I remember my first encounter with The Twilight Zone TV series as a child. It was the 4th of July. The family had all come inside after a day of barbecue, sparklers, smores, and sprinklers. The little bijon-frisees were exhausted from a day of playing in their little kiddie pool and chasing the tennis balls I threw at them for hours. It was a wonderful day of outdoor fun, but my father had an even more interesting activity planned for the evening. My father is the reason I watch horror films. He saw how interested I was in what my older brother was watching with him, but how hesitant I was to actually commit to watching a scary movie. He sat me down week after week with black and white classics: Frankenstein, The Wolfman, Godzilla, and King Kong to name a few. When he thought I could handle it, I could rent any non-religious horror I wanted, including slashers, absurd/experimental, and giallos. The religious horror obsession began as an act of rebellion that transformed into an actual obsession I use to reevaluate my faith through overwrought commentary on the ills of Catholicism.
But this isn't about my horror awakening. This is about my indoctrination into the cult of anthology TV series.
The night of the 4th of July, instead of going to the fireworks display that brought us home well past midnight the year before thanks to traffic, we sat in front of the TV and turned on The Twilight Zone. My mother walked away because she doesn't like scary things, but my brother, father, and I sat on the couch to watch the classics of the series. First up was "To Serve Man," the essential twist-ending episode of the series. I had yet to encounter the wave of imitators that followed the story beat by beat for humor or thoughtless horror effect; this viewing even predates The Simpsons "Treehouse of Horror" with the same story. I'm convinced this early viewing obsession is why I love writing fiction rife with double entendres.
Next came "The Eye of the Beholder." I loved the mystery of who these surgeons were and what was so wrong with the patient that she would have to be isolated from formal society to live a happier, healthier life. It was so moody and bizarre.
From here my memory gets a bit fuzzy. I know what the next three episodes were, just not the correct order. I thought twice about my extensive stuffed animal collection because of "Talking Tina" (a story I had seen before, but always for laughs), became leery of telling other children the truth thanks to the psychic powers of the "monster" in "The Good Life," and saw the foundation of my still-holding belief that every plane I go on will suffer a horrible critical failure and crash care of "Terror at 20000 Feet."
I remember looking forward to the local network's Twilight Zone marathons. They were everywhere: 4th of July, Labor Day, Christmas, and New Years. I could watch my favorite show (only recently officially usurped by long-time opponent I Love Lucy) four times a year all night long. When Sci-Fi (now, sadly, SyFy) came about on our (illegal) cable box two years later, they seemed to be on the same wavelength as the local network. Labor Day and New Years marathons happened every year that went around the clock. Sometimes they'd do the 4th of July marathon, too, which was always an exciting time.
But something happened over the years. All of the networks that embraced a screaming holiday began to cut back on their plans and celebrations. The local network cut away all but their Labor Day marathon, which was eliminated five years ago entirely. SyFy scaled back the hours, then the days, then the holidays to a scant two and a half day affair with poor advertising. Tonight, they're even cutting away for two hours of prime-time wrestling. They play the same handful of episodes every night that people know and relegate some of the more intriguing episodes, like the hour long "Jess-Belle" or the pure fantasy "The Bewitching Pool" to the early hours of the morning. Do people really only want the same ten episodes over and over? I mean, I've seen "Perchance to Dream" more than some of the others, but never during the primetime slot. Why not take a risk on one of the Westerns or Comedy episodes sandwiched between the usual suspects.
Don't let the programming be cut down anymore. Watch the marathon if you're a fan of the series. See if increased viewership will make the network think twice about cutting out the 8:00 to 10:00 time slot for professional wrestling. And don't turn away because you don't know the episode. The best ones are not always the most remembered.