Summer is here, and that means the television season is wrapping up, freeing time for a slew of blockbusters. But the small screen hasn’t quite finished with all it has to show us–between Maverick, Bonanza, and The Twilight Zone, there’s still plenty to enjoy. I must confess a guilty affection for What’s My Line, too. I like to close my eyes when they display the guests’ professions so I can play along with the contestants in guessing.
Twilight Zone, in particular, continues to impress. The latest three episodes (there was another gap in the schedule for some reason) are all interesting, and they break from the early season mold of featuring a fellow descending into madness and screaming through the second act.
In fact, it’s rather hard to pick a favorite from this bunch. Perhaps you can help:
Jack Klugman stars in A Passage for Trumpet as an alcoholic, down-on-his-luck trumpeteer with a real talent for horn. His rendezvous with the bottle has killed his career, spiraling him into a depression for which booze is his medication. Seeing no way out of the vicious cycle, he throws himself in front of a speeding car. Surprisingly, he seems unscathed… except now no one can see him anymore. Is he a ghost? Perhaps the mysterious trumpeteer named Gabe knows the answer… Klugman is particularly great in this role, but he is great in everything (q.v. 12 Angry Men).
Mr. Bevis is an altogether different sort of episode, though like the last, it is excellent and marked with more than a little touch of the supernatural. The eponymous protagonist, played by Orson Bean, is eccentric in the extreme. He wears a mismatched suit topped with an archaic bow-tie. He drives an ancient Rickenbacker. His apartment hasn’t a square inch of free space, so crammed is it with half-built models, random toys, instruments, clocks. He plays football in the street with urchins. He listens to zither music. His demeanor is uncommonly, unhealthily cheerful and engaging. At work, he’s a disaster, bouncing from job to job with seasonal frequency. He rarely makes rent on time.
In fact, the episode begins with Mr. Bevis being fired, evicted, and losing his vehicle. But then he’s offered a second chance by his family guardian angel. Will he trade his happy-go-lucky lifestyle for security and success? Would you?
After Hours, starring mostly women (at last! In this case, Ann Francis and Elizabeth Allen), throws a curve ball. A young woman goes to a department store looking for a gold thimble to give her mother as a present. She is taken to the all-but deserted ninth floor… of a building that has only eight floors, where she is sold the item by a most unsettling saleswoman. When she later sees the retailer is just a mannequin, she faints, waking up after the employees have departed and the store has been locked up. It’s set up like a conventional episode with a mystery, an increasingly distraught protagonist, and a manic second act. The ending isn’t what you think it will be, however.
My contacts at the studio tell me there are only two episodes left before the season is out. I’ll cover those, and pick out my favorites for the season, in just a few weeks.