I love ranking things! I rank horror movies, James Bond movies, and comic book movies. Now the time has come for a new ranking challenge: The Twilight Zone. I’m (re-)watching the episodes with my daughter, who’s helping me. For now, I only intend to do the original series. I have a number of TZ DVDs, and I’ll start with those episodes. Perhaps later I’ll move on to other episodes from Netflix or perhaps even one of the 1980s or more recent series.
The episodes we rated this time were from Volume 39 of the DVD collection. More in the future!
Like those other categories of rankings, I’ll use a rubric for my grading. I’ll use a variation of the horror movie and James Bond rubric. Here’s how I’ll award points:
Concept/Plot/Characters—Is the concept or story interesting? Does the plot unfold coherently? How about the characters–are they believable and interesting? This is also where I’ll put considerations about acting and dialogue. (4 points)
Tone—A lot of TZs are scary, but sometime they’re funny or suspenseful. There’s also a subset of TZ episodes that might be referred to as “nostalgia” episodes. (I think TZ fans will know what I mean by this one–“A Stop at Willoughby” is one such episode.) In any case, how well does the episode achieve the tone it’s shooting for? (1 point)
The Twist—Every TZ has a twist at the end. Sometimes it’s ironic, sometimes it’s moralistic, often it’s something that makes you look at everything that’s occurred up to that point a bit differently. The twist is, in fact, what puts the twilight in the “Twilight Zone.” So, how’s the twist? Predictable, corny, and lame? Or unexpected and mind-blowing? (2 points)
As you can see, there will be a total of seven points available to each episode. Let’s run through a couple episodes I’ve watched recently with my daughter, both from Volume 39 of the DVDs.
The Silence (Season Two, 1961)
An episode I’ve long wanted to see, “The Silence” concerns Jamie Tennyson, a member of a gentleman’s club who cannot stop talking. And not only that, he’s loud, obnoxious, and a constant irritant to other members who just want to read their newspapers and smoke their cigars in peace. Particularly aggrieved is Colonel Archie Taylor, who bets Tennyson that he can’t go without talking for an entire year. The wager is set at $500,000, and since Jamie is considerably in debt and has a wife with expensive tastes, he really needs the money. Can he shut up for an entire year and win the bet, and to what lengths is he willing to go to make it happen?
Concept/Plot/Characters—The concept is very intriguing, the characters are believable, the acting is superb, the pacing is perfect throughout. (4 points)
Tone–I would say the tone the episode is going for here is suspense, and it achieves it fully. (1 point)
The Twist–The twist here is very good, actually a double twist. I could see it coming, or something like it, but not quite the form it ended up taking. (1.5 points)
Total=6.5 points (Excellent)
Our first Excellent episode! Let’s see how the other episode fares.
Mr. Bevis (Season One, 1960)
This one is apparently a re-working of a failed TV pilot. It follows a day in the life of Mr. Bevis, a likable eccentric who always has time to pick up a puppy, play football with the kids in the street, or chat with his co-workers, but isn’t so hot on getting to work on time or paying the rent. On one unfortunate day, he’s fired from his job, evicted from his apartment, and crashes his car (a 1924 Rickenbacker). In a bar where he’s trying to drink his sorrows away, he meets his guardian angel, who offers him a chance to live the day over again, but only if he makes a few minor personality changes…
Concept/Plot/Characters—Mr. Bevis, played by character actor Orson Bean, is so charming and good-natured that it makes you really root for this episode. Unfortunately, the rest of the episode doesn’t live up to it. Outside Mr. Bevis himself, none of the other characters or events really make much of an impression. Really, things seem to happen because they’re the type of thing that should happen to Mr. Bevis, not because there’s any logic to them. (1.5 points)
Tone–I suppose the intended tone is a sort of wistfulness, but it doesn’t quite achieve it. (.5 points)
The Twist–The twist here is completely predictable, and completely underwhelming. (0 points)
Total=2 points (Okay)
An okay episode, due mainly to Orson Bean’s acting. I suspect this will end up being one of the lowest rated in the “Okay” ranking.