Wednesday, October 2, 2019

The Twilight Zone Turns 60!

The Twilight Zone premiered sixty years ago today with the October 2, 1959 broadcast of Rod Serling’s “Where Is Everybody?” This kicked off a five-season, 156 episode run for an anthology series which is widely regarded as among the finest television programs of all time. Revisit our articles which explore the roots of the series and the show’s continued popular appeal.

Happy Birthday, Twilight Zone!
--On November 10, 1958, The Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse presented Rod Serling’s “The Time Element,” which many consider the true pilot episode for The Twilight Zone.

--Less than a year later The Twilight Zone was on the air at CBS. How did it come about? We take a look in our introduction to the first season.

--Rod Serling needed to sell the series to the network with a strong pilot episode. He delivered an engrossing paranoid thriller titled “Where Is Everybody?”

--How did Rod Serling transition from award-winning television writer to one of the most recognizable figures in American popular culture? We take a look here.


Friday, September 27, 2019

The Twilight Zone 60th Anniversary Events

Next month marks 60 years since the October 2, 1959 broadcast of the premier episode of The Twilight Zone. Here is a rundown of events celebrating the anniversary.

The Rod Serling Memorial Foundation’s SerlingFest 2019 is a three-day celebration of The Twilight Zone’s 60th Anniversary with appearances from many notable guests from The Twilight Zone fan community. The event is being held in Serling’s hometown of Binghamton, NY on October 4, 5, and 6. More information and a full schedule of events can be found here.

“You’re Entering Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone" is a radio documentary from BBC Radio 4 Extra scheduled for broadcast on September 28. The program will focus on the creator of The Twilight Zone, the birth of the series, and the social commentary featured in Serling’s scripts. The program also features an impressive array of interview subjects. Here’s the program description from Radio 4 Extra’s website:

October 1959, America was deep into the 'age of unease' as viewers took their first steps into 'another dimension, not only of sight & sound but of mind. Their 'next stop, The Twilight Zone.

Through these doors of perception they have forever dwelled in stories of pixelated shadow and substance. A black & white realm presided over by a neat little man in a sharp suit whose perpetual cigarette smoke forever curls upwards as he ushers you into his realm. The aliens are among us and due on Maple Street but maybe we are the monsters? Are we on earth & is it dying? Where is everybody? Why are they vanishing & is that death hitching a ride or knocking at my door looking uncannily like Robert Redford. And why is Captain Kirk screaming at that thing on the wing that no one else can see?!

Rod Serling, America's most famous television playwright, astonished people with his announcement that he was to explore the realms of science fiction and fantasy in a new anthology show. Like Dennis Potter starting up Dr Who. But Serling, an impeccable liberal haunted by war, racial strife & the possibilities of nuclear Armageddon smuggled stories of conscience, doubt and possibility into 5 seasons of a remarkable show that has never died & has been revisited for a fourth time with Jordan Peele as host. In truth, nothing can match a realm of the American weird that Serling made uniquely his own.

In this special Radio 4 Extra documentary Alan Dein hears from Serling's family, veteran directors Richard Donner & John Frankenheimer, actors Earl Holliman (star of the first ever episode) & Jean Marsh as well as the writers Jonathan Lethem & David Thomson & Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker. 2 Twilight Zone radio episodes accompany the documentary.

Stateside access to the program can be found on the BBC iPlayer app, where programs typically appear shortly after initial broadcast. 

The Twilight Zone: A 60th Anniversary Celebration from Fathom Events brings The Twilight Zone to the big screen for the first time for one night only on November 14. From the Fathom Events website:

The Twilight Zone: A 60th Anniversary Celebration will combine digitally restored versions of six quintessential episodes with an all-new documentary short titled "Remembering Rod Serling" about the life, imagination and creativity of creator Serling, whose thought-provoking anthology series continues to mesmerize fans.

Information on screening locations and tickets can be found here.


Monday, September 9, 2019

Reading Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine, Part 15

In which we take a closer look at each issue. For our capsule history of the magazine, go here.

Volume 2, Number 3 (June, 1982)

Cover Art: Malcolm McNeill (for Richard Matheson’s “The Doll”)

TZ Publications, Inc.

President & Chairman: S. Edward Orenstein
Secretary/Treasurer: Sidney Z. Gellman
Executive Vice-Presidents: Leon Garry, Eric Protter
Executive Publisher: S. Edward Orenstein
Publisher: Leon Garry
Associate Publisher and Consulting Editor: Carol Serling
Editorial Director: Eric Protter
Editor: T.E.D. Klein
Managing Editor: Jane Bayer
Assistant Editors: Steven Schwartz, Robert Sabat
Contributing Editors: Gahan Wilson, Thomas M. Disch
Design Director: Michael Monte
Art and Studio Production: Georg the Design Group
Production Director: Stephen J. Fallon
Controller: Thomas Schiff
Assistant to the Publisher: Judy Borrman
Public Relations Manager: Jeffrey Nickora
Accounting Manager: Chris Grossman
Circulation Director: William D. Smith
Circulation Manager: Janice Graham
Eastern Circulation Manager: Hank Rosen
Western Newsstand Consultant: Harry Sommer
Advertising Manager: Rachel Britapaja
Adv. Production Manager: Marina Despotakis
Advertising Representatives: Barney O’Hara & Associates, Inc.


--In the Twilight Zone: “The mind’s eye . . .”
--Other Dimensions: Books by Thomas M. Disch
--Other Dimensions: Screen by Gahan Wilson
--Other Dimensions: Music by Jack Sullivan
--Other Dimensions: Etc.
--“Browning’s Lamps” by David Nemec
--Fantasy in Clay, photographs by Scott Hyde
--“Anniversary Dinner” by D.J. Pass
--“The Dark Ones” by Richard Christian Matheson
--TZ Interview: Philip K. Dick (1928-1982) by John Boonstra
--TZ Screen Preview: Blade Runner by James Verniere
--“Alan’s Mother” by Steve Rasnic Tem
--“Zombies” by Dolly Ogawa
--“Home Visit” by Roger Koch
--“Mrs. Halfbooger’s Basement” by Lawrence C. Connolly
--“The Broken Hoop” by Pamela Sargent
--“Some Days Are Like That” by Bruce J. Balfour
--Show-By-Show Guide: TV’s Twilight Zone, Part Fifteen by Marc Scott Zicree
--“The Story Behind Richard Matheson’s ‘The Doll’” by Marc Scott Zicree
--TZ Discovery: “The Doll” by Richard Matheson
--Looking Ahead: In July’s TZ

--In the Twilight Zone: “The mind’s eye . . .” by T.E.D. Klein
-Klein begins his editorial column with a reminiscence of fantasy writer John Collier (1901-1980), author of many highly-regarded short stories, including “The Chaser,” which was adapted for the first season of The Twilight Zone by writer Robert Presnell, Jr. and director Douglas Heyes. Collier also had several of his stories adapted on Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Klein then introduces the gem of the issue, Richard Matheson’s “The Doll,” a teleplay originally slated for the fifth season of The Twilight Zone which went unproduced for over twenty years before appearing on Amazing Stories. The column finishes up with the customary snippet bios of the issue’s contributors along with thumbnail images.

--Other Dimensions: Books by Thomas M. Disch
-Disch takes a look at T.H. White’s The Maharajah and Other Stories, edited by Kurth Sprague, and finds it competent but lacking the power of White’s masterpiece, The Once and Future King. Disch next looks at Michael Bishop’s No Enemy But Time and praises its imaginative approach while also faulting the construction of the novel’s time travel element. Disch is more critical of Spacetime Donuts by Rudy Rucker, which he feels lacks the skill shown in Rucker’s first published novel, White Light. Finally, Disch absolutely skewers The Engines of the Night by Barry N. Malzberg (the author is left unnamed in the review), which he finds to be both defeatist and self-serving. This personal history of science fiction writing was later expanded by Malzberg as Breakfast in the Ruins: Science Fiction in the Last Millennium, in which Malzberg writes about the devastating effect Disch’s review had upon him. 

--Other Dimensions: Screen by Gahan Wilson
-Wilson reviews Quest for Fire (1981), directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud, which was the subject of a full-color screen preview in the December, 1981 issue of Twilight Zone Magazine (part 9 of our series). Wilson generally praises the film with particular attention given to the actors, the technicians who created the behavior and language of the characters, and the practical special effects.

--Other Dimensions: Music by Jack Sullivan
-Sullivan devotes his column on spectral music to Russian composer Dimitri Shostakovich, giving particular attention to the composer’s struggles under the oppressive Stalin regime. He covers these works:

Fourth Symphony
Fifth Symphony
Eighth Symphony
Violin Concerto No. 1
Tenth Symphony
Symphony No. 13
Symphony No. 14
Sonata for Violin and Piano
String Quartet No. 15

--Other Dimensions: Etc.
-A new column for the magazine, described as “a department for you, the readers. We’re looking for pithy views, provocative quotes, unusual photos, weird and amusing newspaper items, surprising uses in the media of that magic phrase ‘The Twilight Zone,’ and any other tidbits suggesting that the Twilight Zone exists right here and now on earth.” Readers are encouraged to send in items with the promise of a poster of Twilight Zone cat Maximilian. This column presents a reader’s photos of gargoyles in Europe, a letter received by TZ Magazine contributor Tom Seligson from director Wes Craven, two cartoons, a quote from an H.P. Lovecraft letter giving recommended reading, and a quote from author Peter Straub on science fiction.

--“Browning’s Lamps” by David Nemec
Illustrated by Marty Blake
“Searching for the greatest batter in baseball history, he discovered the dreadful secret of . . .”

-A sports journalist discovers the story of baseball’s greatest hitter, who never made it to the big leagues because of his lack of fielding skills. When the journalist tracks the player down he discovers that the secret of the hitting success lies in the man’s eyes. The journalist arranges to receive the man’s eyes after the man’s death only to discover, almost too late, the high price one pays for the gift of miracle sight.

-David Nemec is described by T.E.D. Klein as “a New York writer whose most recent novel was Bright Lights, Dark Rooms, published in 1980 by Doubleday, with two more due to appear this October: Bad Blood from Dial and The Systems of M.R. Shurnas from Riverrun Press. Two of his stories have also been included in Martha Foley’s yearly honor roll of Best American Short Stories.” Nemec (b. 1938) is equally well-known as a baseball historian, as “Browning’s Lamps” capably demonstrates. The story does take some pretty wild leaps of logic dealing with the transference of eyes but is very well-written and engaging. It will hold particular interest for those readers who are also interested in baseball.

--Fantasy in Clay
Photographs by Scott Hyde
“The Martin Brothers, four Victorian English potters, created a grotesque menagerie of ‘boobies, boojums, and snarks.’”

-The eccentric Victorian English brothers and potters Robert Wallace Martin, Walter Martin, Edwin Martin, and Charles Martin are profiled on the occasion of a New York gallery exhibit of their work. Their rather tragic lives are briefly discussed followed by a photo gallery with many examples of their works.

--“Anniversary Dinner” by D.J. Pass
Illustrated by Robert Morello
“A modern American cautionary tale about onions, marijuana, and the generation gap.”

-A pleasant old couple, who live semi-reclusive lives on their self-sustaining farm, encounter a young female hitchhiker on one of their occasional trips into town. They invite the young woman to stay the night at their farm and have her for dinner, literally.

-This humorous horror tale was memorably adapted for the first season of Tales from the Darkside. That program mined quite a bit of material from the pages of TZ Magazine. The story was adapted by writer James Houghton, directed by John Strysik, and featured Mario Roccuzzo and Alice Ghostley as the cannibal couple, and Fredrica Duke as their unfortunate dinner guest. It first aired on February 3, 1985.

--“The Dark Ones” by Richard Christian Matheson
Illustrated by Annie Alleman
“Hundreds pursued him – and the only escape was death.”

-Richard Christian Matheson, son of TZ writer Richard Matheson, returns to the magazine with this darkly ironic short-short about the hunter and the hunted. Richard Christian Matheson at this time was building a career as an acclaimed writer of dark short fiction after a precocious beginning as a prolific television writer. “The Dark Ones” was collected in Scars (1987).

--TZ Interview: Philip K. Dick (1928-1982) by John Boonstra
Photographs by Kim Gottlieb
“A final interview with science fiction’s boldest visionary, who talks candidly about Blade Runner, inner voices, and the temptations of Hollywood”

-Philip K. Dick died on March 2, 1982, shortly after this interview was conducted. His untimely death meant that Dick did not get to see how the film Blade Runner spawned a small industry of films adapted from his novels and short stories. The heartbreaking part of this interview is the optimistic tone struck by Dick, who felt that he still had a lot of great work ahead of him and who also felt that he was finally at a place to do the work he had wanted to do for years. The interview covers all areas of Dick’s career, including his beginnings as a writer, his mainstream work, his most recent novels, the novel he was currently working on (the unfinished The Owl in Daylight), as well as Blade Runner, the highly anticipated adaptation of Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Dick speaks about his initially contentious relationship with the studio, his refusal to write a novelization of the film, and his joy at reading the script changes made by writer David Peoples. Dick also discusses how his fiction was related to the type of fantasy presented on The Twilight Zone (though he never wrote for the series), his marriages and divorces, and the ways in which science fiction is reflected in modern society. This is essential reading for fans of Philip K. Dick, Blade Runner, or science fiction in general.

--TZ Screen Preview: Blade Runner by James Verniere
Illustrated with stills from the film
“Harrison Ford confronts a world of renegade androids in Ridley Scott’s film of the Philip K. Dick novel.”

-A full-color preview of Blade Runner (1982), based on Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968), adapted by writers Hampton Fancher and David Peoples. James Verniere focuses on the design of the film and the challenges of the production with quotes from director Ridley Scott, screenwriter David Peoples, production designer Lawrence G. Paull, and concept artist Syd Mead. Blade Runner was not initially successful financially or critically when it arrived before audiences in 1982 but its reputation has steadily increased to the point of being considered among the finest science fiction films ever made, and the finest of the many adaptations of Philip K. Dick on screen. Author K.W. Jeter wrote three sequels to Blade Runner: The Edge of Human (1995), Replicant Night (1996), and Eye and Talon (2000). The definitive book on the making of the film is Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner by Paul M. Sammon. A sequel to the film, Blade Runner 2049, appeared in 2017 from director Denis Villeneuve. 

--“Alan’s Mother” by Steve Rasnic Tem
Illustrated by Harry Pincus
“She was wise in the ways of magic, but she had something more important to teach: a lesson in reality.”

-A meditation on childhood and the loss of innocence centered around a young boy who comes to disbelieve his mother’s magic ways as he matures, thus spoiling the ability for her magic to help him. Tem (b. 1950) is an award-winning and highly-regarded author of dark fantasy novels and short stories. He appeared earlier in the March, 1982 issue with the creepy and effective story, “Sleep.” “Alan’s Mother” is a gentler tale of the ways in which cold reality can destroy the magic of the world, and how rationality can destroy imagination. The story was reprinted in 100 Wicked Little Witch Stories (1995).

--“Zombies” by Dolly Ogawa
Illustrated by Peter de Seve
“It was a real Rocky Horror show – directed by his own mother.”

-A spoiled, overgrown child of a man who cares about nothing except playing music with his band the Zombies discovers that his mistreated mother has rented out his bedroom to a very scary border. “Zombies” was a debut story from Ogawa. It was reprinted in the Summer, 1985 issue of Night Cry.

--“Home Visit” by Roger Koch
Illustrated by D.W. Miller
“There was something subtly wrong over at the Martin place . . . and those dead rats were the least of it!”

-Two social workers pay a home visit to a frightening family who harbor a deadly secret. This wonderfully nasty horror story would have been right at home in the pages of a pre-code horror comic. It is part killer family story and part creature feature with plenty of shocking detail. Koch once worked as a social services case worker and used that experience to imagine this horrible scenario. The story was reprinted in the first issue of Night Cry.

--“Mrs. Halfbooger’s Basement” by Lawrence C. Connolly
Illustrated by Ahmet Gorgun
“Was she a witch, or just a crazy old lady? The answer (enough to make you scream) lay hidden in the darkness of . . .”

-A boy is coerced by his friends to enter the home of a mysterious old lady who has not been seen for days. Once inside, he meets the feeble old woman and her truly awful young companions. This was another fun horror story which will remind readers of the type of macabre tale presented on programs like Tales from the Darkside. Its gruesome and ironic ending was clever and well-orchestrated. Karl Edward Wagner included the story in The Year’s Best Horror Stories: Series XI (1983) and it was collected in Voices: Tales of Horror (2011).

--“The Broken Hoop” by Pamela Sargent
Illustrated by Bruce Waldman
“Torn between two cultures, she also had to choose between two worlds – and only one of them was real.”

-An American Indian woman raised among whites squanders her chance to travel to a parallel dimension where her native people can find peace. Pamela Sargent (b. 1948) returns to the magazine after appearing in the October, 1981 issue (part7 of our series) with this poignant and timely fantasy about the American Indian experience in the early days of American settlement by Europeans. The story was reprinted in Top Fantasy (1985) and collected in The Best of Pamela Sargent (1987).

--“Some Days Are Like That” by Bruce J. Balfour
Illustrated by Randy Jones
“Being the last man on Earth wasn’t all fun and games!”

-A short-short about a man who returns from a trip to find himself the last person on Earth, or so he believes. After days of boredom and despair he decides to jump off a building only to hear a phone ringing on his way down. Balfour is described as having interviewed many science fiction and fantasy writers for magazines. “Some Days Are Like That” is his fiction debut.

--Show-By-Show Guide: TV’s Twilight Zone: Part Fifteen by Marc Scott Zicree
­-Zicree, author of The Twilight Zone Companion, continues his early guide to the series with cast and crew listings, summaries, and Rod Serling’s narrations for the following fourth season episodes: “The New Exhibit,” “Of Late I Think of Cliffordville,” and “The Incredible World of Horace Ford.”

--“The Story Behind Richard Matheson’s ‘The Doll’” by Marc Scott Zicree
-Zicree provides the history of Richard Matheson’s teleplay with quotes from Matheson himself. The teleplay was originally slated to appear during the fifth season of The Twilight Zone when it was purchased by producer Bert Granet. It was then shelved by producer William Froug after Granet’s departure from the series due to the fact that Charles Beaumont’s (and Jerry Sohl’s) “Living Doll” was already in production and two doll stories was more than Froug wanted to do during one season. Matheson also divulges that he originally pictured Martin Balsam and Mary LaRoche in the lead roles. Both of these performers will be familiar to Zone viewers as Balsam appeared in “The Sixteen Millimeter Shrine” and “The New Exhibit,” and LaRoche appeared in Matheson’s “A World of His Own” and, ironically, Beaumont’s and Sohl’s “Living Doll.”

--TZ Discovery: “The Doll” by Richard Matheson
Illustrated by Perry A. Realo
“The ‘Twilight Zone’ episode you never saw: a bittersweet saga of loneliness and love in which fate takes the form of a dollmaker.”

-An middle-aged bachelor purchases a doll from an eccentric German doll maker as a gift for his niece. When the niece seems disinterested in the doll, the bachelor takes it back, intending to return it only to become smitten by its image of a lovely woman. He returns to the doll maker to inquire about the model only to discover the woman who is the doll's likeness has become smitten by a doll which resembles the bachelor. The doll maker, it seems, has worked a sort of magic to bring these two lonely people together. 

-In Marc Scott Zicree’s history of the teleplay he quotes Richard Matheson as believing there is no longer a wide audience for the type of gentle fantasy displayed in “The Doll.” Matheson arrived at this conclusion largely from the fact that Somewhere in Time (1980), the film adaptation of his 1975 novel Bid Time Return, failed to find a wide audience during its theatrical run (though it soon developed a rabid cult following). Matheson did not expect “The Doll” to ever be produced. Happily, he was mistaken and “The Doll” was produced on Steven Spielberg’s fantasy anthology program Amazing Stories. It was broadcast on May 4, 1986 as part of the first season. It’s inclusion in this issue of TZ Magazine no doubt sparked Spielberg’s interest. The episode was directed by Phil Joanou and featured John Lithgow, Anne Helm, Sharon Spelman, John Christopher Jones, Rainbow Phoenix, and Albert Hague. Lithgow’s performance was awarded an Emmy. Two of Matheson’s other stories were adapted for Amazing Stories, “One for the Books,” adapted by Matheson, and “Miss Stardust,” adapted by Richard Christian Matheson.

--Looking Ahead: In July’s TZ
-Next month looks like another great issue. We get stories from Robertson Davies (also interviewed), Lewis Shiner, Joe R. Lansdale, Joan Aiken, and Robert Silverberg, as well as Rod Serling’s teleplay for “A Hundred Yards Over the Rim.” Stephen King guest writes the film review column and there are also features on Ghostly Britain and John Carpenter’s The Thing. See you then!


Monday, August 26, 2019

"I Dream of Genie"

Howard Morris as George P. Hanley, with magic lamp

“I Dream of Genie”
Season Four, Episode 114
Original Air Date: March 21, 1963

George P. Hanley: Howard Morris
Ann: Patricia Barry
Watson: Loring Smith
Roger: Mark Miller
Starlet: Joyce Jameson
Masters: James Millhollin
Sam: Bob Hastings
Clerk: Robert Ball
The Genie: Jack Albertson

Writer: John Furia, Jr.
Director: Robert Gist
Producer: Herbert Hirschman
Director of Photography: George T. Clemens
Production Manager: Ralph W. Nelson
Associate Producer: Murray Golden
Assistant to Producer: John Conwell
Art Direction: George W. Davis & John J. Thompson
Film Editor: Eda Warren
Set Decoration: Henry Grace & Don Greenwood, Jr.
Assistant Director: John Bloss
Sound: Franklin Milton & Joe Edmondson
Music: Fred Steiner
Mr. Serling’s Wardrobe: Eagle Clothes
Filmed at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios

And Now, Mr. Serling:
“A new author joins the ranks of The Twilight Zone crew when John Furia, Jr. gives us several stunningly new twists to a classic character in ‘I Dream of Genie.’ Join Howard Morris, Patricia Barry, and Loring Smith as they take their trip into The Twilight Zone.”

Rod Serling’s Opening Narration:
“Meet Mr. George P. Hanley, a man life treats without deference, honor, or success. Waiters serve his soup cold. Elevator operators close doors in his face. Mothers never bother to wait up for the daughters he dates. George is a creature of humble habits and tame dreams. He’s an ordinary man, Mr. Hanley, but at this moment the accidental possessor of a very special gift, the kind of gift that measures men against their dreams, the kind of gift most of us might ask for first and possibly regret to the last if we, like Mr. George P. Hanley, were about to plunge head-first and unaware into our own personal Twilight Zone.”
From L: Roger (Mark Miller), Ann (Patricia Barry)
and George P. Hanley (Howard Morris)


            George P. Hanley, a meek and mild bookkeeper, wishes to purchase a birthday gift for Ann, the pretty secretary who works in the same office. He chances upon a gift shop where the salesman pressures George into purchasing a tarnished lamp, the antique sort made famous in the tale of Aladdin.
            George’s opportunity to give Ann the birthday gift is spoiled by their coworker Roger, a boisterous and confident man who easily wins Ann’s attention with a present of lingerie. George takes Ann’s intended gift home instead. George’s dog Attila appears agitated by the giftwrapped box, prompting George to unwrap it and remove the lamp. Noticing the tarnished metal, George polishes the lamp with a cloth. In a flash of light and smoke a man appears in George’s apartment. He is a wisecracking man in modern dress who introduces himself as the Genie of the lamp. George is to be granted a single wish but is warned to carefully ponder the consequences of his desires.
            Not wanting to make a mistake, George considers the possible outcomes in a series of reveries. He imagines himself married to Ann if Ann were also a world famous actress. This fantasy comes apart when George realizes that he would hardly get a moment alone with Ann, who would likely fall into the arms of her handsome leading man, probably one with the appearance and disposition of Roger.
            George then pictures himself as a fabulously wealthy captain of industry. He imagines growing tired of living only to spend money and being rudely informed by an assistant that he could never stop spending money because too many people depend on it for their livelihoods.
            Finally, George imagines being the President of the United States but quickly discovers that his altruistic ideals would be crushed beneath the weight of responsibility which accompanies the office. The thought of navigating through a national crisis such as an alien invasion sends the fantasy tumbling down. George suddenly has an epiphany. He has thought of a wish which will give his life purpose while also removing the burdens of responsibility and the pressures of love and wealth.
Later, the magic lamp finds its way into a trash can in a back alley where it is discovered by a transient. The old man rubs the lamp and in a flash of light and smoke the Genie appears. It is George P. Hanley, who has finally found his purpose.

Rod Serling’s Closing Narration:
“Mr. George P. Hanley. Former vocation: jerk. Present vocation: genie. George P. Hanley, a most ordinary man whom life treated without deference, honor, or success, but a man wise enough to decide on a most extraordinary wish that makes him the contented, permanent master of his own altruistic Twilight Zone.” 

            John Furia, Jr. first met Rod Serling while working for CBS during the glory days of Playhouse 90, the program where Serling made his reputation as an award-winning television writer. Furia took the opportunity of attending a rehearsal of one of Serling’s plays to introduce himself to the famous television writer, whom Furia found to be affable and encouraging. Furia later honed his own television writing skills through freelance work on several anthology programs where his path crossed with that of future Twilight Zone producer Herbert Hirschman. Hirschman later contacted Furia about contributing an hour-long script to the fourth season of The Twilight Zone. Though eager to work with Serling and on the series, Furia was initially reluctant due to the show’s reputation for science fiction, a genre which held little interest for him. With Hirschman’s assurance that he could write whatever he desired as long as it fit within the parameters of the strange and fantastic, Furia was inspired by the Aladdin legend to craft a script examining the repercussions of getting what one most desires. Although new to the series, Furia was not entirely unfamiliar with some of the other writers on the show. He had earlier lived near and worked in the same Studio City office building as Earl Hamner, Jr. and he also knew George Clayton Johnson from Writers Guild activities.
            The series had earlier brought in writers outside the show’s core stable to contribute a single script with some success in episodes such as “The Chaser” and “The Trouble with Templeton,” but as time wore on the show would come to rely more and more upon scripts not written by the writers who made the show so successful during the first three seasons. By the fifth season the show’s final producer, William Froug, was routinely shelving scripts from Richard Matheson, Charles Beaumont, and Jerry Sohl in order to send into production such underwhelming material as “From Agnes – With Love,” “Caesar and Me,” and “Come Wander with Me.” The biggest problem with bringing in a new writer to a series like Twilight Zone is the lack of creative synchronization with the other writers on the show, often resulting in repetitive and redundant material, as is the case with “I Dream of Genie.” The series writers not only shared working relationships but were also close personal friends who often traded ideas and borrowed from one another’s works, gradually forming a recognizable creative identity for the series. The challenge for a writer new to the series was the ability to craft an effective script while also tapping into that creative unity established by that which came before.
            By this point in the series there had been numerous episodes dealing with wishes, genies, and the type of loser characters exemplified by George P. Hanley. Even the episodes which dealt with precognition and deals with the Devil rang familiar with the themes presented in “I Dream of Genie.” The show had approached the material directly in episodes such as “A World of His Own” and “The Man in the Bottle,” and with such largely unsuccessful comedic characters as James B.W. Bevis (“Mr. Bevis”), Luther Dingle (“Mr. Dingle, the Strong”), and Agnes Grep (“Cavender Is Coming”).
            In this way the odds were largely against John Furia, Jr. and his chosen subject. Despite an appealing narrative structure which highlighted the sketch comedy skills of Howard Morris and a talented cast, the script was simply too lacking in originality to be hoped for anything other than an entertaining diversion. Morris and company likely elevated the material from the way it read upon the page and the most engaging aspects of the episode are the moments in which the performers change characters between each of George P. Hanley’s daydreams. In one of these reveries Hanley dreams of being the first man on the moon while wearing the same helmet and uniform seen on actor Steve Forrest in the previous episode, “The Parallel.”

            Furia struggled with crafting a satisfactory ending to “I Dream of Genie,” exploring several different scenarios before ultimately settling upon an ironic twist ending, a familiar aspect of the series which had largely, and wisely, been abandoned when the show transitioned to an hour-long program. Unfortunately, the combination of an unoriginal script, overly familiar character types, and a rather ludicrous twist ending was not a recipe for success and “I Dream of Genie” could ultimately be filed if not among the worst episodes then certainly among the most forgettable. One cannot help but wonder why, particularly this late in the series, the show was still attempting this sort of broad comedy. Perhaps it was simply an effort to create variety but it must have been apparent to those involved that the show was at its strongest when presenting serious, introspective fantasy or potent topical dramas and that the low success rate for this type of humorous material did not warrant these continued efforts to forge a comedic identity on the series. 
            John Furia, Jr. (1929-2009) broke into television writing in 1960 with an episode of General Electric Theater. He contributed to several series during that decade, mostly westerns and anthology series, and continued writing into the 1980s for such series as Earl Hamner’s The Waltons and Aaron Spelling’s Hotel, the latter of which he co-developed based on Arthur Hailey’s 1965 novel. Furia, Jr. was also an instructor of screenwriting at the University of Southern California.

            Robert Gist (1917-1998) came to directing through acting. As an actor, he made his way to Broadway by way of Chicago radio and then on to film. He became interested in directing while performing in the film Operation Petticoat (1959). The film’s director, Blake Edwards, later hired Gist to direct episodes of Peter Gunn. Gist continued to act while directing dozens of television episodes for such series as Route 66, Naked City, and The Untouchables. Gist directed the first season Star Trek episode “The Galileo Seven.”

            Howard Morris (1919-2005) is perhaps best remembered as the rock-throwing, trouble-making mountain man Ernest T. Bass in The Andy Griffith Show. Morris first gained recognition a decade earlier alongside Sid Caesar and Carl Reiner on Your Show of Shows in now-classic comedy sketches. Morris was also a talented and prolific voice performer whose work can be heard across dozens of Hanna-Barbera productions beginning in the 1960s, including The Flintstones, The Jetsons, and Scooby-Doo. Morris contributed voice work to several additional animated productions, notably the series of cartoons related to Archie Comics and as Hamburglar in the McDonaldland series. Morris appeared in the 1998 film The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit, based on Ray Bradbury’s 1958 short story, as well as episodes of Boris Karloff’s Thriller, “The Lethal Ladies,” directed by Ida Lupino, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents, “Most Likely to Succeed.”

Barry in a promotional
photo for the episode
            Patricia Barry (1922-2016), born, and sometimes billed as, Patricia White, was awarded a contract with Warner Brothers after winning a Rita Hayworth look-alike contest. A notable early genre appearance was in the 1946 film The Beast with Five Fingers, directed by Robert Florey. Barry moved into television during the earliest days of the medium with numerous appearances on anthology programs. She played the wife of Jack Klugman in the short-lived sitcom Harris Against the World (1964-1965) and was a familiar face on such soap operas as All My Children, Guiding Light, and Days of Our Lives. Barry appeared in episodes of Suspense and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, “Good-Bye George” and “Completely Foolproof,” as well as some of the better episodes of Boris Karloff’s Thriller, including “The Purple Room,” written and directed by Douglas Heyes, “A Good Imagination,” from writer Robert Bloch and director John Bram, and “A Wig for Miss Devore,” from the August Derleth story, again directed by Brahm. Later genre appearances included the television horror film Crowhaven Farm (1970) and a memorable turn in Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983) in director Joe Dante’s reimagining of “It’s a Good Life.”

            The episode also features a brief appearance from Jack Albertson (1907-1981) as the Genie. Albertson is best known for the role of Ed Brown, the latter half of Chico and the Man, for which he was awarded an Emmy. Albertson received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for The Subject was Roses (1968), a role he recreated from his Tony Award-winning performance in the Broadway version. Albertson is also known as Grandpa Joe in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971). A veteran of Vaudeville, Albertson appeared in a few uncredited film roles in the 1940s before moving into television in the 1950s, appearing on dozens of series including such anthology programs as The Clock, Inner Sanctum, and Climax! Albertson appeared in the Lon Chaney biopic The Man of a Thousand Faces (1957) and The Poseidon Adventure (1972). He can be seen in the third season Twilight Zone episode “The Shelter,” as well as “Dead Weight,” a segment from the second season of Rod Serling’s Night Gallery. Interesting later work included providing the voice of the ornery Amos Slade in Disney’s animated feature The Fox and the Hound (1981) and an appearance in the cult horror film Dead & Buried the same year. Albertson’s brief appearance in “I Dream of Genie” caused some disagreement as Production Manager Ralph W. Nelson was unhappy with Albertson’s performance and expressed his desire to reshoot the entire sequence in a letter to Rod Serling. Time and budget constraints ultimately prevented the reshoots from happening. Marc Scott Zicree, author of The Twilight Zone Companion, also expressed the opinion that Albertson’s performance as the Genie was a troublesome spot in the episode, largely owing to the modern dress and wisecracking nature of Albertson’s take on the familiar character type. It is interesting to contrast Albertson’s fast-talking Genie with the various sinister Devils on the series or the dryly foreboding performance of Joseph Ruskin as “The Man in the Bottle,” as well as with George P. Hanley’s stereotypical look and manner as the Genie at the end of the episode.
Loring Smith with Howard Morris
            “I Dream of Genie” is rounded out with performances from Loring Smith, Mark Miller, Joyce Jameson, James Millhollin, and Bob Hastings. Smith (1890-1981), here playing Watson, is remembered for an early role in Shadow of the Thin Man (1941) as well as portraying “Honest” Luther Grimbley in Rod Serling’s farcical second season Twilight Zone episode “The Whole Truth.”

            Texas native Mark Miller (b. 1924) found steady work in film and television from the mid-1950s until the late 1970s. A versatile performer who appeared in everything from westerns to soap operas to science fiction programs, he can be seen in the seventh season Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode “Apex,” as well as episodes of The Waltons and, ironically, I Dream of Jeannie.
Howard Morris with Joyce Jameson

            Joyce Jameson (1932-1987) appeared in episodes of Science Fiction Theatre, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Munsters, The Waltons, and Harris Against the World, the latter alongside Patricia Barry and Jack Klugman. Jameson’s film appearances include two films from writer Richard Matheson, Tales of Terror (1962), adapted from the stories of Poe and directed by Roger Corman, and The Comedy of Terrors (1963), directed by Jacques Tourneur.

James Millhollin and Morris
            James Millhollin (1915-1933) is a familiar face to Twilight Zone viewers from his earlier appearances in “The After Hours,” where the actor memorably broke the fourth wall, and “Mr. Dingle, the Strong.” The prolific film and television performer can be seen in episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents (“Insomnia”), One Step Beyond (“Moment of Hate”), Batman, and Lost in Space, among many others.

            Like Howard Morris, Bob Hastings (1925-2014) is perhaps best remembered as a voice actor, providing voices for several animated features based on DC Comics characters, notably the voice of Commissioner Gordon in numerous Batman animated productions. Hastings was a versatile and prolific television performer with appearances on The Munsters, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, The Incredible Hulk, I Dream of Jeannie, and Earl Hamner’s The Waltons and Falcon Crest.

            “I Dream of Genie” possesses some moments of successful comedy from an engaging cast but largely suffers from the banality of its narrative, stock characters, and a silly twist ending. On top of this it covers the same ground as the series presented a dozen times beforehand, going back to the earliest episodes. Although the episode is not a complete failure, it is certainly nowhere near the fore of great episodes, or even successful hour-long episodes, and strikes one as the type of episode which has given the fourth season as a whole a poor reputation among viewers.

Grade: D

Grateful acknowledgement to:
-The Internet Movie Database (
-The Twilight Zone Companion by Marc Scott Zicree
-The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic by Martin Grams, Jr.
-Interview with John Furia, Jr. conducted by Dennis Etchison and Marc Scott Zicree (The Twilight Zone 5th Dimension DVD collection).

--Patricia Barry also appeared in the first season episode “The Chaser,” as well as the “It’s a Good Life” segment of Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983).
--Loring Smith also appeared in second season episode “The Whole Truth.”
--James Millhollin also appeared in the first season episode “The After Hours” and the second season episode “Mr. Dingle, the Strong.”
--Jack Albertson also appeared in the third season episode “The Shelter” as well as the second season Night Gallery segment “Dead Weight.”
--“I Dream of Genie” was adapted as a Twilight Zone Radio Drama starring Hal Sparks.