By Patrick Valentino
I have recently begun a long-term goal of mine, watching the original Twilight Zone series in its entirety. I have fond memories of it from my childhood … its best episodes were always broadcast on network TV as a New Year’s Eve marathon. For a kid without cable, this was a rare peek into both an expanded reality and a mysterious past.
I very much admire the series, which I believe to be one of the best shows ever to air on U.S. television. At its best moments, the tiny episodes were perfectly cut gems, 24-minute symphonies of brilliant creativity and organic unity. While the plots thrilled me as a child, watching them now as an adult I am fascinated by their very construction. In the best episodes, every element works perfectly — the casting and dialogue, the cinematography, the music, the mise en scene, everything.
Watching them now, though, I am amazed to see how many of them had deep messages about individuality and something close to modern libertarianism or even conservatism. I found this doubly interesting given that Serling et al were not in their day known as such (which is a fine commentary on how the dividing line of political and personal philosophies has slid over the decades).
It is precisely this point, though, which makes it all pertinent: The modern left has degraded to the point that it reflects not the freeminded but the conformed, not the creative but the confused, not the liberators but the controllers, not the thoughtful but the rabid.
Serling after all was writing during the highly anxious years of the space race and the Red Scare; perhaps it is our current state of anxiety that makes these parallels all the more germane. I’d like to share what I’ve found.
NB. If you have instant Netflix, they used to be all available, but as of Autumn 2013 only seasons 1 and 2 remain up for instant streaming; I have not found reliable complete episodes on YouTube, and the DVD box sets are quite expensive (but worth it!).
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