According to an article in the Sunday New York Times, The Twilight Zone turned 50 years old last Friday.

It’s easy to mention “To Serve Man” or “Time Enough at Last” as your favorite episodes, but what are your favorite “hidden gems?”

Here are a few of mine:

– “Long Live Walter Jameson” – Just how old is Kevin McCarthy’s history professor?

– “Back There” – A time traveler (Russell Johnson aka the professor from Gilligan’s Island) tries to save Lincoln.

– “Will the real Martian Please Stand Up?” – Which diner patron is part of an alien invasion?

– “The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank” – A rural man (James Best aka Roscoe P. Coltrane) shows up at his own funeral.

– “Steel” – Lee Marvin takes place of his robot boxer in a fight likely to kill him.

Tip of the hat to Peter Sanderson for pointing out the article on his Facebook.


  1. “One for the Angels” and “The Obsolete Man” come to mind right away. But picking a favorite Twilight Zone episode is like trying to choose a favorite Far Side cartoon—you keep remembering ones you love.

  2. Off of the top of my head my favorites include…

    “Where Is Everyone?”
    “Five Characters in Search of an Exit”
    “Nothing In The Dark”
    “The After Hours”

  3. I will cheat and recommend the 1980s reboot. Harlan Ellison, Wes Craven, Stephen King, Richard Matheson (Button, Button soon on the big screen as The Box), George R.R. Martin, Rockne S. O’Bannen…

    Two box sets, loads of extras, great actors (some before they became famous!), and memorable stories.

    Too many classic stories to chose. If you can remember five episodes of any television show, then it’s great television. The Twilight Zone… Hall of Fame.

    A better question: What’s the WORST episode?

  4. I agree on there being too many to name a favorite, one that certainly comes to my mind is the pre-Will Robinson Billy Mumy in “It’s A Good Life”. I can’t hear the word “corn field” to this day without thinking of that episode.

    I have a fondness for the Burgess Meredith episode “Time Enough At Last” as well and it’s very Twilight Zone ending.

  5. “Night of the meek.” Art Carney’s monologue is the bestest with the mostest, and when the little elf jumps up and the story turns to the implausible, well, it’s just the best. Hard to beat “The Howling Man,” for that matter…

  6. – The Obsolete Man
    – The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street (an obvious choice, I guess)
    – Can’t remember the title, but it’s set in a future society where all citizens go through plastic surgery at a certain age to fit a single Barbie or Ken model. One girl doesn’t want to go through with it, and her friends and family try to convince her.

  7. I like the one where the guy goes back to his old hometown and goes back in time to meet his parents–something about a magic carousel and breaking his leg or soemthing.

    All time fave– the one about the bomb shelter in a suburban basement, an announcement over dinner of a first strike nuke launch, the neighbors busting down the door of the bomb shelter.

    I like that Bronson one too. And that one with George Takei and some other guy in the attic of the guy’s house– they become possessed by the spirits of dead soldiers, Japanese and American, reliving WW2…really intense.

  8. I’d say the worst episodes are the ones with Cold War themes that haven’t aged well, like “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street.” But even those are above-average TV dramas.

  9. The “guy going back to his hometown” episode is called “Walking Distance”, with Gig Young, and it’s the one I was going to mention. Super solid, poignant, beautifully written, shot and acted. I also like “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up” as a great goof, “The Invaders”, most of the Burgess Meredith and Jack Klugman episodes, a lot of the Charles Beaumont and Richard Matheson-scripted shows, and of course the cookbook, the cornfield, Art Carney as Santa Claus, etc. “Midnight Sun” piles it on with the twist ending but the real sense of worldwide apocalypse told through a radio and an apartment set really scared me as a kid. I like plenty of them, I could type a while.

    Least favorite would include the one where the aliens build a giant balloon of a spaceman to scare people — “The Fear”, iirc, and the one where the guy at the bus station chases down his doppleganger. “Four O’Clock” with the raving nutcase who wants to turn all the bad people into two-foot tall midgets. Terrible stuff. And unfortunately, most of the comedic episodes. Serling was pretty weak at flat-out comedy, and they creak badly. I wish the Jack Carson epsiode was better, the used car salesman one, because Carson’s a favorite, but it’s awful and ends with a bad cold war joke. The Buster Keaton ep is a sweet idea and tries hard but doesn’t really work. The hour-long episodes all feel padded, even the decent ones.

    But I’m a fan so even the rotten ones hold some appeal for me, some bit of business or solid idea, a decent moment, a good character actor or three, or the Serling bookends, or simply nostalgia for watching them for the first time as a kid on WPIX, channel 11 NYC, when it was all new and you didn’t know the endings and weren’t old enough to know most of them were pretty eh. A lot of it looks and feels dated now but I it doesn’t bother me at all.

  10. The Carol Burnett one was lousy–something about a mediocre dancing girl and angels? Also that horrible “drunk santa claus” one shot on early video– horrible.

    I didn’t realize Matheson wrote some of those–that’s cool.

    I tried unsuccessfully to watch some of Serling’s Night Gallery follow up (in color and he has wicked 70s sideburns and a George Hamilton tan). A little lackluster. He also had a radio drama in the 70s, trying to do an hour long dramatic show along the lines of the Twilight Zone.

    Interesting fact–he was the original announcer for the classic paranormal series “In Search OF…” before they got Nemoy. Serling narrated the pilot episode.

  11. “The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street” isn’t Cold War (You’re thinking of “The Shelter”), it’s about racism and xenophobia. In fact “The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street” is so timeless you can turn on your TV and see it happening with the so-called Tea Parties and other protests where Obama is compared to Hitler and worse. It’s about people being manipulated by fear and ignorance.

  12. The Night Gallery pilot isn’t bad, three stories, early Spielberg job with Joan Crawford (iirc) as a blind woman in the final one. Roddy McDowall’s in the first, a horror bit that’s pretty cool.

    I like the Art Carney Santa, sure, it’s maudlin and obvious but something about it works for me, it’s also got John Fiedler (voice of Piglet) and Burt Mustin, a character actor who was seemingly born at the age of 90. Those episodes on video are really creepy-looking, they were an experiment to save costs there’s a reason they went back to film.

    Matheson wrote a lot of great eps, “Little Girl Lost’, “Night Call” (which originally had a much creepier ending, where the dead fiance says he’ll be coming over to see her) “Steel”, “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” and “Nick of Time”, which is excellent, the one about the married couple stuck ina town and the husband (William Shatner) becomes obsessed with a fortune telling machine.,

    There’s a Twilight Zone radio show that started up a few yrs ago, adapting episodes, not great, but some of them are interesting. They’re all padded out to about an hour, I think that hurts them, and some of the choices are dull.

    I like “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street” but it really makes you wonder why the hell the neighbors just don’t look around the neighborhood instead of sending one poor schmuock. And they jump to some really bizarre conclusions to keep the episode rolling. Where are the people on the next block? The cops? Yeah, I know, it’s allegory, but you still have to sell it better than that. It falls apart on subsequent viewings. Of course, if I didn’t like it I wouldn’t have watched it again. Claude Akins!

  13. I may not be remembering the episode details exactly, but wasn’t there one where William Shatner and his girlfriend stop at a diner and start playing with a fortune-telling machine there. It turns out that it’s fortunes are prescient and by the end of the episode, Shatner is just sitting there pulling out fortunes, incapable of maknig any sort of decision without the machine’s sayso.

    Like I said, I may be misremembering the details…maybe ‘cuz I just find the idea so scary: a guy becoming paralyzed by his own indecision, incapable of making any choice. (And, of course, I nice counterpoint to Shatner’s later character James T. Kirk, who was anything but indecisive…)