Back to The Twilight Zone for eleven selections from its final season. To start with, I picked “In Praise of Pip,” which was written by Rod Serling. It’s Bill Mumy’s third appearance in the program, but it’s really worth watching for Jack Klugman’s amazing performance. Life kind of got in the way tonight and so I don’t have much to share, but I did want to make sure I praised Klugman as Pip’s dad, because he was just so good in this. That and our son was very confused by the jump in time before the final scene. Several weeks pass, but, especially since the scene takes place in the same location as the one before it, it looked to him like it was the following morning.
Also, remember those cigarette companies that used to sponsor this show? Well, they must have found some other kind of sponsor in season five, because Klugman smokes Morley in this one!
Morley King Size! The 555 of Cigarettes!
I amused myself last night by telling our son, who, like little Anthony Fremont, is six, that this episode of The Twilight Zone is about a boy who can have everything that he wants, only it’s told from the adult’s perspective. He puzzled over what that might mean while I chuckled.
The really interesting thing about watching Bill Mumy’s star turn in “It’s a Good Life,” written by Rod Serling from a short story by Jerome Bixby, in the company of a six year-old is comparing Anthony’s utter lack of emotional maturity with our boy’s. Our son, of course, has been told “no” many, many times. He watched in real fascination as this horrifying story unfolded, with John Larch and Cloris Leachman absolutely riveting in their portrayals of parents crippled with fear at what their son has become.
“One teeny thing I like about The Twilight Zone is that it teaches you a lesson,” our son offered unexpectedly. We talked a little bit about how important it is to be told you can’t do something, and to understand why, when possible. I’m sure that won’t keep him from wishing we could be teleported into some cornfield the next time that we tell him he’s had enough screen time for the day, but maybe he’ll not judge us too harshly now that he has seen what can become of kids who get absolutely everything that they want.
Well, here’s a good, old-fashioned ghost story. This one was written by Charles Beaumont and William Idelson. We haven’t looked at any of Beaumont’s Zone stories so far. He wrote or co-wrote 22 episodes of the series and was just a decade into what should have been a long and amazing career before he died at the stupidly young age of 38 in 1967.
This is just an excellent little story. Young Bill Mumy, whom we’ll see in a couple more memorable Zone episodes, might be the main attraction, but I was really impressed by the actors playing his parents. Philip Abbott, who would star in The FBI for a decade, is actually hard to watch as he carries his grief so well. And when it seems like the impossible has happened and his son is talking to the much-missed grandma across the lines of a toy telephone… they do a great job selling the supernatural.
I did have half a mind that this might be too heavy an episode for our son, but he handled it really well. He does clarify that this was not scary, but “very, VERY creepy.” And he’s right. Pleasant dreams!