Twilight Zone Tuesday – Static


Static – Season 2 – Episode 20

Ed Lindsay – Dean Jagger
Vinnie – Carmen Matthews
Professor Ackerman – Robert Emhardt
Roscoe Bragg – Arch Johnson
Mrs. Nielson – Alice Pearce
Miss Meredith – Lillian O’Malley
Mr. Llewellyn – Pat O’Malley
The Boy – Stephen Holt

We slowly move up to what looks like a genteel boarding house with ‘Rooms for Rent’. Inside there’s an assortment of middle aged and above men and women watching tv. The camera comes to rest on two men playing checkers. Sort of. One of them isn’t paying attention and the other man is getting grouchy. Ed finally gets the other’s attention but he moves the wrong colour and goes back to watching tv. Ed wins and then sourly watches everyone else watching tv, The tv is playing an ad for ‘chlorophyll cigarettes’. The smoke that doesn’t smell like smoke but…grass? Hmm, which kind? I wonder if they’re talking about menthols?

Ed gets irritated and wants to know what’s wrong with everyone? Are they hypnotized? A lady on the sofa scolds him and tells him if he doesn’t like it he can ask for another channel. He says forget it but goes to change the channel anyway. He flips through a few stations: a car race, some guy singing “Little Brown Jug” (which everyone disapproves of, at least they disapprove of the way the guy is singing) and a guy selling land for a quarter a week. Ed gets irritated and pokes fun at the television commercial before heading down to the basement, muttering to himself. As he digs through the junk in the basement he comes across a picture of a young man and woman. It makes him smile for a minute and the lady looks suspiciously like a younger version of one of the ladies upstairs. A kid is looking through the mesh of the basement window (wouldn’t that flood?) and asks Ed what he’s got there? Ed says it’s a radio and the kid asks him what it does. Well, he does know what a radio does but he’s never seen one like the one Ed is picking up (remarkably easily for how big it is).

No one ever saw one quite like that, because that’s a very special sort of radio. In its day, circa 1935, its type was one of the most elegant consoles on the market. Now, with its fabric-covered speakers, its peculiar yellow dial, its serrated knobs, it looks quaint and a little strange. Mr. Ed Lindsay is going to find out how strange very soon. When he tunes into the Twilight Zone.

The boy is helping Ed take the radio up the stairs. The Professor asks what he’s got there and the lady from the photograph bounces down the stairs to look at it. She says she remembers it but she thought he’d thrown it out. Ed replies that he’s never thrown anything away that was worth keeping. From the look she gives him I’m guessing that there was at least one thing he threw away that he should have kept.

The Professor asks if Ed needs any help but Ed rudely refuses him saying he “doesn’t want to disturb him”. He and the boy cart it upstairs while the Professor watches. Upstairs Ed plugs the radio in and the boy asks Ed if he thinks it will still work. Ed turns it on and rock music plays. The boy likes it and strts snapping his fingers. Stop. I’m getting Spiderman 3 flashbacks. Annoyed, Ed shoves some money in the kid’s hand and tells him to get lost. Go buy a switchblade. Seriously. That’s what he says. Not even a thank you. After the kid leaves Ed is happy to be alone with his radio. So happy that he immediately starts fiddling with his knobs. He gives it a whack and the radio begins playing big band music. The song ends and the DJ says thank you to Tommy Dorsey and exhorts the listeners to listen to the applause. Ed, comfy on his bed with a book claps along. Up next is Major Bowes and his Amateur Hour. After the speaker is done, however, the radio goes to static. He whacks the radio again and gets a modern station. This displeases him and he whacks it again until he gets a good station from the past.

Somebody knocks on the door and Ed is irritated. He opens it and it’s the woman from earlier, Vinnie. He charmingly asks her what she wants. She tells him cheerfully that dinners ready. He says he’s not hungry but apparently Mrs. Nielson does not approve of boarders skipping meals. I noticed that was a big thing back in the day. A lady who owned a boarding house was rated on the table she kept. Whether she was stingy or not. If you’ll forgive a bit of an aside there were a couple that stuck out to me. One in a story called ‘The Hall Bedroom’ by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman the renter of said hall bedroom (which apparently was disgraceful for some reason?) comments that the lady who runs the house is conscientious about keeping a good table and giving her renters their money’s worth rather than try to scrape a bit more off the top by feeding them at little cost. The other was in True Grit (the John Wayne one, not the remake). When the hunky, aptly named La Boeuf (they invariably pronounce it La Beef in the movie and isn’t ‘La’ the feminine form? It’s been a while since French class). Anywho, during the dinner scene La Beef compliments the lady of the house on her dinner and one of the other diners tells him to be careful, the chicken and dumplings will hurt his eyes. La Beef asks how and the other boarder jokes that he’ll hurt his eyes looking for the chicken. LaBeef just gives him a withering look (and it does seem like a lame joke since at that moment La Beef is pulling a huge chicken leg out of the pot (with his bare fingers…ick).

Well, that was fun but back to Ed and his not-so-fun bitchiness. He turns off his radio and whips over to the ever-patient (and ever-awesome) Vinnie. Later I’ll tell you why I like her so much, apart from this episode. He says women have always been running his life (hahahaha, in between the thirties and fifties? Whatever.) “Do this, do that. Come to dinner, don’t come to dinner”. Vinnie breaks in and says, “Frankly Mr. Lindsay I don’t care whether you starve to death. I just wants to make sure it’s on purpose and not because you’d forgotten that food is available.” To which I say, “So there!” She stomps off as he says he’s not quite that old yet.

Downstairs Ed is being terribly rude and humming at the table. Mrs. Nielsen none-so-gently brings it to his attention. Despite the scene upstairs Ed actually seems to be in a good mood while he eats his pudding (so I’m guessing he ate his meat because he’s got his pudding. I’m sorrynotsorry.) The Professor with the pipe asks Ed what he was humming. They both start humming the tune together and get a double disapproval look from Mrs. Nielsen. They identify the song as “Getting Sentimental Over You”. Ed says that he heard it on the radio that afternoon, live from – but the killjoy across the table cuts him off and says he couldn’t have listened to it live because Tommy Dorsey is dead. Ed replies a bit sarcastically and says “You don’t say?” then asks what about Major Bowes and the youngster says he doesn’t know who that is. Ed says that he’s dead too but he heard Tommy Dorsey and Major Dorsey that afternoon on the radio. Smarmy Killjoy, who’s name (appropriately) seems to be Bragg, says it couldn’t be. Ed asks how Bragg can have such a tiny brain but such a big mouth. Bragg gets offended and starts to say something but Mr. Professor breaks in saying that he thinks what Ed is trying to say is that some of the radio stations must have been playing recordings of the shows. Bragg dismisses this saying that they didn’t have tape in those days. No, but they did have phonographs you nimrod. The Professor agrees saying that they had wires and other things back then. Ed throws in that they also had good music back then. And plays that were real magic. Bragg chuckles to himself and says he doubts it. Ed jeers at this (as do I, look up Suspense – Ghost Hunt on YT and you’ll hear a great one). Ed mocks him and says “Mr. Bragg doubts it. Mr. Bragg, who watches tv until his brains turn into oatmeal and his eyes roll down his face into his beer”. That…sounds uncomfortable.

Ed goes off in search of the portable radio because Mr. Bragg is a ‘modern man’ and needs to be proven wrong. Mrs. Nielsen thinks Ed is crazy and turns to Vinnie to say “you were very lucky to not marry that man”. Vinnie takes a sip of her coffee. Vinnie doesn’t say anything, just takes an agitated sip of coffee. Ed brings back the portable radio to teach that whippersnapper Bragg a lesson. Ed can’t find it in a whole three seconds so Bragg laughs at him. Bragg says he can’t wait. Gunsmoke is on in five minutes. Everyone else gets excited and leaves the table. Apparently it’s only polite to ditch the table for television but not to grab a radio. The only people left at the table are Ed, Mr. Professor and Vinnie. Ed says he’s not surprised he can’t pick anything up on such a dinky little radio. Hey, it’s not the size of the radio that counts but the size of the antenna! Mr. Professor asks if Ed can remember the name of the station and Ed replies that he heard the DJ mention a WPDA (WPublicDisplayofAffection?) call sign then suggests they go up to his room to listen. Mr. Professor readily agrees. Making Ed’s earlier “hate to tear you away from the tv” comment earlier even more of a jerk thing to say. Obviously Mr. Professor likes the oldies just as much as Ed. Mr. Professor asks Vinnie to join them, saying that he’d really like to hear that program. Vinnie gives him a smile even though she looked a bit sad before.

Upstairs Ed is trying to get the radio tuned into the same station but not having any luck. Mr. P and Vinnie knock on the door and enter the room. Mr. P is looking somewhat excited and Vinnie looks a little nervous. Ed says he can’t seem to get it tuned in. Mr. P suggests that perhaps they’re having technical difficulties and suggests calling the station. Ed thinks that’s a great idea and rushes off to call. Wow. That’s straight up dedicated! I think I would have just shrugged it off and said let’s try it again tomorrow. Ed is way too excited by this and calls information to get the number for the WPDA station. Good luck with that, buddy. I couldn’t get a business address because apparently the town I was in doesn’t exist….go figure. Ed almost giggles with Mr. P and they reminisce about Major Bowes who says “round and round she goes and where she stops, nobody knows” (is that where that started?). The Information Lady gets back to Ed and he gives a few flat “ohs” before hanging up. Then he goes back to his room. Vinnie is waiting there quietly and Mr. P asks what the lady said. Ed replies that she told him that WPDA has been out of business for 13 years. Mr. P says that maybe he got some cross interference and picked up another state or even another country. Ed says that the DJ specifically said Cedarburg. That doesn’t mean there’s not another Cedarburg somewhere else in the United States. Hell, I just found out a week or so ago that there’s a London, Canada (yeah, Geography was never my strong suit). Vinnie, who has been thumbing through a newspaper says that there’s no listing for them in the paper. Were they actually listed in the paper?

Ed’s a bit flummoxed but doesn’t seem too upset by it. He swears he heard it. Vinnie asks the Professor if it would be so impossible? Mr P says impossible is a dangerous word as what was impossible a few years ago is now commonplace. Mr. P doesn’t say anything rude, or act like Ed is lying. He just calls it highly unlikely and waddles off. As Mr. P is leaving Ed asks what he heard then? Mr. P just says that he can’t say and continues out the door. Vinnie tries to talk to him but Ed goes back to fiddling with his knobs so she leaves him alone and goes after Mr. P. Vinnie asks if he thinks that Ed really heard the programs. Mr. P hesitates a bit and says that he believes that Ed believes he heard them. As they’re talking in the hall Ed tunes in a speech from the White House and the President of the United States…Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He seems about ready to call them back but sits down to listen to the radio.

A day later, I’m assuming. Mr. Professor and Ed kind of wear the same kind of clothes all of the time but Vinnie’s dress is different. Ed comes running i into the tv room to call Mr. P and Vinnie, saying he really has it this time. Bragg pokes fun and says they’ll hear nothing but static. Mrs. Nielsen calls Ed “that poor man, he’s quite gone. Completely psychological”. Vinnie and Mr. P come in but it’s obviously gone again. He says it was Tommy Dorsey again, playing “Getting Sentimental Over You” again. It shows Vinnie again, when he says what music it was. So I’m guessing the song was special to them. And Ed doesn’t think it’s odd that it seems as though it only plays a few specific songs? Ed asks Mr. Professor why he loses it whenever anyone else is around. Mr. Professor tells Ed that he’s sure they’ll hear it soon and leaves Ed and Vinnie alone. Vinnie looks as though she’s hesitant to say something.  Ed sees Vinnie still there and asks what she wants. She says she was hoping they might talk a little.

He says “Talk away but don’t get too close, I might start climbing the walls, barking like a dog” in other words he thinks that she thinks he’s crazy. Vinnie’s had enough, though. She tells him if he’d stop talking she’d tell him what she thinks. He sits. And she starts. She tells him that right now he’s the meanest, sourest, most cantankerous old man in the world.” He says thanks a lot and she replies that she’s not much better. They’ve been ‘living like hermits’ the last twenty years, staring at each other and wondering for the last twenty years what went wrong. He tries to play dumb but she’s not having it. Apparently they were going to get married. He starts to interrupt but she says to cool it, she’s not trying to change anything. She’s just talking.

They met there in the boarding house in 1940 and he proposed to her there. When she wanted to set a date his mother was ill. So they waited until the waiting became too long and it was too late. He starts to interrupt again but she stops him. She says she knows he doesn’t think of her that way now. She’s just a silly woman who watches tv, dyes her hair and grows older. She’s pretty sure he doesn’t even like her anymore. She says they both are what they are. They had their chance and missed it. She says that she’ll tell him one thing that’s true and she knows it’s true. He loved her as much as any man ever loved a woman. She asks if it’s true. With a pained expression he says yes, it was true. She says that now he’s in love with what they might have been. What they could have been. Every time that year would have been their anniversary so every year around that time he gets unhappy. He wants to go back to that time and do it over again. That’s why he keeps hearing that song and those programs. They used to listen to them together. He looks very sad, almost like he’s about to cry and says he’d forgotten. She tells him that when he hears them he feels like a young man again with his whole life ahead of him but it isn’t so. They missed their chance.

He accuses her of saying it’s all in his head. She says that’s not what she thinks at all but he tells her to get out and leave him alone. After he boots her out he turns on his precious radio and there’s a program going about Allen’s Alley in Portland and the senator’s home tonight with his hound dog? Ummkay. Ed grabs some pillows off the bed and relaxes on the floor (but looks very uncomfortable doing so). Whatever he’s listening to he finds insanely funny and I don’t get it. It’s senator Cleghorn and when he eats crackers in bed he only eats Georgia crackers? I dunno, I guess I’m just another young whippersnapper raised on too much tv.

Either way, his pretend radio has got him in a good mood. He brings in the groceries rather cheerfully. Mr. Professor asks if Ed would like to play a game of checkers but Ed says no way! His programs are starting soon. Vinnie asks if he’d like some lemonade bu he says no and asks “What’s that funny looking thing?” about the tv and laughs because that’s jst too darn funny, I guess. He says that when he started listening to radio again he kept wondering about the picture tube but then remembered, it’s all in his head! Imagination is wonderful, you know the rest. Vinnie and Mr. P share an odd look as Ed heads upstairs to listen to his programs. Ed bursts into his room all happy but his radio isn’t there anymore. Mr. P and Vinnie look at each other and Ed calls out “what happened to my radio?” Mr. P goes up to tell him. Apparently they gave it to the junk dealer.

Understandably Ed is very, very unhappy about this. I would be too! I don’t care if they were trying to ‘help’ him, it wasn’t theirs to give away! The next scene is Ed at the junk dealers, place, looking for his radio. He goes and grabs it and starts carting it away. The dealer comes down and they start to argue about it. The dealer says he picked it up that morning but if Ed wants to buy it then he’ll gladly sell it to him. Ed asks how much and the dealer starts going into his spiel. Ed doesn’t care, he just wants to know how much. The guy says ten bucks. Ed hands it over and grabs his precious radio. He also says that it had better still work or its going to cost the junk dealer, it’s going to cost a lot of people (presumably Vinnie and Mr. P)

Fortunately it still works. Ed calls for Vinnie to come up quick, Tommy Dorsey’s on. A much younger Vinnie comes running into the room and the room looks a bit different. Ed has also become a young man, as well. Well, he should be happy. He’s back in The Past. They embrace a PG embrace.

Around and around she goes and where she stops, nobody knows. All Ed Lindsay knows is that he desperately wanted a second chance and he finally got it through a strange and wonderful time machine called a radio.

One of the many Escape to the Past episodes. This one ends a little unclear, though. Is Ed actually in the past? Did he disappear from the future? Is he dead? It doesn’t really say. I guess it’s up to us to decide. It’s also one of the few episodes to not include the Twilight Zone in its outro. I really like the actress that plays Vinnie. I’ve on;y seen her on this and M*A*S*H but she’s great in both episodes. I like her character in this except for that last part. You don’t just give something away that belongs to someone else, no matter how ‘worried’ you are about them. Weirdly though the show seems to lean towards “watching tv for hours makes your brain turn to mush” but staying holed up in your room listening to the radio for hours on end doesn’t. Just because you use your imagination more with a radio the fact is that you’re still sitting by yourself in a room. I don’t see much of a difference.

Join us again for next week’s Twilight Zone Tuesday: Prime Mover

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading Disqus Comments ...
Loading Facebook Comments ...