I think the best kinds of TV shows are the ones that make for lengthy, often heated conversations and debates, long after they’ve been taken off the DVD shelves at your local store.
Of the more recent ones that have come to an end, I could probably name two or three that hit the right chord for me – LOST and Friends for instance (trust me; “They were in purgatory all along!” is always a great conversation starter when you’re meeting someone new from Generation Y).
But the show that trumps them all for me – the one that my earliest memories comprise – is one that I was probably not supposed to watch at age 8… The Twilight Zone.
Anyone who has watched the series – or even a couple of episodes – knows that it’s not about being gruesome or over the top. There’s no need for new-age zombies or vampires. This is just good, old-fashioned horror, told in subtleties, read between the lines. It’s about the madness in mankind that lies just under the surface.
With each episode of The Twilight Zone, more questions are created than answers found. I think that’s why people remember specific details so vividly even today.
How about the episode called ‘The Hitch Hiker’? A 25-minute eerie story about a man who is always there, by the side of the road, looking for a ride. You think you’ve left him behind, but as you drive on, he’s there again, spooky as ever, flagging you down. The end has an uncanny twist that’s right up there with The Sixth Sense or any other movie where you’re left with your jaw on the floor.
Remember Talky Tina? She was a little girl’s creepy doll that turns against her mean stepfather and causes his ‘accidental’ death at the end of the episode.
She also caused me to change my mind about owning dolls and gave me the notion that every plastic action figure is out to get me. Talky Tina is a forerunner to Chucky of the Child’s Play series – another creepfest of a movie about a killer doll. It was single-handedly responsible for all children’s nightmares in the ‘90s.
Of course, the TV show had its share of the supernatural, too: Gremlins on planes, both tiny and large aliens, different worldly dimensions and time travel.
But bear in mind, this was the ‘60s. The Twilight Zone was talking about a Benjamin Button-style life and post-apocalyptic worlds long before they were on the big screen. It was setting the standard for all future exploration of science fiction – of seeing the unimaginable in the every day. It still is.