Many of us with gray hair find it almost impossible to encounter a bizarre situation without invoking the title of an ancient television show. It ran from 1959 to 1964 and was in black and white. The program was created and hosted by Rod Serling (1924-1975), a talented writer and Unitarian from upstate New York with a reputation in the TV industry as an “angry young man”.
Sometimes the best part of a Twilight Zone program was when Serling appeared on screen to introduce the show and then later to comment on the weird or scary stuff that just happened. And there was that great theme music!
Given the recent tragedy, it’s safe to say that millions of Americans, including whoever created the image below, had the exact same thought: “It’s like we’re in The Twilight Zone“.
To worldwide acclaim, a reporter for Scotland’s Sunday Herald newspaper named Damien Love used his “TV Highlights” column to brilliantly say the same thing (text below):
“After a long absence, The Twilight Zone returns with one of the most ambitious, expensive and controversial productions in broadcast history. Sci-fi writers have dabbled often with alternative history stories – among the most common is the “What If The Nazis Had Won The Second World War” setting – but this huge interactive virtual reality project, which will unfold on TV, in the press, and on Twitter over the next four years, sets out to build an ongoing alternative present. The story begins in a nightmarish version of 2017 in which huge sections of the US electorate have somehow been duped into voting to make Donald Trump president. It sounds far-fetched, and it is, but as it goes on it becomes more and more chillingly plausible. Today’s feature-length opener concentrates on the gaudy inauguration of President Trump, and the stirrings of protest and despair surrounding the ceremony, while pundits speculate gravely on what lies ahead. It’s a flawed piece, but a disturbing glimpse of the horrors we could stumble into, if we’re not careful.”
Believe it or not, that was all preface to what I really wanted to share today.
Some linkages between The Twilight Zone and the current crisis aren’t so successful:
We’ll have to wait and see if the Republican Party committed suicide or not, but the real problem here is that Rod Serling never opened The Twilight Zone with “Imagine if you will”. Nor did he say “Consider if you will”, although he sometimes asked us to “imagine” something.
How do I know this? Because we have Wikiquotes and internet browsers with a “Find” feature.
It’s amazing but true. One or more devoted souls have transcribed everything Rod Serling said during the five-year run of The Twilight Zone. You can read every word right here.
Mr. Serling once said “Pleased to present for your consideration”, but it turns out he preferred the word “submitted” as in “Submitted for your approval”:
“Respectfully submitted for your perusal, a Kanamit. Height: a little over nine feet. Weight: in the neighborhood of 350 pounds. Origin: unknown.” (“To Serve Man”, March 2, 1962)
“Submitted for your approval: the case of one Miss Agnes Grep, put on Earth with two left feet, an overabundance of thumbs and a propensity for falling down manholes.” (“Cavender Is Coming”, May 25, 1962)
“Major Robert Gaines, a latter-day voyager just returned from an adventure. Submitted to you without any recommendation as to belief or disbelief.” (“The Parallel”, March 14, 1963)
“Submitted for your approval or at least your analysis: one Patrick Thomas McNulty, who, at age forty-one, is the biggest bore on Earth.” (“A Kind of a Stopwatch”, October 18, 1963)
He also liked “picture”:
“Picture of the spaceship E-89, cruising above the thirteenth planet of star system fifty-one, the year 1997.” (“Death Ship”, February 7, 1963)
“Picture of an aging man who leads his life, as Thoreau said, ‘in a quiet desperation.’ (“A Short Drink From a Certain Fountain” (December 13, 1963)
When we used to listen to Mr. Serling’s clipped, sonorous tones each week, we supposed the present age would feature marvels like a three-day workweek and astronauts voyaging to Jupiter and beyond. Some things have turned out better than expected, but we haven’t cured the common cold, it’s legal to parade around with a six-gun on your hip in much of the United States and a mentally-ill game show host in thrall to a foreign dictator will soon be the Commander-in-Chief. I mean, it’s like living in The Twilight Zone.