It has come to my attention, mainly through awkward references at tables to Star Trek (“this wine is from Slovenia, and has a color similar to a Klingon Bloodwine”, or “I’m a Vulcan – alcohol has no effect on me”) that the general public is not informed about what the greatest television shows of all time are. Well i’m going to do a series of posts on the top five of all time.
One thing you won’t see on this post is Glee, Friends, Mash, Miami Vice, or anything else that does not involve deeper than mere superficial stimulation and excellent non formulaic writing. One of the things I loathe is when people say, “Oh, I just want to watch something mindless because I’ve been thinking all day.” If I found myself in such a predicament, I prefer to sleep until I can think again.
1. The Twilight Zone (1959)
The Twilight Zone is without question the greatest Television series of all time. Conceived for CBS by one of the greatest writers of all time, Rod Serling when television was in it’s infancy.
Rod was way ahead of his time, a military veteran writing themes of Anti-War, Racial Equality, and Corporate Greed. He defied his sponsors putting out the most thought provoking, character driven, and inquisitive episodes to the screen. It took a specific medium to highlight the talent of the extremely literate, at times excessively wordy Serling. The Twilight Zone took a deeper look at human nature; exposing the evil that mankind is capable of and suggesting an inherent darkness in human nature. A great post over at AvClub argues that Serling was “suggesting that the human capacity for superstition and paranoia could be more powerful than any magic spell or alien invasion.”
Here we are presented with raw vignettes of the human condition in the truth of stark black and white. Not only was the writing and dialogue excellent, but in a time where lighting, acting, and imagination where collectively the only tools available, the cinematographer George T. Clemens combined them all to high art. The Emmy Award winning (1961) distant relative of Mark Twain was brilliant in his use of lighting, perspective, and shadow. His episodes for me are like Tennessee Williams (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof) meets Hitchcock (Vertigo). The twilight Zone was shot on film for most of it’s run, making each episode like a mini-movie.
The Twilight Zone also featured the writing of Charles Beaumont and Richard Matheson (just recently departed). Matheson (also gave Steven Spielberg his first break with Duel) is one of science fiction’s most imaginative writers of all time (I am Legend – made into three movies, and episodes like Third from the Sun),
Some of the episodes of this series, which I began watching as a very small child have defined my life. With titles like Nervous Man in a 4 Dollar Room, The Obsolete Man, and The Midnight Sun. As a computer obsessed child, the episode Time Enough at Last shook me to the core about the dangers of reliance on technology and the prospect of solitude. I remember spending hours, thumbing through the titles as a child wondering what circumstance or episode they contained.
A Town Has Turned to Dust
No Christmas This Year
To Serve MAn
Eye of the Beholder
The Monsters are Due on Maple Street
The Four of us are Dying
“If there is anything that unites the whole of Serling’s works – whether it be short stories or film scripts, whether it be fantastic or mainstream – it is an abiding concern with human feeling.” (S.T. Joshi)
The Twilight Zone.
And that sum’s it up. Off to Netflix if you haven’t seen any of them.
Stay tuned for #’s 2,3,4 and 5