Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The Twilight Zone (1959) -- Season 1 Episode 1 (Where Is Everybody?)

Mike Ferris wanders into town one day.  It’s a fully functioning town, just like any town you’d expect to find in a TV show of the 1950s.  The problem is that he can’t find anyone.  The church has a bell that rings, but there‘s no pastor or congregation.  The diner has food for customers that aren’t there.  When Mike wanders into the police station, smoke suddenly starts rising from a cigar that no one placed there.  Is Mike going crazy?  Is this purgatory?  Either possibility is likely, as this is The Twilight Zone.

Specifically, this is the first episode of what would become an iconic TV show.  The Twilight Zone has become synonymous with strange or eerie, and with good reason.  The show often had a twist ending long before the movies of M. Night Shyamalan.  With this each episode, you know that there’s going to be a big twist at the end.  You’re just waiting for the main character to figure it out.

In this case, Mike stumbles upon it accidentally.  Being that he’s the only person there, he goes from building to building until his frayed mind has him pressing a button for what would seem like no reason.  Then, we find out what that reason is.

Part of the greatness of The Twilight Zone is that it takes a problem and puts it on display.  Here, we have one man.  We see his isolation.  It’s pretty much the only thing on display for most of the episode.  This episode, like many of the others, is G-rated.  There’s nothing objectionable for children in this episode, such as sex or violence.  I would say that it’s more questionable in that very young children might not understand the loneliness that Mike has to go through and the effects it has on him.

The show was an anthology; episodes were each self-contained stories with no relationship to other episodes, meaning you can view them out of order.  (For this reason, I’m not going to be as strict about grouping episode reviews by season.)  If you are watching the series on Netflix, this shouldn’t be as much of an issue.  Currently, they’re missing the fourth season.  If you’re renting the episodes on DVD, you don’t have to worry about the discs arriving out of order or one disc being checked out from the library.  You can skip that disc and come back to it.

Part of the significance of this being the first episode is that it seemed a little simpler than some of the other episodes.   There wasn’t as much of the supernatural or unexplained that I remember from other stories.  (Take Nightmare at 20,000 Feet, for instance.)  The show had yet to get established, although it did have a backdoor pilot of sorts with The Time Element.  It’s kind of difficult to think of an anthology having a pilot episode, but here it is.

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