Friday, June 19, 2009

A Different Kind of Twilight Zone Marathon

I don't get too worked up about most TV "marathons."

Some stations, like TVLand or Nick at Nite, are always doing them, but they show episodes of series they're adding to their regular schedule. It's a marketing tool. Those episodes will be repeated frequently in the months to come so there isn't anything special about them. There's no sense of urgency. If you miss one, who cares?

But several years ago, I recall, TVLand did weekend marathons of shows that weren't usually part of their regular schedules. I always enjoyed them because they were viewing treats.

Well, the Sci–Fi Channel has just such a treat in store for us in a couple of weeks.

Twice a year, the Sci–FI Channel has a marathon of "Twilight Zone" episodes — around New Year's Day and the Fourth of July. In the past, these marathons have consisted exclusively of the black–and–white Rod Serling episodes from the late 1950s and early 1960s. But the show has had several incarnations in recent years, and, in this year's marathon, Sci–Fi is going to show some episodes from the second incarnation from the mid–1980s, which made its debut about 10 years after Serling died.

From 7 a.m. (Central) on Thursday, July 2, when the marathon begins with one of the best episodes from the second series, "Nightcrawlers," until 3:30 p.m. (Central) on Friday, July 3, when the mid–1980s portion of the marathon concludes with another one of the best episodes from that time period, "The Toys of Caliban," you can see stories that did a fine job of maintaining Serling's standards — at least, in my opinion.

You can judge for yourself, because the marathon picks up with the original episodes from the late '50s and early '60s at 4 p.m. (Central) on Friday and continues to show those vintage programs through Saturday, July 4.

I know that some fans panned the show in the mid–1980s, but I didn't. And I consider myself a fan of the original "Twilight Zone."

In the second generation of the "Twilight Zone" series, the show was an hour long, but it generally consisted of two 30–minute stories. A few of the stories were an hour long, though, and a couple of them are scheduled to be shown on Thursday — "Her Pilgrim Soul" from 1:30–2:30 p.m. (Central) and "A Message From Charity" from 3:30–4:30 p.m. (Central).

My recollection is that both of those episodes also were good — but I haven't seen them in more than 20 years.

In those days, I was working the night shift on the copy desk of a daily newspaper. I remember setting my video recorder to tape the show when it was on and then watching it when I got home later that night. But I generally watched each episode once and then taped over the recording. So I'm relying on a limited memory.

But I'm looking forward to this year's marathon because it will give me the chance to see some shows I haven't seen in a long time.

And who knows when I may see them again?