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Remembering the Only Twilight Zone Episode to Feature a Laugh Track
The Twilight Zone may be known for a lot of things, but a studio audience is not one of them!
The Twilight Zone may be known for a lot of things, but a giggling studio audience is not one of them. Still, when you've got Carol Burnett — one of the greatest comedy icons of all time — as your leading lady, you can't pass up an opportunity to lean into the laughs.
That's what Rod Serling had in mind when he wrote the Season 3 episode entitled "Cavender Is Coming" (catch it during SYFY's annual New Year's marathon this weekend), the only episode of the classic anthology to feature a laugh track.
"Rod was a great admirer of her," producer Buck Houghton recalled during an interview for Marc Scott Zicree's Twilight Zone Companion book. "When he brought it up, saying, 'I'm going to do a picture for Carol Burnett,' I said, 'Who?' because I hadn't been seeing the variety show that established her. But he'd been an admirer of hers and apparently he had studied what it is that made her work."
"Cavender Is Coming" was the only Twilight Zone episode to feature a laugh track
Helmed by The Thing From Another World director Christian Nyby, "Cavender" originally aired on May 25, 1962. The lighthearted tale stars Burnett as a clumsy woman named Agnes Grep, who finds herself under the care of Harmon Cavender (Jesse White), a cigar-loving and rather incompetent guardian angel looking to earn his wings by improving Agnes's lot in life within a span of 24 hours.
Cavender magically grants his charge a lavish lifestyle, but soon comes to learn that Agnes was already content with her previous situation. Rather than demote his subordinate, Cavender's ornery boss (Howard Smith) decides to send him back into the field. The idea was to use the episode as a launchpad for a brand-new series, one in which Cavender aids a different soul each week. Of course, that show (originally envisioned as a vehicle for the Season 1 character Mr. Bevis) never came to fruition.
According to Houghton, CBS insisted on including the laugh track, which was removed from subsequent edits of the episode. "They were in a pilot mood and they wanted to get a Jesse White thing going," he explained. "I refused to go to the dubbing session with the canned laughter man there. I thought it was an awful idea."
You can catch "Cavender Is Coming" this Sunday, December 31, at 4:10 p.m. ET during SYFY's annual New Year's Twilight Zone marathon. Click here for complete scheduling information.
Gear up for The Twilight Zone marathon with other SYFY shows like Resident Alien, Chucky, and The Ark — all of which are currently streaming on Peacock.