Daily Archives: April 9, 2018

BQB’s Twilight Zone Reviews – S3, Ep. 30 – Hocus-Pocus and Frisby

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Lying can get you in a lot of trouble, 3.5 readers.

Gas station owner Somerset Frisby (Andy Devine) is an epic teller of tall tales.  Some people might embellish or exaggerate their accomplishments but Frisby outright lies.  Gadflies hang around the station all day long just to laugh at his whoppers – from how he single handedly won World War I, to his thirty-something advanced degrees (he claims to hold doctorates in all the sciences) and his many inventions.  Mention any device and he’ll tell you he invented it.  Celebrities, politicians, captains of industry, so he says, all consult him regularly, why, Henry Ford even contacted him for assistance in constructing one of the first car engines.

While the townsfolk think he’s a goof, a duo of passersby take Frisby seriously…perhaps a little too seriously.  They kidnap the liar and whisk him away to a spaceship, where they remove their human masks to reveal their alien forms.  They’re intrigued by Frisby’s “accomplishments” and they want to take him to their home planet in the hopes his allegedly brilliant mind will solve all of their problems.  You see, these aliens have never heard of “lying” before so they take everything they hear as the truth, which makes me think this episode might have influenced Ricky Gervais’ “The Invention of Lying.”

As goofy as the show may seem, every episode of “The Twilight Zone” comes with a moral lesson.  Here, it’s don’t lie, or rather, don’t write checks with your mouth that the sum of your experience can’t cash.  Perhaps none of us run around telling everyone that we won wars and hold over thirty degrees, but maybe we embellish once in awhile and doing so could come back to bite us.  Saying you can do something you can’t in a job interview, for example, could leave you looking pretty stupid when you get hired and fail to deliver.

It’s funny, as I watch this show I have spotted many influences on pop culture that I never realized were there before.  There are a number of episodes where I can see an impact on movies, TV, comedy, parodies etc. that came later.

Do you know that old Will Ferrell Saturday Night Live sketch where Will and friends would gather around a bar and tell tales about their amazing friend, Bill Brasky?  Bill Brasky did this, Bill Brasky did that, etc.  Notice how Will and whoever joins him has crooked teeth and flushed faces.  For the longest time, I always thought that was just a random choice to make them look like dummies but now I figure that’s got to be an homage to Andy Devine aka one Mr. Somerset Frisby.

Have you ever gotten into hot water by claiming you can do things you can’t?  Discuss in the comments.

EDIT: I searched the Internet and couldn’t find confirmation that the Bill Brasky sketch was influenced by Frisby but come on, the similarities between Frisby and the Brasky buddies are pretty obvious that it makes me think these sketches were an homage:

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BQB’s Twilight Zone Reviews – S2, Ep. 16 – “A Penny for Your Thoughts”

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I’m reading your mind right now, 3.5 readers.

You’re thinking, “Why am I reading this dumb blog?” and also, “In an episode where a character can read minds, the dangers of learning man’s inner secrets surely must be the main lesson.”

Answers – a) Because you’re a good judge of excellent blogs and b) wrong.

Lowly banker Hector B. Poole (Dick York of “Bewitched” fame) tosses a coin into a newsboy’s money box.  In doing so, the coin lands on its edge, which somehow gives Poole the ability to read minds.

As series creator Rod Serling (who regularly pops out of the woodwork in this series to narrate and/or explain a plot point or a moral) explains, the results of a coin flip are fifty/fifty.  Meanwhile, the odds that we will act on a given thought in our brains are the same – a fifty percent chance we will, and a fifty percent chance we won’t.

As Poole progresses through his day, he learns more about his coworkers than he ever knew before.  Dopey boss E.M. Bagby (Dan Tobin) is a pervert, cheating on his wife with a chorus girl.  Poole might have preferred to have not known that, as he loses respect for his supervisor.  Perhaps we aren’t meant to know the dark thoughts of the people we see everyday because if we did, we’d never want anything to do with them.

The gift comes in handy when he learns that coworker Helen (June Dayton) has the hots for him.  Knowing her feelings makes it easier to act on his, but why do two people who love each other from afar always tend to be reluctant?  Is it fear of rejection?

The gift becomes a curse when Poole overhears a surprising thought in the mind of elderly employee, L.J. Smithers (Cyril Delevanti.)  After decades of faithful service, Mr. Smithers is now planning to go to the vault, “withdraw” a bag full of cash and take the next boat to Bermuda.

SPOILER ALERT:  He doesn’t.  Poole ends up with big time egg on his face when he convinces Bagby to have a guard search Mr. Smithers’ bag, only to come up empty.

The lesson?  We all think bad thoughts, but bad thoughts don’t necessarily make us bad people until we act on them.  Mr. Smithers’ entertained a bad thought, fantasized about running off to paradise with his employer’s dough, but in the end, he decided against it.  The average person constantly thinks about doing bad things but until those bad things are acted upon, they’re just thoughts.  Actions really do speak louder than words, or at least the words being spoken by our internal monologue.

Would you like to be able to read minds, 3.5 readers?  Would you judge others for thinking bad thoughts even if they didn’t act on them?

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BQB’s Twilight Zone Reviews – S3, Ep. 24 – “To Serve Man”

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If aliens ever arrive on Earth, will their intentions be good or evil?

Such is the question that plagues the United Nations when an alien race called, the “Kanamits” land on our home world.

They’re nine feet tall.  They have big heads to house their big brains.  They speak through their minds rather than their mouths…and they swear their only purpose is in coming to Earth is to serve man.

In fact, they offer new technology.  Specifically, they offer a method of making soil more fertile and can even turn desert wastelands into fertile fields full of crops.

Huh.  Is it me or are these intergalactic travelers really concerned with making sure that humans have enough to eat?

Lloyd Bochner stars as Michael Chambers, the government translator assigned to decipher a book left behind on a table by the alien ambassador.  Does it hold any secrets?  Can these aliens be taken at their word?  Do they have more sinister intentions in mind?

And why do they want to make sure all the humans get fed?  Hmm…curious.

This episode is one of this show’s best, containing a line that serves not only a twist but also as a piece of pop culture history that has been parodied and paid homage to over the years.  Further, it sets in stone that time honored sci-fi trope, namely, that if aliens come bearing gift horses, said horses’ mouths should be checked thoroughly.

 

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BQB’s Twilight Zone Reviews – S1, Ep. 12 – “What You Need”

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They say that success is what happens when planning meets opportunity (perhaps with a little patience mixed in), and surely this episode is the best lesson when it comes to following that formula.

Pedott (Ernest Truex) is an elderly psychic peddler.  Now there’s a unique job if there ever was one.  Every night, he visits the same bar with a brief case of goods to sell – matches, string, cards, etc.  He sizes up the booze hounds, picks out an item and says ever so ominously, “this is what you need.”

Case in point, a down and out baseball pitcher drowns his sorrows at the bar.  His arm’s shot and in his opinion, that means life is over.  He could never find happiness in any job outside of baseball.

Pedott talks the pitcher into buying a bus stop to Scranton, PA of all places.  It seems silly until he gets a call – he’s been offered a job as a coach and suddenly, all seems right in his world again.

Meanwhile, Pedott talks a lonely woman into buying a bottle of cleaning fluid.  When the pitcher remarks that he can’t show up to his new job wearing a stained suit, the woman is able to use her cleaning fluid as an ice breaker and suddenly, she’s found the love that has eluded her for so long.

Lesson?  Your opportunity awaits.  You just have to be prepared.  In real life, maybe the preparation doesn’t come in the form of an item, but maybe it comes in the form of study, training, bettering yourself, being able to prove your worth when you are given a chance to do so.

While barflies are typically pleased to receive Pedott’s help, there’s a hole in the heart of the villainous Renard (Steve Cochran) that can never be filled.  Renard has been beaten up by life and is perpetually angry.  His hard breaks have left him irreversibly bitter.

Pedott sells Renard a pair of scissors, which Renard uses to save his own life.  Later, a leaky pen leads to him winning $250 on a horse.   Soon, Renard gets hooked on good fortune, but it’s never enough.

Whereas the pitcher and the lonely woman seized the good fortune the world offered them, Renard doesn’t grasp his lucky moments.  Saving his own life doesn’t convince him to try harder to be a better man.  An extra $250 doesn’t convince him to maybe invest, start a little business, do something to improve his life.  No, he wants more, more more…he scoffs at his small lucky breaks.  They just aren’t good enough.

What happens next?  You’ll have to watch for the ironic twist, as no episode of this show would be complete without one.  However, the message is clear.  Luck exists.  Good breaks will happen for those who prepare for them.  Some may get better breaks than others but small breaks are nothing to sneeze at and should be embraced and made the best of.

If you’re feeling bitter…is it because you had bad breaks..or did you not make the most of what the world gave you?  Sure, the pitcher had a better break – a coaching job.  However, he prepared for it by working as a baseball player for years.

The lonely woman found a good break – a potential husband.  She prepared for it by living the life of a good woman and being honest and looking hot and, oh come on, it was the 1960s.  I suppose if this episode was made today she’d be sold an item that leads her to becoming the CEO of a major company or something.

Luck exists and yet, we also make our own luck.  A break won’t matter if you aren’t prepared for it.  You get out of the world what you put into it.  Renard hadn’t put enough into the world…but perhaps if he’d been a more positive person, being saved from the near death experience and winning a sum of money that was pretty hefty in the 1960s might have good motivators for him to get his life in order.  Instead, he doesn’t look at the old man with gratitude but rather, anger – as if luck isn’t a matter of combing preparation and opportunity but rather, as if luck is a metaphysical slot machine.  Just give me another item, and another, and another…what have you got to sell me today old man?  I’ll keep playing the odds and maybe I’ll get luckier and luckier without putting the preparation work in.

What do you think, 3.5 readers?  Is luck real?  Do we make our own luck?  Maybe luck is real, but it only helps if we are prepared for it when it comes?  What say you?

More importantly, as the title goes, “What do you need?”  It’s a loaded question.  What do you need in your life to be happy and what do you need to be ready when opportunity knocks on your door?  Do you need a good job?  What do you need to qualify for that job?  Perhaps you’ll never be lucky enough to qualify for the job you want, but if you don’t seek out the proper credentials and experience, you’ll never be ready if that opportunity comes.

Do you need romance?  What do you need to get it?  Do you need to improve yourself?  Maybe lose some weight, fix a few cosmetic, surface issues?  Dress better?  Drop a bad habit?  Become more responsible?

What do you need and what do you need to get it?

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