Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone premiered on October 2, 1959, and over the course of its five-year run would churn out 156 episodes and cement itself as a classic of science fiction television. Its influence would be felt in any number of shows and movies that would follow -- from The Walking Dead to Stranger Things -- and beyond, becoming one of the enduring pop culture staples of its era. This Day in Twilight Zone History presents key commemorative facts about the greatest science fiction/fantasy television series of all time, presented by author Steven Jay Rubin, whose latest book is The Twilight Zone Encyclopedia (arriving this October). Whether it’s a key performer’s birth or death, the date an episode debuted, or any other related fact, This Day in Twilight Zone History presents a unique aspect of the rich history of this television series and the extraordinary team that created it.
Today, September 4, This Day in Twilight Zone History turns to comedy and wishes happy birthday to comic actors Dick York (born 1928) and Howard Morris (born 1919). York starred in “A Penny for Your Thoughts” as mild-mannered bank employee Hector B. Poole, who, because he threw a quarter in a newspaper boy’s money box and it miraculously landed standing up, develops instant telepathic powers. On a decidedly non-comic note, York also co-starred as William Reynolds’ commanding officer in the World War II-set episode, “The Purple Testament.” Of course, York, who passed away in 1992 at 63, will forever be remembered as the befuddled husband of Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery), the gorgeous witch in Bewitched.
Morris starred in “I Dream of Genie” as George Hanley, another mild-mannered employee (this time it’s an accounting firm. By the way, is it a rule that all accounting firm employees have to be mild-mannered?). It seems that Hanley has a mad crush on a secretary (Patricia Barry) and gets to see what life would be like with her when he purchases an old lamp and a genie (Jack Albertson) pops out.
Morris was perfectly cast as a man who begins to realize that wishes can totally backfire. Although humor did not always work on The Twilight Zone, it worked extremely well in these two episodes, proving that irony is not only the province of drama, it can be the cornerstone of comedy.