Review: The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic by Martin Grams, Jr.
Saturday, October 31, 2009
The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic
by Martin Grams, Jr.
OTR Publishing, 2008
Paperback, 750 pages
ISBN: 0970331096 (Amazon.com)
9780970331090 (Book Depository)
$49.95 / £39.12
"You are travelling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land of imagination. Next stop, the Twilight Zone!"
Now let us make no mistakes here: this is a must-have book. If you like The Twilight Zone, that is. No question. It’s a book you will want sitting beside you the next late-night, half-drunk, weekend-welcoming time you are watching two or three episodes of Rod Serling's classic series run back-to-back. You will never lend it, because you know that if someone lent it to you, you would never give it back.
This all has to be stressed, because if as a result of this review you actually buy the book, on opening your prize you will wonder for a moment whether you have entered an episode of the Twilight Zone itself. An episode where everything is painted grey, where sparkle and wonder have been banished. It looks, at first sight, so very mind-numbingly dull. The opening sentence has all the excitement of low-calorie reduced-fat cardboard. You will flick through page upon page headed "Fourth season production costs". You will, for a moment, wonder how many DVD episodes you could have purchased instead.
Ah, gentle reader, persevere! Trust that gorgeous cover, settle down, and dig a little deeper. Rather than reading from page one, let the book fall open, enjoy the gem uncovered, and repeat. Then use the rather clever index to look up that episode, you know, the one with him from that other TV series. You will soon be hooked; the cat will have to find another place to sit; and the charity shop will be deprived of stock. You won't want to give it up.
Martin Grams, Jr.'s book covers the original five seasons of the show. The first two-hundred pages are a historical narrative that has obviously been thoroughly researched from original sources. That gives it the benefit of being both fascinating and academically appealing. Some observations, such as that No Blade of Grass was never produced as a film (it was, in 1970, but not with Serling's screenplay) may raise eyebrows but do not detract from an excellent account. Particularly interesting is the description of allegations of plagiarism and of Serling's relationships with contemporary writers. This is Grams at his best, with his obvious admiration for Serling not precluding more critical observations. The overall insight into the trials and tribulations of media production is very satisfying.
However, the bulk of the book is devoted to an episode guide, including plot outlines, cast lists, and trivia sections as well as rehearsal dates, music cues, and other minutiae. Perhaps inevitably, episode coverage is uneven, with some titles receiving far more commentary than others, but the accounts are consistently interesting. Serling's opening and closing narrations are set out, as are, perhaps less usefully, the trailers for each episode. Grams' approach is disciplined and organized, which makes for ease of reference. Production costs are included, but are fortunately not as all-consuming as the page headings suggest.
This book could not be described as lavishly illustrated. There are no plates, the bulk of images looking like monochrome thumbnails of library photos. However, what is really lacking is not photographs, but opinions. The level-headed follower of the show knows that episodes ranged from the brilliant to the bad. Grams' commitment is such that he's earned the right to share his views. Maybe he was afraid that would reduce his work in some way, but the book needs (ideally) that kind of entertainment factor.
Overall, though, an excellent work. It will certainly be worth looking for further titles by this author. Possibly Grams will feel able to turn his attention to the Twilight Zone film and remakes, although what would be really nice would be to see a similar work on the underrated Night Gallery.
1 comment; 1 subscriber
Do you have a comment? Log in or Register; registration is quick, painless, free, and spam-free (unless you ask for it)