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  #1  
Old 6th May 2011, 11:31 AM
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Default 1980s Twilight Zone - First Impressions from a first time viewer

I just wanted to open this thread to post my opinions of 80s Twilight Zone episodes as I watch them.

I'm very new to this series. Despite knowing the originals like the back of my hand (well, almost), I have never seen the first remake series.

So, here are the thoughts of a man who is just starting to watch The New Twilight Zone.
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Last edited by TwilightZoneTom@Cult Labs; 6th May 2011 at 12:13 PM.
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Old 6th May 2011, 11:55 AM
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First up - Button Button.

"Button, Button": A couple receives a box with a button -- and an unusual offer.

I chose this episode first as I was round a friendís house on Sunday night and I noticed he had a copy of "The Box" on DVD. Now, I knew this was based on a TZ episode but had never seen it - I've never seen the film either.

Having not read Matheson's original story (published in Playboy in 1970), I am wondering whether or not it had a slightly comedic angle to it or whether that was added in by director Peter Medak. The whole concept and story is very unnerving and a wonderful tale of morality and the worth of human life. However the episode has these horrific caricatures of a "down on their luck" trashy couple. The husband has this over-exaggerated lisp and even more bizarrely snores incredibly loudly when he sleeps. It adds nothing to his character and becomes a major distraction.

According to Wikipedia, Matheson didn't like the ending of this episode as it was changed from his original story - despite the fact he wrote the episode under a pseudonym. However, I would argue that it's actually the strongest part of the whole episode.

It's incredibly chilling and the script has a beautiful way of spelling out their doom without explicitly saying it. Its a wonderful ending to what was up until then a rather average affair. The original story however ended with the husband being killed as a twist to the tale that neither truly knew each other. In my view, the episode ending is much better than the short storyís.

Perhaps it was Peter Medak who is at fault here with the decisions made on set. Perhaps if these decisions hadn't been made, the episode would have been a lot better. If he'd have played the suspense card all the way through the episode, it may have stood up as one of the better TZ episodes of the 80s revival.

I will now have to watch Richard Kelly's film version of it. The trailer gives off the sense of fear/suspense throughout the movie which is what the episode was missing - so perhaps that will have what I'm looking for.
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Old 6th May 2011, 01:02 PM
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Pretty much picking these at random here. So, up next - Wish Bank.

"Wish Bank": an antique oil lamp found at a yard sale brings new meaning to the warning, "be careful what you wish for.

Once again, another comedy story that I'm sure was funny for the time but doesn't really carry over into the new century.

When our hero rubs the lamp, she is transported to the "Wish Bank" which is essentially a spoof of places like the Post Office, banks and the very unpopular American pastime The DMV (I've been to Hell, I spell it, I spell it DMV - Primus). In order to get her wish she has to fill out paperwork, sign off disclaimers and wait in a long queue. Cue laugh track.

Now, what is the best thing about "wish" episodes in series such as The Twilight Zone? Seeing how the wishes backfire on them of course. Wish Bank on the other hand, because of what it is spoofing, doesn't even get that far. Our leading lady waits in line all afternoon and in the end doesn't get her wishes. It's really a pointless episode when you break it down, but as a filler story you could do a lot worse.

Which really brings up an interesting point, are these filler stories really worthwhile? If you've been listening to the Night Gallery Podcast over at Dimension X Radio, you'll know of the Jack Laird comedy stories from the second season that, from all accounts, were not well received. Should they have not spent more time fleshing out the bigger stories with more substance that just cutting them short to facilitate pointless endeavours such as Wish Bank?
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Old 12th May 2011, 12:11 PM
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Decided to go back to the beginning as that will probably make more sense. So up next, Shatterday starring Bruce Willis and directed by Wes Craven.

"Peter Jay Novins calls his home, only to hear himself answer at the other end."

I really should have started this series from the start as this is a great episode. Willis is awesome within his role and the episode plays out beautifully as Novins discovers who he truly is.

I was tweeting the other day whilst watching "The Last Flight" about how I love TZ episodes that don't explain what is happening. We as an audience don't have to question the logic because what is happening is within the Fifth Dimension. And Shatterday is no exception.

The poignant ending of the episode is beautifully played out and the story as a whole was well told. However, I wouldn't have had the "days of the week" titles for each scene as they are a bit... I don't know... lame?
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Old 12th May 2011, 12:24 PM
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Up next, a modern day version of "A Kind of Stop Watch" - "A Little Peace and Quiet" which was also directed by Wes Craven.

a harried housewife struggling with rambunctious children, a demanding husband, and the stress of modern life, finds relief from an unusual source that brings both power and responsibility.

Again, another strong episode. However, my only complaint about this it is the ending.

The intro narration reads, "Wouldn't it be nice if everyone just shut up once in a while? Wouldn't be great to have the time to finish a thought? Or spin a daydream? To think out loud without having to stop to explain what you meant? If you had the power, would you dare to use it? Even though silence may have a voice of its own? To The Twilight Zone?"

Now, the last part of that opening doesn't make sense. The addition of "The Twilight Zone" is posed as a question when it reads as more of a statement. It was just shoehorned in badly. But the real key to that is "If you had the power, would you dare to use it? Even though silence may have a voice of its own?" which is something that isn't really addressed in the episode.

I really empathised with Penny. Her home life is just a barrage of questions and complaints and her ability to get everyone to "shut up" is well earned. However, she question of whether she would dare use this power knowing that silence has it's own voice never feels truly satisfied. She only uses the power just to get a little peace and quiet - and it never back fires on her.

In the episode on which this is based, McNulty wants to use the watch as the ultimate talking piece only he can't talk to anyone about it. He then uses it for the wrong reasons and it back fires on him. In this episode, Penny uses it for her own ends, but they never back fire on her. Instead an outside source, in this case a nuclear missile, is going to kill everyone and she stops it before it lands. She hasn't learnt from having this great power nor has she paid the price of owning it. If Craven really wanted to have addressed that, he should have made more of the fact she has to now live in a world where she can't start time again in fear of being destroyed.

At the time that this was made, the fear of nuclear missiles was a big issue so I guess Craven was making a social statement, but the point is never really made clear. However, the real deterrent from this is that the opening narration is redundant. None of the issues it raises are answered and none of said issues are resolved. It's a shame, as the episode was playing very well up until that point.
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Old 17th May 2011, 01:03 PM
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One with episode 2 and its first episode - Wordplay

"A salesman at a medical firm finds everyone around him undergoing a linguistic transformation."

An interesting tale this one. A hard working salesman is trying his best to learn about the new product range they are selling so he can keep up. He spends most of his nights trying to learn these new words but unfortunately they're not sinking in. What’s strange however is that everyone around him is starting to use different words in place of old ones. He speaks to his neighbour who describes his dog as an "encyclopaedia dog" and later a co-worker starts calling lunch "dinosaur". This all escalates and escalates until the entire world around him is using a completely different words for every word in our language. The episode ends when our salesman is looking at a children’s book on first words - he has to learn about the new language everyone speaks so he can keep up.

So, it actually has a nice ending when you write it down on paper. It's the story of one man who is so focused on one task that the whole world has moved around him without him even noticing. Language has changed drastically over the last few years and you only have to look at Joe Cornish's Attack The Block to see how the "youth of today" are communicating with each other - almost as if that is the next stage in English Evolution. If you're not keeping up, you could get left behind.

However, Wes Craven doesn't play that story out the way it's written down. Whether that was a problem at script stage or Craven was pushed for time, but the episode doesn't tell the full story. We never saw our salesman struggle in the world he did understand to truly follow him to a world he doesn't. What's also striking about the episode that it doesn't have an opening narration when it really could have benefited from one. It does have a closing narration, but it's one that doesn't clear or resolve any issues.

It's a shame, as this could have been a great story.
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Old 17th May 2011, 01:08 PM
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Carrying on with episode 2 - "Dreams for Sale"

A woman finds that her idyllic picnic may not be what it seems.

I won't spend time on this episode as it doesn't deserve it. A truly pointless episode in every respect. The story makes no sense, the acting is bad and the dialogue is hokey. Everything about the episode has no rhyme or reason and doesn't even offer a conclusion. I honestly don't know how this got passed the script phase let alone into production.

Especially when we look at "Wordplay" and how that could have used an extra 10 minutes, this story infuriated me. An incredibly boring, pointless and worthless edition of The Twilight Zone.
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Old 17th May 2011, 01:28 PM
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Great posts sir! Really whetting my appetite for the 80's series.
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Old 18th May 2011, 07:56 AM
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Thanks Tom. I'm actually enjoying working my way through the series despite some of the negative comments I've written thus far.

I suppose I should really look towards posting certain things in spoiler tags for those who haven't seen the episodes?
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Old 23rd May 2011, 02:05 PM
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Bit of a word of warning with The Box. The first 30 minutes is basically a Hollywood remake of Button Button and then the wheels far off dramatically as the script tries to make sense of what just happened.

It's interesting but the start is so good that, when it descends into weirdness, it's all a little disappointing.
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