literature, found fortuitously among the rubble that was the nearby library. (airdate: November 20, 1959)


  1. What a marvelous post! I love TWILIGHT ZONE and thought all your picks were first-rate episodes. My favorites (hey, I need to do a similar post someday) would include: "The Howling Man" (so creepy!); "To Serve Man" (an incredible--and darkly humorous twist); and "Five Characters in Search of an Exit."

  2. It is almost impossible to actually pick favorites. There are so many great episodes!

  3. Did you TRULY pick your top 5?? How can anyone pick a top 5 from that series or top 10, even? lol---------If Burgess Meredith had not broken his glasses, that one would have been one of my faves, but I never understood the point of that, neg, ironic end.
    THE MASKS has ALWAYS been my number one favorite, hands down! You show good, smart taste with that pick! B)
    Nice job,


  4. It is hard to pick a top five. However, I am one of those weirdos who love to rank things. I love all the episodes of Twilight Zone, but those are my five favorite. :)