Thursday, July 3, 2008

What I'm Watching

Sci Fi Channel's Schedule for July 3

For all that the Sci Fi Channel has screwed up over the years, they manage to do one thing well: show Twilight Zone marathons on every major and not-so-major holiday. ("Boys, it's Arbor Day. Everyone's too busy celebrating to watch our new made-for-TV movie starring Bruce Boxleitner. Put 'Sea Horse of Doom' away, pop in the Twilight Zone DVDs and go home.") July 3 and 4 will be all Twilight Zone, all the time on the Sci Fi Channel.

It's really rather extraordinary that these TZ episodes still work as well as they do. The original series ran from 1959-1964, and, per the standards of those years, the writing is unapologetically didactic and moralistic. It makes The West Wing, which was about as preachy as a 21st century show could be, look decidedly understated and nonjudgemental.

And yet the Twilight Zone never comes off as silly or dated, the writing is never oppressive. Check out series creator Rod Serling's epilogue to the famous episode "The Obsolete Man," starring Burgess Meredith as a religious librarian in a violently illiterate, atheistic society:

The chancellor, the late chancellor, was only partly correct. He was obsolete, but so is the State, the entity he worshipped. Any state, any entity, any ideology that fails to recognize the worth, the dignity, the rights of man, that state is obsolete. A case to be filed under "M" for mankind—in the Twilight Zone.

That's simultaneously over-the-top and painfully obvious. It should be laughable. And yet there's something about Serling's delivery and the quality of the proceeding episode that makes that statement seem particularly wise and insightful.

Who needs friends and fireworks when you have Twilight Zone re-runs?

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