Saturday, January 2, 2016

Tandava's Guide to the Zone--2015-16--Part VII: January 3rd Midnight to Noon

We're in the  Zone stretch with the seventh and final part of this year's Guide.

As mentioned in prior Parts I,  IIIII IV,  V , and  VI, the SyFy channel is airing the whole series -- all 156 episodes of The Twilight Zone in order.

This part covers the final 24 episodes of the Fifth Season, which unfortunately contains mostly turkeys, but there are a few that are excellent (such as "The Masks" at 6:00 AM directed by the TZ's only female director, Ida Lupino), and the remarkable "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge", which is actually an Oscar-winning French film based on a story by Ambrose Bierce.

I don't recall ever seeing this episode aired in any cycle of reruns.

Also never aired is "The Encounter" (9:00 AM) which is an engaging character study of guilt and vengeance with George Takei as the son of a Japanese American who had worked at Pearl Harbor. Unfortunately it contains not only racism but refers to a character who colluded with the Japanese during the attack, which is historically inaccurate and offensive enough even in fiction to have it removed from syndication.

The multi-plot-twisting "Sounds and Silences" (7:00 AM) was also pulled from syndication due to a legal issue, so this is the first time it will be aired since its first broadcast in 1964.

The turkey list is pretty long, and contains episodes that are considered by many to be worth watching (a la Plan 9 From Outer Space) simply because they are so bad, such as "The Fear" and "The Bewitchin' Pool".

As always, at the top is a short list including the current Time Top 10, my personal favorites, other noteworthy episodes, and the episodes which have not been aired recently.

The colors marking these categories are:

(1) Episodes on the Time Top 10 List – Listed in red.

(2) My Personal Favorite Episodes – These are underrated gems with strong scripts and beautiful performances – in green.

(3) Episodes Worth Watching – These have flawed scripts or execution, but often have compelling performances and/or ideas – in blue.

(4) Episodes That Haven't Been Aired Recently – These may or may not be good, but they are worth watching just because they have been off the air for so long – in purple.

Happy Zoning and have a wonderful 2016!!

My Favorites  Short List
(Click the time to jump to the episode description.)

12:30 AM  You Drive
1:00 AM  The Long Morrow
1:30 AM  The Self-Improvement of Salvadore Ross
2:00 AM –  Number Twelve Looks Just Like You
3:00 AM  Night Call
3:30 AM  From Agnes–With Love
4:00 AM  Spur of the Moment
6:00 AMThe Masks
7:00 AM  Sounds and Silences
9:00 AM  The Encounter
10:30 AM 
 Come Wander with Me

Full List  With Descriptions

12:00 AM – Ring-a-Ding Girl – S5.E13 | Medium episode about movie star returning to her home town and throwing a “celebrate me” performance of her one-woman show – competing with the town's annual picnic. Is this a diva craving attention, or is something else going on? Even though it’s not great, I always find myself watching this one all the way through.

12:30 AM  – You Drive  S5.E14 | A hit-and-run driver tries to escape consequences, but his car has other ideas. So-so story with some well done effects.

1:00 AM  – The Long Morrow  S5.E15 | Robert Landsing (Star Trek TOS's Gary Seven) is an astronaut preparing for a 40-year mission into deep space and back, for which he will be put into suspended animation. Mariette Hartley (Spock's girlfriend Zarabeth) is the woman he falls in love with a month before. A well-played story about love and sacrifice, in spite of the less than wonderful writing and massive plotholes. [Note: the SyFy channel had previously incorrectly listed this as "The Mirror", but that has since been fixed.]

1:30 AM  – The Self-Improvement of Salvadore Ross  S5.E15 | An abusive jerk makes TZ-style "trades" (e.g. 46 years of his life for an aging millionaire's fortune and apartment) so he can become the kind of man who can win the heart of the woman he desires. Good performances burdened by poor writing, but the twist at the end makes it worth watching.

2:00 AM  Number Twelve Looks Just Like You – Dystopic utopia where everyone is beautifully identical and lifts their pretty mugs with a glass of Instant Smile. (Perhaps an inspiration for Scott Westerfeld's excellent Uglies series -- where a "beautiful world" has a particularly nasty underpinning?) Mediocre script saved by Collin Wilcox's terrific performance.

2:30 AM  Black Leather Jackets – S5.E18 | Evil Fonzie-esque leather-clad alien (dressed this way to "blend") falls for local Earth girl in this poor man's Avatar.

3:00 AM  Night Call – S5.E19 | Originally called "Sorry Right Number," this careful-what-you- wish-for tale features calls from beyond and a beautiful performance by Gladys Cooper. It has also been recycled as internet glurge.

3:30 AM  – From Agnes–With Love  S5.E20 | Socially inept computer programmer finds his attempts at a love life ruined by Agnes, the advice-offering computer in his charge. Ridiculous, bordering on misogynistic. Skip it.

4:00 AM  – Spur of the Moment  S5.E21 | A young woman about to be married to a stockbroker whom she doesn't love is pursued by a terrifying woman trying to warn her not to make the wrong choice. An interesting twist and some good performances make this otherwise shrill episode worth watching.

4:30 AM  – An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge  S5.E22 | A Confederate spy about to be hanged gets a TZ-style chance at escape. This episode is adapted from an Oscar winning French film based on a story by Ambrose Bierce.

5:00 AM – Queen Of The Nile  S5.E23 | Dopey episode about life-sucking millennia-old Egyptian queen. Blah blah blah. Skip it. "Long Live Walter Jameson" (6:30 AM 12/31) handles the material much more skillfully.

5:30 AM – What's In The Box – S5.E24 Lame and ridiculous episode about a couple’s bickering leading to accidental murder and capital punishment. Freaky TV predicts it all. There, now you don’t have to watch it and aren’t you glad?

6:00 AM  The Masks – S5.E25 | One of the GREAT underrated episodes, and the only TZ episode to be directed by a woman, Ida Lupino (she also stars in “The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine” 8:30 PM 12/30). A crusty millionaire geezer tells his greedy family he will die before Mardi Gras is over – but they must wear freaky custom masks through the evening if they want to claim their inheritance. Gives the term "know thyself" new meaning....

6:30 AM – I Am the Night–Color Me Black  S5.E26 | Murderous bigotry, hatred, and fear are bad things. OK. We get it.

7:00 AM  – Sounds and Silences  S5.E27 | A nautical enthusiast who was raised in a neurotically quiet home now enjoys the bells, whistles, horns, and explosions of recorded naval battles  to the chagrin of his wife who can't take it anymore. Now free to enjoy the din, he finds himself the subject of a TZ-style transformation. Amusing plot twists and a little psychobabble ensue. Due to a legal issue, this episode has not been aired since it was first broadcast in 1964.

7:30 AM – Caesar and Me – S5.E28 | Satan-spawn dummy drives hapless ventriloquist Jackie Cooper to a life of crime – matched in evilness only by tormenting then-child actress Morgan Brittany (later of Dallas fame). Similar material is handled much better in "The Dummy" (9:30 PM 1/1).

8:00 AM – The Jeopardy Room – S5.E29 | Defecting ex-KGB Martin Landau has three hours to find the bomb in his hotel room planted by his former Commissar, sniper-rifle-wielding John van Dreelen: If he tries to leave, he gets shot; if he doesn't find the bomb, it goes off (or is he supposed to get shot then, too?). Poor writing, overwrought direction and too many plot holes make this episode unsalvageable even by Landau's typically fine acting.

8:30 AM  Stopover In A Quiet Town – S5.E30 | At least it was quiet until this nattering couple woke up in a strange house with no memory of how they got there, and no one to ask where they are, or why the grass is made of papier-mâché. And if they'd shut up for two seconds, we just might care....

9:00 AM  – The Encounter  S5.E31 | A WWII veteran and the Japanese-American son of a Pearl Harbor worker (George Takei) find themselves in an attic where truths and bigotry reveal themselves. Most likely due to the veteran's copious racial slurs and the implication of Japanese-American involvement in the Pearl Harbor attack, this episode has not been aired since it was first broadcast.

9:30 AM – Mr. Garrity And The Graves – S5.E32 | A more humorous take on the “value of mortality” theme explored in "Long Live Walter Jameson," " Escape Clause," and others; add to this "be careful what you wish for” of "A Short Drink from a Certain Fountain," "A Nice Place to Visit," etc.

10:00 AM – The Brain Center At Whipple's – S5.E33 | CEO Whipple automates manufacturing with low-maintenance machines. Does he understand "the value of a man"? Go tell it to Skynet. Features the second of three cameos of Forbidden Planet's Robby the Robot in the TZ; others include "Uncle Simon" and "One for the Angels".

10:30 AM  – Come Wander with Me  S5.E34 | "Rockabilly Boy" Gary Crosby searches the backwoods for folk music and romances a good ol' boy's fiancee to let him record the song she sings. Murder, mayhem, and a confusing cycle of pursuit ensue in this nonsensical episode.

11:00 AM – The Fear – S5.E35 | Reclusive writer and state trooper battle giant (or maybe not-so-giant) aliens in this bottom-of-the-barrel turkey.

11:30 AM  The Bewitchin' Pool – S5.E36 | Worst. Episode. Ever. So bad it is actually worth watching in a Plan 9 sort of way... Even To Kill a Mockingbird's Oscar-nominated Mary Badham couldn't save this dismal excuse for a story. Spoiled brats escape manipulative divorcing parents by finding their way to SuperGrandma via an enchanted pool. Now, if Grandma dumped the tots in an oven, then we might have a story....

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