Saturday, June 4, 2016

"It's a Good Life"

Little Anthony Freemont (Bill Mumy). He's a real good boy.
You had better not think bad thoughts about him.
“It’s a Good Life”
Season Three, Episode 73
Original Air Date: November 3, 1961

Mr. Fremont: John Larch
Mrs. Fremont: Cloris Leachman
Anthony Fremont: Billy Mumy
Dan Hollis: Don Keefer
Ethel Hollis: Jeanne Bates
Aunt Amy: Alice Frost
Pat Riley: Casey Adams (Max Showalter)
Thelma Dunn: Lenore Kingston
Bill Soames: Tom Hatcher

Writer: Rod Serling (based on the story by Jerome Bixby)
Director: James Sheldon
Producer: Buck Houghton
Production Manager: Ralph W. Nelson
Director of Photography: George T. Clemens
Art Direction: George W. Davis and Phil Barber
Set Decoration: H. Web Arrowsmith
Assistant Director: E. Darrell Hallenbeck
Editor: Jason H. Bernie
Story Consultant: Richard McDonagh
Sound: Franklin Milton and Bill Edmondson
Casting: Stalmaster-Lister
Music: Stock

And Now, Mr. Serling:
“Next week we borrow from the exceptional talent of author Jerome Bixby. It’s an adaptation of what has been called one of the most terrifying modern fantasies ever written. What you’ll see is, in a sense, a portrait of a monster as a young boy. Next week’s very special excursion into the Twilight Zone is called ‘It’s a Good Life.’ I hope we see you then.”

Rod Serling’s Opening Narration:
“Tonight’s story on the Twilight Zone is somewhat unique and calls for a different kind of introduction. This, as you may recognize, is a map of the United States, and there’s a little town there called Peaksville. On a given morning not too long ago, the rest of the world disappeared and Peaksville was left all alone. Its inhabitants were never sure whether the world was destroyed and only Peaksville left untouched or whether the village has somehow been taken away. They were, on the other hand, sure of one thing: the cause. A monster had arrived in the village. Just by using his mind he took away the automobiles, the electricity, the machines, because they displeased him. And he moved an entire community back into the Dark Ages, just by using his mind. Now I’d like to introduce you to some of the people in Peaksville, Ohio. This is Mr. Fremont. It’s in his farmhouse that the monster resides. This is Mrs. Fremont. And this is Aunt Amy, who probably had more control over the monster in the beginning than almost anyone. But one day she forgot. She began to sing aloud. Now, the monster doesn’t like singing, so his mind snapped at her, turned her into the smiling, vacant thing you’re looking at now. She sings no more. And you’ll note that the people in Peaksville, Ohio have to smile. They have to think happy thoughts and say happy things because, once displeased, the monster can wish them into a cornfield or change them into a grotesque, walking horror. This particular monster can read minds, you see. He knows every thought, he can feel every emotion. Oh yes, I did forget something, didn’t I? I forgot to introduce you to the monster. This is the monster. His name is Anthony Fremont. He’s six years old with a cute little-boy face and blue, guileless eyes. But when those eyes look at you, you better start thinking happy thoughts because the mind behind them is absolutely in charge. This is the Twilight Zone.”

Don Keefer as the unfortunate Dan Hollis
There is trouble in the town of Peaksville, Ohio. There isn’t enough food. There are no telephones and no electricity. There hasn’t been any contact from outside of the town in months and the population is dwindling. There is no way to leave town and the inhabitants live under a constant cloud of fear and hopelessness. Except for one particular resident who feels just fine.
Little Anthony Freemont has a special talent: the ability to do anything he wants simply by thinking about it. He can turn a person or animal into anything he wants. Or if he wants them gone he just wishes them into the cornfield and they never return. He can make it rain or snow. He can move things with his mind. He can also read thoughts so the townsfolk have to be extra careful to think happy thoughts around Anthony.
            Anthony doesn’t like barking dogs. He doesn’t like machines, telephones, radios, or automobiles. He is especially cross about singing. He also doesn’t like when people think or say bad things about him. And for those unfortunate souls who make the mistake of thinking bad thoughts about Anthony, time is severely limited. But everyone in Peaksville loves little Anthony. He’s a real good boy and he does real good things.
            Except for Dan Hollis, of course.
 Dan doesn’t care for the way Anthony has been treating everyone. So one night after too many drinks at the Fremont house he tells him so. He begins to scream at Anthony, who simply stares back at him with unchecked rage. Everyone in town is present and Hollis pleads with them to kill the boy while his attention is focused elsewhere. But to his horror no one moves. And he realizes that he has written his death sentence. Anthony turns Hollis into a jack-in-the-box right there in front of everyone. His father pleads with him to wish the horrifying spectacle away. So he does.
It begins to snow outside. Concerned for the summer crops, Anthony’s father asks him if he is responsible for the snow and the boy admits that he is. Baffled by annoyance and rage his father almost loses his temper but catches himself. Snow is a good thing, he tells his son. A real good thing. And tomorrow is going to be a real good day.

Rod Serling’s Closing Narration:
“No comment here. No comment at all. We only wanted to introduce you to one of our very special citizens: little Anthony Fremont, age six, who lives in a village called Peaksville in a place that used to be Ohio. And if by some strange chance you should run across him, you had better think only good thoughts. Anything less than that is handled at your own risk. Because if you do meet Anthony you can be sure of one thing. You have entered the Twilight Zone.”


“The men on the couch whispered and whispered to Ethel Hollis, and when they took their hands away, she mumbled too.
            While Anthony sat on top of the set and made television, they sat around and mumbled and watched the meaningless, flickering shapes far into the night.
            Next day it snowed, and killed off half the crops – but it was a good day.”

                                    -“It’s a Good Life” by Jerome Bixby 

            “It’s a Good Life,” Rod Serling’s adaptation of Jerome Bixby’s exceptional short story, is an unapologetic horror story set in a bleak, hopeless world full of bleak, hopeless people who live in constant fear of their lives from an omnipotent, unpredictable monster who feels no sympathy for others and no remorse for his actions. It begins on a grim note and then gets worse. There are no happy endings or morality lessons and there isn’t a single moment of optimism anywhere in the episode. It’s only a glimpse into the miserable lives of very unfortunate people.
“It’s a Good Life,” the short story upon which the episode is based, is arguably the best-known work of author Jerome Bixby. It was first published by Frederick Pohl in volume 2 of the uniformly excellent Star Science Fiction series in 1953 and later included in the 1960 volume Star of Stars, gathering the best stories from the Star series (seven volumes, including Star Short Novels, 1953-1959). The story was translated as early as 1957, quickly recognized for its excellence in artistry and originality of concept, arriving at a time in English language literature in which the child as an instrument of violence was gaining traction as a sociological subject among fiction writers. The following year would see the publication of two pivotal, and highly regarded, mainstream works approaching the topic with William March’s The Bad Seed (adapted for stage in 1954 and filmed in 1956) and William Golding’s Lord of the Flies (filmed in 1963 and again in 1990).
Serling’s adaptation remains faithful to Bixby’s story with only a handful of noticeable changes. In the original story Bixby implies that Anthony is capable of teleportation although he never describes it extensively. Dan Hollis's fate is also different. Instead of turning him into a jack-in-the-box he turns him into “something like nothing anyone would have believed possible.” The most significant change was switching Anthony’s age from three to six which gives him a more developed personality. This switch is interesting because it paints Anthony as a different kind of villain. Fans and critics have often speculated as to whether Anthony is truly a psychopath or simply a child that has not learned how to empathize with others. Bixby’s version leans towards the latter and features Anthony performing acts of charity for various characters. Serling’s Anthony is colder and more controlling. He seems to function completely for his own enjoyment and destroys anything that doesn’t bring him pleasure.
If Bixby’s story was not initially as well received as the novels of March and Golding it is due less to literary craftsmanship and more to the limits of genre publications at the time. It has since become a classic in the subgenre of the science fiction horror story, greatly due to Rod Serling’s excellent adaptation for The Twilight Zone, and was awarded inclusion in the 1970 volume The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, which was compiled in an attempt to retroactively honor exceptional science fiction stories published before the establishment of the Science Fiction Writers of America in 1965.
Notable reprints include Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Stories for Late at Night (1961), an excellent volume of horror stories ghost-edited by Robert Arthur, co-creator of The Mysterious Traveler radio program and creator of The Three Investigators series of mystery novels for children, the latter of which was initially published with the participation of Alfred Hitchcock. Arthur also included Bixby’s 1964 short story “The Young One” in the 1965 anthology Alfred Hitchcock’s Monster Museum, a volume of horror stories aimed at younger readers. In October of 1966, Isaac Asimov reprinted “It’s a Good Life” in the anthology Tomorrow’s Children not long after Asimov, in March of the same year, published the novelization of the film Fantastic Voyage, which was based on a short story by Bixby and Otto Klement. “It’s a Good Life” has since become a standard of both science fiction and horror anthologies and seen republication in dozens of volumes. It is also included in the 1985 anthology The Twilight Zone: The Original Stories edited by Richard Matheson, Martin Harry Greenberg, and Charles G. Waugh. Rod Serling’s teleplay adaptation of the story was initially published in the Nov/Dec, 1983 issue of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine and can also be found in As Timeless as Infinity: The Complete Twilight Zone Scripts of Rod Serling, Volume 8 (ed. Tony Albarella, Gauntlet Press, 2011).
Jerome Bixby was born Drexel Jerome Lewis Bixby in Los Angeles on January 11, 1923 and enjoyed a long and fruitful career working in various capacities within the science fiction field. He sold his first science fiction story, “Tubemonkey,” to the pulp magazine Planet Stories, an early market for fellow Zone writer Ray Bradbury, for the Winter, 1949 issue. Two issues later, in the summer of 1950, Bixby assumed editorship of Planet Stories, a position he held until July, 1951. Bixby found additional editing work in the dying days of the pulps, guiding Jungle Stories from the Fall, 1949 issue to the Spring, 1951 issue, Stories of Sheena, Queen of the Jungle for the Spring, 1951 issue, and Two Complete Science Fiction Adventure Novels from the Winter, 1950 issue to the Summer, 1951 issue.
Bixby soon began to write a series of regular columns detailing movements in science fiction fandom. For Startling Stories he wrote “Review of the Current Science Fiction Fan Publications” from January, 1952 until March, 1953, and supplemented this with “The Frying Pan: A Commentary on Fandom” in Thrilling Wonder Stories from December, 1951 until February, 1953. Bixby began to fully concentrate on writing short fiction in 1953, culminating in the excellent 1964 collection Space by the Tale.
            Bixby began writing for feature films with 1958’s It! The Terror from Beyond Space, an independent, low-budget offering from producer Robert E. Kent and director Edward L. Kahn, which featured Ray “Crash” Corrigan in an alien suit designed and created by Paul Blaisdell terrorizing a group of astronauts inside a claustrophobic spacecraft. The film is generally considered to have influenced Dan O’Bannon when writing the screenplay for Ridley Scott’s 1979 film Alien, a film which also concerns a hostile alien stowaway which begins killing the crew aboard a spacecraft. Bixby wrote two additional science fiction films in 1958, Curse of the Faceless Man, again for producer Robert E. Kent and director Edward L Cahn, and The Lost Missile.
Bixby contributed significantly to the television program Men into Space, a series which fumblingly attempted a more accurate and realistic depiction of manned space travel. The series lasted only one season, thirty-eight episodes, from September, 1959 to September, 1960. Bixby was one of several science fiction writers who found work on Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek (1966-1969), along with Zone writers Richard Matheson, George Clayton Johnson, and Jerry Sohl. He contributed to four episodes of the series ("Mirror, Mirror," "By Any Other Name," "Day of the Dove," and "Requiem for Methuselah") and is credited with creating the “mirror universe” concept used in subsequent episodes, originating from his Hugo Award nominated teleplay, “Mirror, Mirror,” the fourth episode of the second season, which was an adaptation of his 1954 short story originally published in Future Science Fiction for August, 1954, with additional elements used from his 1953 short story "One Way Street" (Amazing Stories, Dec, 53/Jan, 54). Another of Bixby’s highly regarded episodes, “Day of the Dove,” the seventh episode of the third season, was adapted and published as #10 in the Star Trek Fotonovel series in August, 1978.
Bixby, with writer Otto Klement, wrote the story treatment upon which the 1966 film Fantastic Voyage was based. The film concerns a crew of scientists that are reduced to microscopic size in order to enter the body of a dying scientist and alleviate a blood clot in his brain. Bixby and Klement originally envisioned the film as a period piece inspired by the scientific romances of Jules Verne. Screenwriter David Duncan adapted the story to a futuristic setting and provided a structured context which was written as a screenplay by Harry Kleiner. As stated before, Isaac Asimov was hired to write the novelization of the film, a book which inadvertently appeared in bookstores six months before the film’s release, creating the impression that Fantastic Voyage was an original novel from Asimov. The story was previously serialized in two parts as “Fantastic Voyage: Into the Human Brain” in the Saturday Evening Post issues for February 26 and March 12, 1966. The book, published in hardcover by Houghton Mifflin, subsequently became a bestseller.
Bixby’s final work was a screenplay titled The Man from Earth, about an ageless man who has survived since primitive times and eventually reveals his true nature to a group of friends. Bixby completed the screenplay shortly before his death in 1998 and the film was realized in 2007 (alternately titled Jerome Bixby’s The Man from Earth) by Bixby’s son, Emerson Bixby. Emerson Bixby, along with Jean Marie Stein, also collected a number of his father’s best science fiction stories for the 2014 book Mirror, Mirror: Classic SF by the Famed Star Trek and Fantastic Voyage Writer (Strange Particle Press). Jerome Bixby died on April 28, 1998 in San Bernardino, California, age 75.
“It’s a Good Life” was one of three original Twilight Zone episodes, along with “Kick the Can” and “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” chosen to be reimagined for Twilight Zone: The Movie, a 1983 Warner Brothers film. The film was spearheaded by John Landis and Steven Spielberg, each of whom directed a segment of the film, who recruited Joe Dante, following his successful werewolf film The Howling (1981), and George Miller, following his successful post-apocalyptic film The Road Warrior (1981), the second film in the Mad Max series, to direct the two additional segments that comprise the film.
Landis directed the first segment of the film, “Time Out,” the only segment which was not a remake of an original series episode. The segment concerns a racist (Vic Morrow) who discovers himself transported into times of civil oppression as one of the oppressed. The segment is now infamous for the deaths of Morrow and two child actors resulting from the disastrous staging of a special effects shot, which saw an explosion engulf a helicopter which subsequently fell on top of Morrow and the two children who were unable to move to safety due to being partially submerged in water below.
Spielberg chose to remake George Clayton Johnson’s third season episode “Kick the Can” and George Miller took on Richard Matheson’s unforgettable “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” the final segment of the film. In between these two segments was Joe Dante’s version of “It’s a Good Life.”
Original series writer Richard Matheson was brought on to adapt “It’s a Good Life,” going back to the original episode as well as Jerome Bixby’s story. The result was a special effects bonanza with a superficial happy ending tacked onto what is naturally a very bleak concept. Backlash from viewers was immediate due to the happy ending, which stood in stark contrast to the original episode, one of the bleakest episodes of the original series. He also includes glimpses into the world outside of Peaksville which provides a possible escape scenario for his captives and waters down the feeling of isolation that is so present in the two previous versions. In his book, Science Fiction Stars and Horror Heroes (McFarland, 1991), film historian Tom Weaver prints his interview with Richard Matheson in which Matheson states that the happy ending was a conscious attempt to alter the harshness of the story, one which he admitted was not very successful. Still, Matheson rates Dante’s segment as the best of the film.
The segment’s numerous special makeup effects were handled by Rob Bottin. Bottin was a protégé of makeup artist Rick Baker, who first brought Bottin on as an assistant for the 1976 version of King Kong. Bottin also worked with Baker on the 1978 film Fury, whose makeup effects were supervised by Twilight Zone makeup artist William Tuttle. Rick Baker was initially set to provide the makeup effects for Joe Dante’s The Howling when John Landis received funding for a long-gestating project, An American Werewolf in London, on which Baker had previously agreed to provide the effects. Baker left the production of The Howling and Bottin was subsequently left in charge of providing the effects. The resultant effects were impressive enough to ensure Bottin a long career in Hollywood, where he would provide exceptional work on films ranging from John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982), Legend (1985), for which he was nominated for an Academy Award, and Total Recall (1990), for which he was part of team of visual effects artists that won a Special Achievement Academy Award.    
The film segment stars Kathleen Quinlan as a traveling young school teacher named Helen Foley, the name an homage to an original series character from the first season episode “Nightmare as a Child,” which was itself an homage to Rod Serling’s favorite school teacher, who encounters, and ultimately educates, the powerful boy Anthony Fremont, played in the film by Jeremy Licht. The segment is notable for containing a number of actors with ties to the original Twilight Zone series, including Kevin McCarthy (“Long Live Walter Jameson”), Patricia Barry (“The Chaser” and “I Dream of Genie”), and William Schallert (“Mr. Bevis”). Bill Mumy, star of three original series episodes and the original Anthony Fremont, also makes a brief appearance in the segment as well as original series producer Buck Houghton. The cast is rounded out by Nancy Cartwright, Cherie Currie, and Dick Miller.  
"It's a Good Life" was also the (partial) inspiration for an episode of the first The Twilight Zone revival series titled "The Toys of Caliban," which originally aired on December 4, 1986. "The Toys of Caliban" concerns also parents who live in fear of their son, who possess the unusual and frightening powers of a deity, able to bring into existence anything he can imagine. It was based on a story by Terry Metz, adapted for the series by George R.R. Martin, and directed by Thomas J. Wright.
“It’s a Good Life” was given a sequel over forty years later with “It’s Still a Good Life,” an episode of the second Twilight Zone revival series, which ran for one season (twenty-two episodes) from 2002-2003 on the UPN Network. The series was hosted by Forest Whitaker and followed a one-hour format typically comprised of two thirty minute segments. Upon original broadcast, “It’s Still a Good Life” was paired with “The Monsters Are on Maple Street,” a reimagining of Rod Serling’s classic original series episode, “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street.”
*SPOILERS* “It’s Still a Good Life” finds Bill Mumy and Cloris Leachman reprise their roles from the original episode as Anthony Fremont and his mother, Agnes Fremont. Anthony still controls Peaksville with his terrifying powers and remains the spoiled, petulant, easily angered boy he was despite forty years of physical aging. It is suggested that Anthony has sent his own father into the cornfield, that metaphor for the nothingness into which those that anger Anthony are cast. At some point Anthony married and had a child, Audrey, but Anthony’s wife angered him and she, too, was eventually sent away into the cornfield. Anthony is displeased when it becomes apparent that Audrey does not possess his awesome powers yet it is revealed that Audrey’s powers are both latent and much stronger than Anthony’s. One particular aspect of Audrey’s power is that she can bring things back, things that Anthony has sent away, including objects and people. This is something that Anthony cannot do.
When Agnes discovers Audrey’s power she is elated. Since Audrey appears to resent her father and his behavior, Agnes believes the girl can be the savior of the people of Peaksville and finally end Anthony’s reign of terror. When confronted, however, Audrey cannot bring herself to harm her father and instead sends everyone in Peaksville away, including her grandmother.
When this saddens her father, who quickly becomes lonely with no more people to control, Audrey brings back everything that Anthony had sent away, all the countries and cities and people and objects. The two then set off to explore the world, comfortable in the knowledge that anyone or anything that gets in their way will quickly be dealt with.
“It’s Still a Good Life” was written by series executive producer Ira Steven Behr, who wrote three additional episodes of the series, and directed by Allan Kroeker, who directed two additional episodes of the series. It is both a faithful and effective sequel to the original series episode, managing to retain the feeling of nervous tension that permeates the original episode while introducing an engaging subplot concerning Anthony’s daughter and the townspeople’s willingness to believe there could be an end to Anthony’s terrible reign of power. It comes recommended to those that enjoyed the original episode.
           An interesting comparison to this episode of The Twilight Zone is the second aired episode of the original series of Star Trek, "Charlie X," which bears a striking resemblance to Jerome Bixby's story. Scripted by Dorothy (D.C.) Fontana, from a story idea by series creator Gene Roddenberry, it concerns a teenage boy named Charles Evans who has survived on an isolated planet since he was a small child (he was the sole survivor of a crashed transport ship). Charles (or Charlie) is picked up by the Antares and hastily passed on to the USS Enterprise so that Captain Kirk and company can transport Charlie to his nearest relatives. It soon becomes apparent that Charlie possesses God-like powers just by using his mind, powers he is only too willing to use to coerce others to do his bidding. Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise are thereafter pitched into a battle of wills against an all-powerful adolescent boy who can destroy them all with a single thought. Charlie transforms crew members into animals and hideously transforms others (erasing one woman's face and severely aging another young female crew member) when he is not sending crew members away into nothingness. Anyone who resists Charlie is severely punished. It is finally revealed that Charlie was given his powers by the Thasians, a powerful alien race, in order that the young boy may survive on an isolated planet. The Thasian commander appears on the bridge of the Enterprise and takes Charlie away at the end of the episode, freeing his hold on Captain Kirk and his crew. It is likely that Roddenberry either viewed or read "It's a Good Life," especially considering that Jerome Bixby was one of a number of successful science fiction writers Roddenberry brought on to write for the series. Wikipedia sources the original version of D.C. Fontana's script as bearing the original working title or "Charlie's Law,"  a law which consisted of: "You'd better be nice to Charlie . . . or else!" This was left out of the final episode for obvious reasons. It is interesting to consider what Bixby thought of the similarities, or if he perhaps encouraged the exchange of ideas. It is similar to the way in which Rod Serling occasionally borrowed from the writers he brought on to write for his series (the striking similarity between "A Thing About Machines" and Richard Matheson's 1953 short story "Mad House" comes to mind). This is not intended to stand as a judgment of any sort but only to illustrated the unavoidable exchange of ideas within the relatively small community of science fiction writers.
        Star Trek approached similar material with the second of Roddenberry's proposed pilot episodes, "Where No Man Has Gone Before," scripted by Samuel Peeples. The episode concerns two crew members gaining extraordinary mental powers after suffering shock received when the Enterprise passed through a strange electrical field. As their mental powers grow, so does their God complexes, and they begin to view all human life as weak and insignificant. It is clear that "It's a Good Life" was an enormously influential story and developed an idea (the corrupting influence of a God-like mental power) which has had a wide-spanning impact on the genre. 
           While Serling delivers a solid adaptation of Bixby’s story, it is the performances that take center stage in this episode. Bill Mumy returns here for his second appearance on the show, the first being in the second season episode, “Long Distance Call.” He also appears in the premiere episode of the fifth season, “In Praise of Pip.” He is the only child actor to appear in more than two episodes. It is largely his performance that fuels the debate as to whether Anthony is biologically a psychopath or a product of his circumstances. In his episode commentary to The Twilight Zone, The Definitive Edition DVD (Image Entertainment) Mumy says that Anthony believes he is helping people and that he approached his performance with this in mind. Regardless of the reason Anthony does what he does it is no question that he is one of if not the most terrifying monster ever featured on the show and Mumy delivers a genuinely unforgettable performance. The episode seems to have made a tremendous impact on the actor and he has stated in several interviews that it was one of his favorite projects. He even named his radio show, The Real Good Radio Hour, which air on FM station KSAV, after the episode.
             But it's the performances of the rest of the cast which give “It’s a Good Life” such an intense atmosphere. Because of the nature of the plot no character is ever really allowed to say or express their true feelings, except of course for Don Keefer who plays Dan Hollis. So the performer have to be able to express feelings of dread and misery through the guise of happiness. Cloris Leachman, who plays Anthony’s mother, was no stranger to television in the early days of the medium and would go on to become one of the most prolific actresses in its history, winning eight Primetime Emmy Awards. She also won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Peter Bogdanovitch’s The Last Picture Show (1971). John Larch, who plays Anthony’s father, was also a prolific television actor, appearing largely in westerns. Don Keefer gives an amazing performance in this episode and the moment when he realizes that all of his friends have abandoned him to ensure their own survival is probably the best scene in the episode.
An atypical offering, “It’s a Good Life” has become one of the most recognizable episodes of the show. From Serling’s unusually long opening monologue to its overtly bleak storyline, it’s an episode that has encountered its share of criticism over the years. But despite this it’s one that has become a fan favorite. It has helped solidify a place for Jerome Bixby in the science fiction community and has become a notable mark on the resumes of its cast. A genuinely flawless episode, it has managed to stand the test of time and has deservedly become an immortalized piece of American popular culture.

Grade: A+

Grateful acknowledgement is made to The Internet Speculative Fiction Database ( for images and bibliographic information, and to the Internet Movie Database ( for filmographic information.  

--James Sheldon directed five additional episodes for the series: “The Whole Truth,” “A Penny for Your Thoughts,” and “Long Distance Call” for the second season, and “Still Valley” and “I Sing the Body Electric” for the third season.
--John Larch also appeared in the first season episode “Perchance to Dream” and the third season episode “Dust.”
--Don Keefer also appeared in the fourth season episode “Passage on the Lady Anne” and the fifth season episode “From Agnes-With Love,” as well as in "The Time Element" episode of Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse. Keefer appears in an episode of Rod Serling's Night Gallery titled "You Can Come Up Now, Mrs. Millikan."
--Bill Mumy also appeared in the second season episode “Long Distance Call” and the fifth season episode “In Praise of Pip.” In 2002 he co-wrote an episode of the second Twilight Zone revival series with Frederick Rappaport called “Found and Lost.” It originally aired on the UPN network on November 27.
--Alice Frost also appeared in the first season episode “The Sixteen Millimeter Shrine.”
--Cloris Leachman also appears in an episode of Rod Serling's Night Gallery titled "You Can't Get Help Like That Anymore."
--“It’s a Good Life” was adapted as part of Twilight Zone: The Movie, released by Warner Brothers on June 24, 1983. The segment was directed by Joe Dante, written by Richard Matheson, with special makeup effects by Rob Bottin. The segment starred Kathleen Quinlan, Jeremy Licht, Kevin McCarthy, Patricia Barry, William Schallert, and Nancy Cartwright.
--A sequel, “It’s Still a Good Life,” was produced for the second revival series and was originally aired on the UPN Network on February 19, 2003, starring Bill Mumy, Lilana Mumy, and Cloris Leachman.
--“It’s a Good Life” was produced as a Twilight Zone Radio Drama starring Mike Starr.
--The proper title of the original Jerome Bixby story is “It’s a Good Life,” which places an emphasis on “Good,” something which is decidedly represented in the episode’s dialogue.
--The beginning portion of Rod Serling's opening narration, "Tonight's story on the Twilight Zone is somewhat unique and calls for a different kind of introduction. This as you may recognize is a…" is reused for the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror ride at Disney's theme parks. The remainder of the narration is custom to the ride and perfomed in a Serling imiation by Mark Silverman.
--The song that Pat Riley (Casey Adams) is playing during the birthday party scene is “Moonglow,” written by Will Hudson, Irving Mills, and Eddie DeLange and originally recorded by Joe Venuti in 1933. The song eventually became a jazz standard with notable version by Benny Goodman, Doris Day, Billie Holiday, and The Coasters.

--Jordan Prejean and Brian Durant


  1. Thanks for the thorough treatment of a familiar episode! I learned several new things from your article. And that's GOOD that I learned those things!

  2. Thanks, Jack. It's one of our favorites so we wanted to include as much info as possible. Luckily, there is a lot to be said about this one.

  3. Minor correction: Mrs. Fremont's first name (Agnes) is actually mentioned in the original 1961 episode. After the grocery guy leaves she goes out onto the front porch, and Aunt Amy calls her by her first name, Agnes.

    1. Thanks, Dan! Updated the post to reflect this.

  4. I can't POSSIBLY be the only person who sees "It's A Good Life" as a metaphor for Donald Trump's presidency.

  5. Interestingly enough there's a similar twist to Hitchcock's "The Magic Shop" which came out in 1964. In this story the little boy acquires supernatural powers and becomes the bully and self centered, controlling his parents and everyone around him. He has no care for life gladly murdering the neighbor across the street after the neighbor kills his dog. This theme is woven into many stories from Hitchock, Serling, to King (Red Rose). Its scary no matter who writes it.