Clickety clack down the track, I’m your conductor and thanks for tuning into episode 3 of ‘Out of Order’. Back in the 50s a man named Rod Sterling created and hosted his own horror television program, The Twilight Zone. Nowadays, its original five seasons have been praised as some of the most timeless and creepy series ever conceived for the small screen. Or course, with great success comes a great deal of wannabes who want a piece of that pie. And that’s what we’re looking at today; here are 4 supposed Twilight Zone Rip Offs in no particular order. Let’s get this show on the road!
1. Thriller (1960 – 1962)
Our first entry is Thriller, which aired on NBC and was hosted by Boris Karloff. It blended a scramble of both suspense stories and tales of terror, similarly to Twilight Zone. Unlike Rod Sterling’s horror touchstone, Thriller had a remarkable score composed by Jerry Goldsmith and Morton Stevens that set the creepy tone masterfully.
What are my thoughts on the series and does it stand on its own? Well, half of Thriller is actually on par with Twilight Zone when they do horror-esque episodes like “The Hungry Glass” , “Pigeons from Hell” and ” The Grim Reaper”. What’s the other half you ask? That would be the suspense side, which were a majority of the first episodes. They ranged from mildly intriguing to purely forgettable though they’re never was a single one I found particularly terrible, so that’s a plus. Additionally, yeah, Thriller does indeed seem to have a different, dimmer tone from its source of inspiration and as mentioned a stellar music composition. If you scratch over the crime “suspense” episodes, Thriller is definitely worth a look for any dark horror fan.
2. The Outer Limits (1963 – 1965)
Moving right along to The Outer Limits, which aired on ABC and hosted by the “control voice” , voiced in part by Vic Perrin. This series is usually most compared to Twilight Zone out of my selected bundle, with both opening and closing with narrations as well as being rather philosophical for a television show of its type.
However, the two series also include their fair share of distinction. While The Twilight Zone is more supernatural and tell their themes like a whimsical parable, The Outer Limits leans more over to science fiction and the human condition. Outer Limits additionally has a much more distinct visual appearance that really makes the show stand out from the rest. Add that with some great practical effects and this series is a fun experience. The fact that the crew made this chilling cult classic using hardly any budget is miraculous, as miraculous as the entire run of the series is.
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3. ‘Way Out (1961)
Our next rip off was a single-season series that aired on CBS and was hosted by Roald Dahl. Now, this one interested me solely due to the narrator, Dahl, whom you may know for writing such offbeat children’s classics as ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’, ‘The Twits’ and ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’. A bit of a brief tangent, but go check out the Wes Anderson film adaptation of the third novel on Disney+ because it’s simply brilliant. But is Way Out?
Although Way Out is a difficult find, it’s worth it when you do manage to watch an episode. The series is spine-tingling down to the bone but still has Roald Dahl’s signature dark sense of humor stamped all over it. The dialogue in turn tends to be unsettling yet somewhat amusing at the same time. Way Out is almost similar to Thriller’s tone, just darker. Too bad it only lasted 14 episodes before cancellation. They should make a Blu-Ray remaster of the series as to introduce a new generation to this wonderfully weird, wacky, wild show. Apparently, I’m afraid that wish may never come to fruition; five of the episodes are floating around with collectors and such, probably flowing through EBay. The others are either in the possession of the producer Jacqueline Babbin or have been sold off to a film and radio museum.
4. One Step Beyond (1959 – 1961)
The final show is One Step Beyond, hosted by John Newland and airing on ABC. Being affiliated with The Twilight Zone was a knack for this series even when it managed to tell its stories in a unique matter. Instead of Sterling’s “straight up” horror fiction, Newland’s approach was more grounded and often had audiences pondering if the episodes subject could indeed happen.
Each of the two hosts had clashing styles and ways of communicating a story of a moral. With Sterling, he was always very intense, verbose and urban. On One Step Beyond, Newland had more of a mild, concise and refined zest to his work, if you want to even call it a zest. Now this observation doesn’t alter any one narrator specifically better than the other, it’s just here to present contrast. This information also provides the unsurprising fact that many of One Step Beyond ‘s episodes are rather humdrum to look at; they’re honestly pretty bright. But some fantastic performances from all around and another one of those perfectly eerie scores elevates this show to an amiable status. One Step Beyond will continue to stay remembered as long as Newland reminds us that these otherworldly occurrences “do exist, and do happen” .
Well, that just about wraps up this episode of Out of Order. Now excuse me, I’ve got a Way Out box set to watch. Over and out.
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