As mentioned previously, a major influence on my life is Rod Serling, creator of The Twilight Zone. The original show is timeless, with episodes as meaningful in today’s world as when they first aired six decades ago. Even now it is nearly ubiquitous, and can be screened on most of the major streaming platforms. Any time is a good time to visit The Twilight Zone, so long as you follow the rules. Here are ten episodes that may help prod your thoughts about America’s current circumstances.
Walking Distance (Season 1, Episode 5) — An advertising executive decides to make a surprise visit to his old hometown, and finds it hasn’t changed much since he was a boy. In fact, it hasn’t changed at all.
The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street (Season 1, Episode 22) — A normal suburban neighborhood’s electricity goes out, and strange things begin to happen. The once-friendly neighbors turn on each other when faced with the inexplicable.
People Are Alike All Over (Season 1, Episode 25)— Two astronauts, one played by a young Roddy McDowell, man a rocket ship to Mars. They crash land on the planet, killing one, while the other discovers humanoids living on the planet. They offer to make him comfortable—somewhat too comfortable.
A World Of His Own (Season 1, Episode 36) — A world-famous playwright (Keenan Wynn) has the power to create some unique fictional circumstances.
The Rip Van Winkle Caper (Season 2, Episode 24) — Four men develop a fool-proof plan to make off with a million dollars in gold bars by robbing a Fort Knox train. Their plan goes off without a hitch—until the very last step.
The Obsolete Man (Season 2, Episode 29) — A librarian faces trial and execution for being obsolete in a future dystopia. Extra points because his name is “Romney Wordsworth.”
The Shelter (Season 3, Episode 3) — A neighborhood party breaks up when the radio declares that nuclear missiles are headed toward the American continent. One family was prepared with a small basement shelter—too small for everyone in the neighborhood. Jack Albertson is in this one. If you are inclined to watch only one of these, let it be this one.
A Game of Pool (Season 3, Episode 5) — A pool shark isn’t satisfied being the second greatest player of all time, and gets one chance to take over the title. Great performances here by Jack Klugman and comedian Jonathan Winters.
It’s A Good Life (Season 3, Episode 8) — Remade in the 1980s movie version, this episode features a child with an indomitable will. His family must cope. Not for the faint of heart, but a real fine episode.
The Masks (Season 5, Episode 25) — A late-run favorite directed by Ida Lupino (a rare female director for the time), a family is summoned by their wealthy patriarch who presents them with some gifts, and a challenge they must satisfy if they wish to gain his inheritance.
For those who haven’t seen these episodes or for those who may have seen them years ago, it wouldn’t be sporting to give away the twists. So, over the next couple of weeks, watch a couple of these. Then, we’ll circle around for a fuller discussion of Mr. Serling’s remarkable insight into the human condition. The next stop: The Twilight Zone.