As everyone who knows me will attest to, for me there's only one meaningful New Year's Eve tradition in my book. It's not making empty, overly optimistic resolutions, watching some ball drop, binge drinking, or even the welcoming sight of the ageless Dick Clark. New Year's Eve and New Year's Day has always been about the Twilight Zone Marathon. From when it used to air on the old WPIX when I was little to its flashier, current SciFi channel home, I've always managed to ring in the new year with the classics. Some episodes are sad, some are hilarious, some are thought provoking, some are fairly awful, and some have premises so thin that they should just cut to the chase and make it ten minutes. For the most part however, the Twilight Zone really is some of the best writing that has ever been broadcast on TV. The imagination, the plotting, the dialog, is of such high quality compared to most of the hack writing you see on TV today that if writers of this caliber went on strike, you better believe people would have taken notice.
Unfortunately I'm coming to the party a little late so unless you've already been watching since this morning you and I have already missed a few classic episodes (Including my all time favorite "Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up" at 7:30pm). However, there are still a good twenty plus hours of episodes on deck. So if after you're done with all the confetti and awkward kissing and find yourself in a post countdown state, rudderless on what to do in the New Year here are 5 choice cut episodes to ring in the New Year (note:these are all eastern standard time on SciFi channel):
- 12:00am - "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street": One of the all time greatest Twilight Zone episodes, and one especially relevant in this post 9/11 world. A picturesque evening on a block in Anytown, USA is suddenly disrupted by a series of mysterious power outages and other bizarre events. Fear and paranoia begin to take hold and the shocking revelation at the end is one I envy anyone who hasn't seen it.
- 12:30am - "The Invaders": A lonely old woman finds herself visited by a group of hostile aliens. This episode is basically a 22 minute set up for the big twist at the end, but it's a pretty good twist. You also have to give Agnes Moorehead credit for carrying the whole episode by herself.
- 1:30am - "Valley of the Shadow": A young man accidentally stumbles across a town where its inhabitants possess scientific knowledge that is light years headed of our own time. This is one of the few hour long Twilight Zone episodes I like. This is not a real famous episode or anything and the main plot itself is fairly flat, but I just dug the soliloquies the town leaders give about how screwed up modern civilization is. The Twilight Zone was always good at waving its finger at modern times, in an entertaining way.
- 3:30am - "Five Characters in Search of An Exit" This is literally what the title says, five random strangers a hobo, a ballerina, a major, a bagpipe player, and a clown find themselves in an empty room with no memory and no escape. One of the most bizarre and imaginative Twilight Zone episodes ever, it also has one of the most surprising endings as well.
- 4:30am - "Printer's Devil" A struggling newspaper publisher makes a deal with the devil to make his newspaper more popular, of course these sort of agreements usually don't end very well. It's a pretty straightforward Faustian bargain message episode but basically any episode with Burgess Meredith is a treat to watch. Hitchcock had Jimmy Stewart or Cary Grant; Rod Serling's leading man was Burgess Meredith.