Friday, February 21, 2020

The Twilight Zone (1959) -- Season 2 Episode 11 (The Night of the Meek)

There are different kinds of Christmas stories.  It’s a Wonderful Life would seem to be the gold standard, in which a man gets a special wish and comes to realize how important he is.  There are angels and the spirit of good will and everything.

There are those like A Christmas Story, which was the one teachers showed on that free day before Christmas Break.  It kind of got overplayed for me.  There is a slightly more commercial aspect, as Ralphie is on a mission to get his gun.  But you still have family and a mall Santa.  (“You'll shoot your eye out, kid.”)

A case could even be made for Die Hard.  It’s about a man who visits his family on Christmas and saves his wife and her coworkers from terrorists.  There are naysayers who would tell you otherwise, but they’re wrong.  Just wrong.  ("Now I have a machine gun. Ho ho ho.")

Then, there are the productions that just exist.  It’s as if someone did it just to make a Christmas movie or have a Christmas episode for their TV series.  For The Twilight Zone, The Night of the Meek would be that episode.  I don’t know if Rod Serling honestly thought it was a good idea or if he was under pressure from the network, but there it is.

Henry Corwin is a department-store Santa.  He’s not a very good one at that.  He comes in so drunk that he’s not even fooling the children.  Henry basically spends his Christmas Eve doing two things:  Getting drunk and getting fired.  All he wants is to make kids happy.  He wants kids to know actual joy.  He feels that he’d make a good Santa, if only…

This may be a weak episode, but it’s still The Twilight Zone.  Henry finds a magical bag that allows him to give people whatever they ask for.  Henry reaches into the bag and there it is.

Naturally, this attracts the attention of the police, who assume he’s stealing from his former employer.  Rather than rebuke the store manager, Henry gives him a bottle of cherry brandy, which Henry notes was a good year.

In the end, Henry doesn’t take a gift for himself.  To him, it was a joy to see the looks on everyone else’s faces.  He ultimately gets his wish, finding a reindeer-led sleigh and an elf.  It looks like the gift-giving gig has become permanent.

I don’t think this episode is going to make it into my permanent Christmas rotation.  It wasn’t a great Twilight Zone episode.  Normally, we get some sort of morality play.  Greed catches up with people.  A person down on his luck comes to realize what’s really important.  There’s a message.  Here, it looks like Serling was pressured into making the episode.

Speaking of which, it doesn’t really work as a Christmas story, either.  It’s just a man who eventually becomes Santa.  There’s no rhyme or reason except that maybe he failed at everything else.  He finally has the job he wanted for himself all along.

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