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This was the first episode of "The New Twilight Zone" and both episodes
rank as the best in the series and are great morality tales of the
characters identity crisis.
First up is "Shatterday" with Bruce Willis this was a couple of years just before Bruce would become a big movie star. Willis is Jay Novins a city slicker in New York, who's just not happy and seems out of place. Until one day things seem stranger, when he dials his phone number only to have a surprise when the phone is answered by guess who Jay Novins! As the viewer sees this is another side of Jay it's like a split personality that makes him feel guilty about his life and the way he's treated others. Little by little Jay goes down and down to a certain point that his other side takes over and forms the Jay Novins he always wanted to be, but the ego guilt was in the way. Really a good character tale that proves people must deal with the guilt and throw away ego to let their real side live on.
The second half was even better and maybe one of the best from the 1985 series that's "A Little Peace and Quiet" a tale that proves you can't always have things your way and it ends with the central character to have to make a big decision. It stars Melinda Dillion(from "A Christmas Story" fame) as a suburban housewife in California with four children who's over worked and just stressed out. I mean this woman has to do everything from cooking, cleaning, washing clothes, shopping, and babysitting it's just too much! She never has a moment of silence or time for herself. Then one day in the lawn she finds a golden stopwatch and puts it around her neck only to find it has special powers it can freeze time and motion! Now that finally is something she can use to her advantage. This episode really captured the times of 1985 from a political and cultural standpoint also, with the arms race between the U.S. and Russia a hot topic and the threat of missile and nuclear war this episode took from that making it a nice watch for history buffs the way it's done. So when the media tells of the missile that's headed for earth, only the mighty stopwatch can help, it came in so handy for peace. Yet as the old saying goes you can't always get what you want and things come to an end. As the episode ends it serves a good purpose but this is a moment that will stay frozen forever. It ends as the viewer thinks what decision should be made. Both episodes were well done by Wes Craven, good tales of morality and he shows that these characters let guilt and social impact overtake them. By far two of the better of the 1985 season.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I think the moral of "A Little Peace and Quiet" is about using gifts responsibility. The harried housewife in this tale unearthed a gift ... one that could stop time. With the story about the deteriorating relations between the Soviets and Americans serving as the backdrop, our heroine had perhaps been given a new responsibility with the discovery of this watch. Instead because of her constantly being driven crazy by her family and others she decided to misuse the stopwatch ... all for obtaining a few fleeting moments of peace and quiet, to enjoy that quiet breakfast, read a novel, do gardening, steal from the supermarket, and so forth. The turning point comes when (unknown to the viewers, the world being on the brink of nuclear war) she throws out the peace activists trying to advertise for the emergency community meeting to mobilize a last-ditch effort to stop war from breaking out. Imagine if the woman cared about the Soviet-American relations, the real possibility of war ... and went to the meeting to talk about her stopwatch and force the two leaders to meet. She could have beaten them (figuratively speaking) into submission. Instead, she views these people as annoying, stops time, and throws them out. Only at the end, with air raid sirens wailing, the radio announcer panicking as he tries to alert listeners to the approaching nuclear missiles and her family crying does she maybe realize her misused gift. Now, with her having frozen time just milliseconds before a fireball envelops her town, it's too late. A well done story about power and responsibility.
This was one of the most thought-provoking episodes of ANY show that I
have ever seen, and I spent a long time considering what I would do in
her place. I decided that while there was no way to save everyone, I
could at least save my family. Since no vehicles would work since they
are frozen, I'd get a bicycle and hook up a small flatbed trailer. Then
I would load my family members and supplies on it and start peddling to
a place that was far enough away from any "ground zero's" that we had
the best chance of surviving in. Once all my preparations were in
place, THEN I'd stop the freeze. It might take a while to do all this,
but hey, time is frozen so what the hay?
Just my $.02, anyway.
The first episode of The "New" Twilight Zone gave us a clear picture of what the show as a whole was going to be like - the first half and segment of the episode, "Shatterday", was great and remains a favorite; the other, "A Little Peace and Quiet" was not. I don't have as much to say about "A Little Peace and Quiet", nor anything else nice, so I'll get that over with. It's a little like "A Kind of Stopwatch" where somebody gets ahold of a watch that just happens to help them stop time. The difference is that instead of an obnoxious bore, the one who finds it is an overworked, stressed housewife who has to deal with the general everyday noise of life (dog included)...along with the shouting of four little kids and an incompetent but still demanding husband. The only thing that made me smile about that was I thought it was about time somebody showed a nagging HUSBAND after all those rotten-egg wives we got to see on the original Twilight Zone! Seriously, though, the concept really annoyed me - not one of the kids had an ounce of self-control, up to the point where one had the habit of tampering with an alarm clock and another ran loose in public, the husband was useless, and the wife...well, I can't say whether it was Melinda Dillon's acting since I only saw her in A Christmas STory which I also had a hard time appreciating, or the writing, but even though her character was meant to be sympathized with, I quickly grew bored with her routine sighing and gasping. Even her voice sounded a bit whiny when thinking out loud. I thought it was a little too strange that we were really expected to believe that all previous attempts at connecting her family had failed so the watch solved everything perfectly, and even what was supposed to be the humorous part of kicking out the peace-speakers with it made me roll my eyes. Only one noteworthy thing was done with it at the end...and while the scene of despair just before was beautiful enough to make me want to join the characters crying, I was stunned the writers couldn't be more creative with what else could've been done with that watch - I'm not completely convinced that their ending given won't change 5 minutes after the camera fades. I can see why they switched the show to hold half-hours later! Anyway, I was grateful this episode wasn't a complete waste of time...after all, there was "Shatterday". I've yet to read Harlan Ellison's short story, though now I'm eager to - the TV adaptation was great! A pre-fame Bruce Willis plays a bit of a Russ Duritz-type character from The Kid - but we only figure that out after he accidentally dials his own number in a bar and is answered by someone claiming to be him, Peter Jay Novins. Whoever answers tells him he can't return home since they both can't occupy the same space, so the ringer Peter Novins cancels his bank account and insults most public companies so the guy at home can't order anything....The only problem is, the one in his home, who we believe is his alter ego, has the money and phone numbers of estranged relatives and dates at home, and is determined that he will change his other self's life for the better. As one continues to press for change, the other sickens. This is an interesting concept as we only gradually saw who was good and who was evil, and it kept me wanting to know who would win. The ending was amusing and the score, with a South American flute, had to be one of the best I've ever heard on TV. I give "Shatterday" a 10 and "A Little Peace and Quiet" a 6, so this episode totals up to a nice happy 8. Not bad for this show at all.
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