Worst to Best
The Twilight Zone
Season Two

The Twilight Zone's second season aired from September 1960 - June 1961. Cost-cutting saw the episode count reduced to 29, and some of the instalments shot on videotape in an attempt to scale down the budget...


The series is available on Blu-Ray from Amazon. In the meantime, please join me in ranking the season from worst to best. Please note that, while spoilers are normally avoided if possible, some of the season two episodes are so famous for their twist endings that it's almost impossible to discuss the episodes without discussing the final shock endings.

29 The Odyssey Of
Flight 33

Season two of the Twilight Zone often failed to capture the same highs as the first. While it had some classics, there were less than before, and while season one had some episodes that were slightly below-par, season two introduces a new concept to the show: the stinker. Episodes like The Odyssey of Flight 33 go beyond "lacking" and into full-out awfulness, with the hugely talented and literary Rod Serling suddenly churning out junk way below his standard. This is throwaway, pulp SF, and lacking in character development or tension. Still, this said, the stop-motion Brontosaurus is always good for a laugh...

28 Mr. Dingle, The Strong

Despite the talents of the cast (including Burgess Meredith and Don Rickles) this broader-than-broad, lowest-common-denominator "comedy" is almost an insult to the viewers' intelligence. As a drama writer, Serling wanted to give audiences something of quality... as a comedy writer, his "jokes" are heavy-handed and obvious, showing almost a disdain for those watching, intentional or not. Worse, it detracts from his talent, where those tuning in would be watching the work of a comedy writer who was well below average, instead of a drama writer who was well above. When the series was first released onto DVD, it was in the form of "compilations", with each disc containing 3-4 episodes and acting as a "best of". For some reason Mr. Dingle, The Strong was chosen to headline volume 4, a bad advert for the show and arguably the worst comedic episode of the entire series.

27 The Whole Truth

Another Rod Serling "comedy" episode that turns out to be a washout. A used car salesman inherits a possessed car that makes him tell only the truth and... well, that's about it. The stock music only further cements the misery. What makes matters worse is that it's one of half a dozen season two episodes that were recorded on video tape. With most episodes exceeding costs of $65,000, CBS ordered an experiment for some to be taped and transferred to film to cut down on the budget. The final result was that the six episodes suffered from a loss of depth, looked cheap, and, in the final event, didn't save enough money to justify the change. The experiment was abandoned and never attempted again, which is a shame, as four of the taped episodes actually had pretty good stories and would have shone in the usual format.
     This is not to say that appreciation of the programme is solely based on the production standards – far from it – but there is the nagging feeling that they'd be even better shot on film like the other 150 episodes that make up the series. All, that is, apart from The Whole Truth, which would be awful even if it was shot in 3D hi-definition with glitter on top.

26 A Thing About

One of the more forgettable episodes of The Twilight Zone, A Thing About Machines sees a tyrannical man bullied by all the electronic items in his house... a situation so fundamentally silly and lightweight it was later used as a sketch on The Benny Hill Show. (And I say that as a fan of Benny Hill). While there are some decent moments here and there, such as a small role for Barney Phillips, or Rod himself on a TV screen, the set-up is one that can grate: a man who shouts continually, surrounded by a bunch of machines that never stop making noise. The lead character's nightmare becomes the viewers' nightmare, too, and the end credits are a blessed relief.

25 The Man In
The Bottle

An evocative title unfortunately showcases what is a fairly flat and trite "genie in a bottle" story. Joseph Ruskin is striking as the genie, though Luther Adler gets more over the top the further the episode goes on, dragging a quirky episode down into the depths of broad comedy. The placing of the episode doesn't help, either: this was only the second week of the new season, and it's way too light to be broadcast so early in the run.

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