The Twilight Zone: The Complete Series
Out this week is a wonderful brick of classic television. The Twilight Zone: The Complete Series is again available on Blu-ray, all 156 episodes in five seasons on 24 discs. There was a previous 2012 set released by another company, but rights have transferred, this package is more compact, and the price has dropped.
The show looks beautiful, crisp and yet timeless in black and white, and I was surprised at just how many of the episodes were both new to me and still relevant. You’ve heard of the famous ones, of course, but I was gripped from the pilot, “Where Is Everybody?” It’s the story of a man wandering alone through a small town growing more and more disturbed by the lack of other people. Then, it was perhaps a fear of a disaster happening without knowing; now, it’s a kind of parable for loneliness.
Sure, most of the episodes turn on twist endings, and some of them are predictable, but the guest acting is good and the writing and directing by Rod Serling is excellent. It’s a collection to be dipped into, not overdone, when you can appreciate the concepts and themes without overdoing. Too much all at once and the ideas become stale. But what a great way to run your own New Year’s marathon!
Don’t know what to do what friends or relatives over the holidays? If any of them like classic TV or speculative fiction, pull out a couple of episodes and argue over how much, if any, society has changed… or should.
There are special features included, but I had trouble finding them at first, since they aren’t listed well.
Every disc says it has them, which isn’t true; they’re only on the last disc of each season. If you look under individual episode listings, you can find the commentaries, isolated scores, and radio drama versions. Otherwise, the extras are on the last disc of every season. Season 1 has:
* “The Time Element”, a 1958 Rod Serling script aired on Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse considered something of an “unofficial pilot” for The Twilight Zone. It’s available with or without commentary by Marc Scott Zicree (author of The Twilight Zone Companion) and with syndication open and close.
* An audio interview with cinematographer George Clemens, who won an Emmy for his work on the show. This continues throughout the other discs in the set.
* Three minutes of Serling winning writing Emmys (the first features Fred Astaire oddly hand-cranking the nominees through a box screen display).
Season 2 has:
* “Nightmare at Ground Zero”, a 1953 (kinescope) episode of Suspense (complete with car battery ads) written by Serling about a man making mannequins for a nuclear bomb test and his unpleasant wife.
* An audio interview with William Tuttle, a makeup artist.
Season 3 has:
* An episode of Liars Club hosted by Serling
* 15 minutes of Tell It to Groucho in which Serling appeared
* A promo for the Famous Writers School
Season 4 has:
* A Saturday Night Live sketch with Dan Ackroyd doing a great Serling
* A Genesee Beer ad with Serling
Season 5 has:
* Various interviews and conversations with Serling
* An Alfred Hitchcock promo for the show
Most of the significance of these items will be known to the devout fan who wants a complete series set, or you’ll need to check the internet, since they’re not introduced well. Many of the episodes throughout have end-of-episode pitches for other network shows and Rod Serling doing short promos for next week. There was mention of “numerous audio commentaries” but I couldn’t find any episode-specific ones, so they must have meant the various audio clips included.
For the right person, this could be a gift that gives hours of continuing enjoyment. (The studio provided a review copy.)