Analyzing the Twilight Zone

I’m engaged in a noble project with my twelve-year old daughter: watching every single Twilight Zone episode and ranking them. We watch and run them through a rubric to give them a score from 0 to 7. The episodes are graded in three categories: Concept/Plot/Characters (4 points), Tone (1 point), and The Twist (2 points).

There are 156 Twilight Zone episodes in the original 1950s-60s series, and my daughter and I have watched 42 of them, or a little over one quarter (27% to be exact). Our rankings so far are at the bottom of this post. Before going on with the project, let’s take a breather to do a little analysis.

Here’s how many we’ve done from each of the five seasons, and the average rank for that season so far:

Season 1 =12, 4.4 points

Season 2 =13, 4.9 points

Season 3 = 11, 5.1 points (Winner!)

Season 4 = 1, 5.5 points (tossed out for too few episodes watched)

Season 5 = 5, 3.7 points (Worst season)

Okay, I think we can toss out Season 4, of which we’ve only seen one episode. Season 3 is the best season (so far), with an average score of 5.1, but with Season 2 close behind at 4.9. Season 5, at 3.7 points, is far behind, which matches my feeling that lots of Season 5 episodes have so far been pretty mediocre. Season 1’s score of 4.4 points would indicate mediocrity, but I think that’s misleading–Season 1 episodes to me feel hit or miss, with lots of both great and terrible episodes–perhaps a sign of a show getting its footing.

I’ve also assigned each episode one or more themes. Here’s the themes we’ve watched so far, how many, and the average ranking:

Afterlife: 1, 5 points

Aliens: 3, 5.5 points

All Alone: 3, 4.5 points

Children in Danger: 2, 5.75 points

Creepy Kids: 2, 6.75 points

Death Personified: 2, 6.25 points

Distant Outpost: 3, 4.3 points

Dolls: 4, 5.5 points

Execution: 2, 1.5 points

Gambling: 2, 3 points

Guardian Angel: 2, 3.5 points

Machines: 2, 1.5 points

Mind Powers: 5, 4.9 points

Nuclear War: 3, 6 points

Other: 7, 4.9 points

Robots: 3, 3.6 points

Predictions: 2, 5 points

Sports: 1, 2.5 points

Telephones: 1, 6.5 points

Time Travel: 1, 6 points

There you have it. At least based on the slightly more than one-quarter of TZ episodes my daughter and I have seen so far, you should seek out episodes about Creepy Kids, Death Personified, Nuclear War, Telephones, and Time Travel, and avoid the ones about Execution, Gambling, Machines, and Sports. This gibes at least somewhat with my own impressions so far, insofar as episodes about execution and gambling tend to bring out Rod Serling’s preachy side.

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