[July 2, 1960] Bottom of the Cup (Twilight Zone 1st Season wrap-up)

Gabrielle and Chelsea–dig that futuristic dress the latter has on!

Greetings from Westercon San Diego!

Now, with an opening like that, I expect you’re expecting a convention report.  Well, this is just day one of a four day extravaganza, so not quite yet.  Just know that I’m having a lovely time, and I’ve already swept up many fellow travelers.

No, instead I want to talk about the end of an era.  After a successful run of 36 episodes, The Twilight Zone has come to a finish.  Well, for this season, anyway.  I can’t imagine that it won’t be renewed in Fall 1960. 

This latest one will review just two for the simple reason that there ain’t no more:

First up is Rod Serling’s The Mighty Casey, possibly the least inspired of the season’s line-up.  Here’s the set-up: The Hoboken Zephyrs are deep in the cellar, easily the losingest team in the National League.  Along comes a applicant with the goofiest face imaginable.  He is accompanied by a elderly gentleman who makes no obfuscations about the fact that the rookie is, in fact, a robot.  Interestingly, this is the second Twilight Zone to star the quite talented Jack Warden, and both times, a robot co-stars.

Well, the young artificial man, 22 years old in appearance yet just three weeks in existence, proves to be an amazing pitcher, and the Zephyrs come to have a solid shot at the pennant.  Until, of course, it is learned that Casey isn’t human.  Now, this is where I expected an interesting debate over what qualifies a player as a “man,” and the fine line between natural and artificial sapience.  Instead, I got a dopey resolution where the stellar pitcher is given a heart (so as to gain human status) and then subsequently doesn’t have it in him to strike anyone out. 

“Mediocre,” was my daughter’s assessment. 

A World of his Own, by Richard Matheson, fares a bit better.  Keenan Wynn is a famous but somewhat nebbishy playwright with the uncanny ability to make characters come alive–literally.  In fact, as the episode opens, he is caught by his wife (Phyllis Kirk) in the arms of a mistress of his own creation (Mary La Roche).  Well, that’s what the wife sees through a window, but by the time she enters the writer’s study, the mistress has vanished.

Eager to save his marriage, the writer explains his talent, but his wife remains dubious, threatening to lock him up so that she can collect all of the community property after obtaining a divorce.  Ultimately (as telegraphed from the first minutes of the show), it turns out that Kirk is also one of Wynn’s creations, and Wynn is compelled to destroy her by tossing the dictation tape that contains her description into the fireplace.  He contemplates bringing her back with a fresh dictation, but instead, he resurrects the less shrewish Mary. 

Rod Serling then appears to deliver a rare on-screen coda… only to be disposed of by Wynn in the same fashion as all of the playwright’s other creations.  Cute.

There is a rushed, claustrophobic element to these two stories, as if the show had run out of budget, and the Serling/Houghton production team forced to make them on the cheap.  Here’s hoping CBS funds the show more lavishly in Season Two.

Still, there’s no cause for complaint.  We got more than 15 hours of some of the best television has to offer, and strong indications that we can look forward to many more in the years to come!

9 thoughts on “[July 2, 1960] Bottom of the Cup (Twilight Zone 1st Season wrap-up)”

  1. Hope the Westercon is all as good as it should be.

    As far as non-US me is concerned, any baseball team but the Teddies is a loss. Of the last, sounds as if Serling was a bit too conscious it was the last. Still looking forward to next season.

      1. Excuse me. The Anderson/Dickson Hoka stories probably have a bit too much sugar for you. Of course, I like NZ’s Christchurch being the starport. I’m a bit surprised, actually, they chose the very English Christchurch rather than the more Scottish Dunedin.

  2. Yeah, Mighty Casey was pretty forgettable. I think there might be a decent story in there somewhere about robots (or augmented humans, like someone with a robotic arm) and sports. This wasn’t really it, though.

    The second piece was a bit fluffy, too, but Richard Matheson is both an excellent writer and an excellent screenwriter. He can make a light piece interesting and entertaining. His style is well-suited to the Twilight Zone. I bet we see more of his stuff in the future.

  3. “The Mighty Casey” is pretty dumb.  The actors do the best they can, but comedy is not Serling’s forte.

    “A World of His Own” is as light as a feather, but rather charming.  The final twist is cute.

    I can’t wait to see your picks for the best episodes of this interesting series, which has proved to be something of a curate’s egg.

  4. Reel to reel? 

    I can’t understand the rush to magnetic tape.  Wire recorders have better fidelity, higher density, no oxides to wear off.  They’re the best there is – that’s why satellites and flight data acquisition systems use wire.

    By contrast, tape offers… well, it’s easier to splice, but admit it, how much splicing do you do at home, anyway?

    Tape recorders are just a fad, like those “home-cut” phonograph records a few years back.  By 1970 we’ll have wire recorders playing video, and tape will be as obsolete as the Edison wax cylinder.

    1. The military may have access to hi-fi wire recorders, and maybe John Drake, but I sure don’t.  If I want hi-fi, LPs and tape are my options.  Plus, I can record on both sides of a reel to reel, and I can record hours and hours.

      The fact is, it isn’t always logical which medium the recording industry pushes.  I imagine we’ll see this phenomenon again and again.

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