Today, January 29th, This Day in Twilight Zone History and The Twilight Zone Encyclopedia celebrate the 1960 premiere of “The Fever.”
Masterful character actor Everett Sloane – who starred in one of Rod Serling's earliest success stories, the live TV drama Patterns – portrayed curmudgeonly husband Franklin Gibbs, a penny-pinching grump of a man... literally the last person in the world who would select Las Vegas as a destination.
But that's where he goes when his wife Flora (Vivi Janiss) wins a weekend trip to Sin City. And that's where a drunk literally forces Gibbs to pop a silver dollar in a slot machine. Faster than you can say "obsession," Gibbs is hearing electronic slot machine voices and he can't stop shoving coins in the slot.
Set decades before Las Vegas went digital with seemingly endless permutations of slot machines – many of which talk to their players – this episode is a real hoot. It's also another of Rod Serling's profound commentaries on how machines are taking over our lives.
Perhaps he was also commenting on how gamblers function – always hearing those voices. In the 2003 film The Cooler, it's even mentioned that the technology exists for a casino to broadcast a subtle electronic audio signal to its clientele, which says "Lose, Lose, Lose." Well, this is a "Win, Win, Win" of an episode, with a special nod to director Robert Florey for keeping up the tension as Gibbs descends into a nightmare world of predatory slot machines.
So let's raise a lounge cocktail to Franklin Gibbs, who pulled back the handle on a one-armed bandit and watched it display three sour lemons, the symbol of jackpot in The Twilight Zone.