Miscalibrated Internet Receptor Stalks

Drawing The Wrong Moral Lessons From Twilight Zone

On the Fourth of July, SyFy ran its Twilight Zone marathon again, as it is wont to do whenever a holiday strikes. So I, with nothing better to do, and no desire to leave the house, or my dog, ended up watching a bunch of episodes. And once the "marathon" ended around 7 PM because of wrestling (seriously?), I switched over to Netflix and watched several more episodes, this time without commercial interruptions for Crabasaurus Vs Lobstronado.

And maybe it was because I was really tired and strung out, and I'd had a few Shiners and Anchor Steams to celebrate my multi-state cultural heritage, but I found myself actively disagreeing with the moral messages of some of the stories I watched. Specifically, the Season One episode "A Nice Place To Visit," written by the great and sadly underappreciated horror/fantasy writer Charles Beaumont, who was only second to Serling and Richard Matheson in shaping the show's creative direction. (Try to track down a used copy of his posthumous collection The Howling Man. There's some great stuff in there, including many stories that ended up on the Zone.)


Now, just a quick SPOILER WARNING, because I am going to give away the entire plot. A small-time hood named Valentine is killed in the midst of a robbery, and finds himself in the company of a "guardian angel" named Pip played by Sebastian Cabot, who provides him with a life of luxury beyond imagining — a penthouse apartment, swanky clothes, exotic cars, gourmet meals, beautiful women, endless lucky streaks at the casino, and the ability to insult or defy authority figures without fear of reprisal. Valentine, who's not too quick on the uptake, naturally assumes he's in Heaven. But as he grows bored and desperate with his new, risk-free existence, he realizes that he is, in fact, in "the Other Place"... and that there is no escape from his benefactor, who is revealed as the Devil (or a devil — for the purposes of the story, it's not that big a distinction).

Now, granted, the moral seems to be that, even if you were provided with everything you ever wanted for all eternity, you'd get tired of the sameness of it all pretty quickly. That's a powerful message, and one that was clearly intended to resonate with the viewers, especially the ones who'd grown up in the Fifties, during an unprecedented era of American prosperity and material comforts. But c'mon — everything in the story militates against this interpretation. Not only does Valentine get swell digs, fabulous babes, and all sorts of awesome post-corporeal perks, he has an EVIL SEBASTIAN FRICKIN' CABOT as his personal valet! How amazing is that? A diabolical albino Mr. French on constant beck and call! That might actually be worth the price of eternal damnation.


I need to reconsider the metaphysical implications of this. The only downside is that you might have to listen to his album of Dylan covers from time to time.

On a related note: Portmeiron is very, very pretty.

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