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When Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone debuted in October 1959, it was a fresh breeze across "the vast wasteland" of television. Superior writing, brilliant cinematography, fine scoring, and, of course, consistently good acting earned its creator a deserved Emmy last year.

The show's sophomore season had a high expectation to meet, and it didn't quite. That said, it was still head and shoulders above its competitors (Roald Dahl's Way Out, Boris Karloff's Thriller, etc.) The last two episodes of this year's batch were par for the course: decent, but not outstanding:



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Nelson Minow, the new Chair of the Federal Communications Commission, offered the following challenge to the National Association of Broadcasters earlier this month (May 9, 1961).

"I invite each of you to sit down in front of your television set when your station goes on the air and stay there for a day without a book, without a magazine, without a newspaper, without a profit and loss sheet or a rating book to distract you. Keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off. I can assure you that what you will observe is a vast wasteland...

...When television is good, nothing -- not the theater, not the magazines or newspapers -- nothing is better. But when television is bad, nothing is worse."

He is, of course, stating the obvious. If you park yourself in front of the idiot box all day, your mind will be turned to mush by the soap operas, game shows, inferior anthologies, and the endless commercials (sometimes as many as ten 30-second spots per hour!). But, for the more discriminating, there are about six hours of good TV on any given week. If you like Westerns (and you'd better!), there's Rawhide and Maverick, though the latter is much reduced in watchability since James Garner left the cast. You've got Route 66. Andy Griffith has got a fun show. Dobie Gillis is still amusing on occasion.

And then you've got Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone. I'm shed much ink over the fact that this second season hasn't been as good as the first. The last three episodes, however, comprise a solid streak of goodness that I think you'll enjoy if you catch them during the summer reruns (and, as is now tradition, you'll get a one-two review punch with both me and the Young Traveler reporting our thoughts):

(see them at Galactic Journey!)
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Twenty years ago, even ten (and zero in some places), science fiction was all about the twist ending. Aliens would seed a dead planet with life only for it to turn out...that planet was EARTH! Or folks might spend a story in a struggle to stay alive, only to find out THEY WERE ALREADY DEAD! And so on. Stories would usually end with a shock sentence, often with copious slammers (!!!)

But the genre matured. Characters, writing, and fully explored concepts appeared. These days, the "gimmick" often takes the back seat. facilitating rather than dominating the story.

The Twilight Zone, the science fiction/fantasy/horror anthology created by Rod Serling, is generally a cut above anything else on TV. This includes its pale competitors like One Step Beyond and Way Out. Unfortunately, several times in the first season, and more frequently in this, the second season, the show has aped the gimmick stories of print sf. The result is a run of predictable, sub-par episodes. There is light at the end of this tunnel, however – the most recent episodes have returned the focus to interesting characters and genuine drama.

First, we have to get there:



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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I've been watching a lot of television, lately. It's embarrassing. I should be reading more books or doing more than cursorily scanning the front page of the newspaper. Instead, after work I flip on the set and vegetate for an hour. I hope this doesn't become a habit!

It's certainly not as if TV has gotten significantly better. Mr. Ed, My Sister Eileen, the umpteenth season of the Jack Benny Show, none of these are going to win any awards. On the other hand, The Twilight Zone has already won an award (an Emmy last year), and I'm hoping that my continued watching and review of that show excuses my overindulgence in the others.

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)

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