Just one of the Twilight Zone openings that credited Earl Hamner Jr. as the episode writer.
Thank You Earl Hamner Jr.,
For Writing All Those Twilight Zone Episodes
By Richard Mabey Jr.
Earl Hamner Jr. wrote a total of eight Twilight Zone episodes. In my humble opinion, they were among some of the all-time best TZ episodes. My single favorite Earl Hamner Jr. TZ is “The Bewitchin’ Pool.” There is something very special about this particular TZ episode. It was the 156th TZ episode to be produced. It was the last original TZ episode to ever be aired.
Many of you are probably very familiar with this episode. A young brother and sister escape their parents’ squabbling by swimming to the bottom of their family swimming pool, to escape to a magical place where children are given unconditional love and respect. They are loved and nourished by a kind and gentle elderly woman, whom the children know as “Aunt T.”
In many ways, when you watch this TZ episode, there is this subtle feeling that Aunt T is the predecessor to Grandma Walton. And, of course, the children living in Aunt T’s fantasy world are very much akin to the endearing Walton children. For some reason, this episode touched my heart in a special way. It was a most fitting and proper episode to conclude the run of one of television’s greatest dramatic series.
Two prime time television shows had a profound effect upon my childhood. Obviously one is the The Twilight Zone. The other one is The Andy Griffith Show. The big difference of course is that one was a science fiction drama and the other one was a show of down-home humor. But both had common themes of the need for all people to be treated with dignity and respect.
In September of 1963, I had just turned 10 and started the fifth grade. There was this television show, The Twilight Zone, that all of my buddies were talking about. But the year before it ran from nine o’clock till 10 o’clock at night on Thursdays, a school night! One of my mom’s strictest rules was that bedtime was at eight-thirty at night on school nights! No exceptions.
But then in September of 1963, Twilight Zone was moved from Thursday nights to Friday nights, airing at nine-thirty till 10 o’clock. Now, I had a chance to see this TV show that all the fellows were talking about. For I thought that Mom just might let me stay up later, being it was not a school night.
Somehow and someway, Mom did allow me stay up till ten o’clock to watch The Twilight Zone. Mostly because I could sleep a little later the next morning. And, wow, did that show ever have a profound effect upon me. It was like no other show that I had ever seen before. There were no recurring characters. There was a kind of unspoken suspense about each episode. And, the shows were scary without necessarily having horrible monsters popping up all over the place.
Earl Hamner Jr.’s Twilight Zone episodes would often have a southern perspective. They would have this down-home feeling, with a pinch of suspense and horror skillfully woven in. It wasn’t the typical Saturday afternoon matinee chiller theater type of thing. Instead, it was more subtle, a kind of unspoken suspense that created a greater eerie feeling than the Wolfman, the Creature from the Black Lagoon and Frankenstein combined, could ever succeed in creating.
So often when we think of Earl Hamner Jr.’s contribution to television, we immediately think of The Waltons. And, in my opinion, The Waltons, is one of the all-time greatest family dramas to ever grace the television screen. But we often overlook Earl Hamner’s enormous contribution to The Twilight Zone.
It’s tough to find the words, which would be adequate to thank Mr. Hamner for his contribution to TZ. The Twilight Zone had a profound effect upon thousands and thousands of people’s lives. It still does, as it is still played on so many cable television stations. Not to mention the many TZ marathons that television stations have from time to time.
There seems to be no incredibly fancy way to thank Earl Hamner Jr. Instead it’s just a time to be sincere and earnest. And simply say thank you Earl Hamner Jr. for your role in shaping The Twilight Zone. No doubt, one of the greatest television shows of all time!