Monday, April 09, 2018

The Twilight Zone (1959) -- Season 1 Episode 33 (Mr. Bevis)

I don’t imagine many people like wearing a suit and tie.  People might get used to it.  People often see the value in it, but I don’t think anyone has ambitions of fitting in.  James B.W. Bevis certainly never did.  He’s goofy and absentminded, to say the least.  He doesn’t have the latest car, but he likes what he likes, whether or not anyone agrees.

The neighborhood children seem to like him.  Bosses?  Not so much.  He’s had several jobs in the past several months.  In fact, the episode begins with him getting terminated, his car getting in an accident and his landlady evicting him.  Although you might feel empathy for Mr. Bevis, you can see where he could do better.

Today’s his lucky day, though.  J. Hardy Hempstead appears and offers to help Bevis.  Who is J. Hardy Hempstead?  Hempstead is Bevis’s guardian angel.  Hempstead offers to let Bevis relive the day, on the condition that he give up anything that makes him unique.  No more zither music.  No more figurines on his desk.  He won’t be popular with the children anymore, but he won’t be fired, either.

Bevis decides to give it a try.  He now has a new car that actually works.  When he gets to his job, he finds his desk is clear and the boss gives him a $10/week raise.  His landlady even loves him, as he’s paid his rent in advance.  Bevis tells Hempstead to put it all back the way it was.  Bevis realizes what he’s known all along:  It’s not worth an extra $10 every week if he can’t be who he is.  He’s been homeless before and he’ll survive it again.

The episode has been called the opposite of It’s a Wonderful Life and with good reason.   Bevis isn’t particularly despondent, but he gets help anyway.  After the help is given, he refuses it.  According to IMDb, this was supposed to serve as a backdoor pilot.  Since Burgess Meredith declined the title role, Rod Serling dropped the idea.

I thought the episode was a bit extreme.  I’m not sure why the Bevis was written with so many eccentricities.  There were some things that could be toned down, like listening to zither music.  I don’t think they had portable CD players back then, but they did have headphones.  Stereo headphones had been invented two years prior, so I would think that some compromise could be found if Bevis was a halfway decent employee.

The episode seems to be more about accepting who you are regardless of the consequences.  However, I don’t think most oddballs are as odd as Bevis.  I’m not sure how much of it is exaggeration.  (Why is it that people like Bevis go through so many jobs?)  I suppose some of this would have been explored if the episode had been made into its own series.

I had never seen this episode before, which surprises me a little.  It was a good episode, even if it was somewhat thin.  The problem with the half-hour format is that the episodes don’t go into much detail.  Still, if you can still get it streaming on Netflix, I’d recommend watching it.

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