i dig the new twilight zone but slightly prefer columbo episodes from the ’60s

Last night I brought a pizza home from work and when I got to the apartment at 11 my roommate was there on the couch watching Twilight Zone, the new one with Jordan Peele, so we sat together and watched the show and killed the pizza and the episode was about these parents grieving the death (suicide?) of their teenage daughter, sorta disassembling her bedroom now that she’s gone, when suddenly they hear a noise down in the basement and so they go down there with a flashlight because the power’s out and eventually their beam settles upon this gelatinous and many-toothed monster, an alien(!), and so they run back upstairs and they grab a stick (what else?) and then return to the basement, determined to kill this gelatinous monster thing, but when they confront it again they find that the monster is assuming the shape of their dead daughter.

One thing leads to another, the alien follows them up the stairs, slither-shambles into their daughter’s room, and reads all her diaries, listens to all of her recordings, and ultimately “becomes” their daughter’s mind. Learns how to simulate her consciousness, her sensibility, etc. 

The alien confesses that it came here with the intention of invading and probably destroying the planet, but that it’s become so enamored of human emotion that it doesn’t wanna conquer the world anymore. It just wants to go on living as their teenage daughter.

To each their own.

The mom is won over, prepared to adopt this facsimile as her real kid, but meanwhile the dad’s like, “What the fuck? No! It just told us it’s an invading alien! That’s not our kid!”

This is all played very straight.

Finally he delivers a soliloquy about how the aliens have learned that Love is humanity’s greatest weakness. We lower our defenses in the face of it. 

Good story. Kinda hammy but I liked it.

Then I got pensive, “Once upon a time, virtually all of television was like this. Stand-alone stories with neon messages. Anthologies. Made-for-TV movies. Movie of the Week. Million-Dollar Movie.”

One of my all-time favorite shows is Columbo, particularly episodes from the late ‘60s and early ‘70s (it’s something I haven’t really talked about here or on the podcast but man I fuckin love me some Columbo), and I really dig how, from episode to episode, there isn’t a single thread of continuity…except the recurrence of this character, who almost never appears until the second act.

A character whom we feel that we know very well…even though we don’t know anything about him at all. We never see Detective Columbo in his private life. He’s always playing this aloof, bumbling, observant character while interacting with the yet-to-be-caught murderer–and then, by the end of the episode, he drops the act and reveals how brilliantly he’s been assessing the situation. 

That feels a bit more true-to-life. At least for me. 

I walk around Little Havana and Brickell and the Gables, I go to bars and coffee shops and wherever it is that I buy pens, and I see the same people over and over. I don’t know anything about their private lives, and each encounter with them is a self-contained episode, but they’re familiar to me. Maybe calming.

Then again, we don’t necessarily go to television for depictions of things that are “true to life.” And for some reason I have to steel myself in order to watch an anthology. I’m even dodgy about reading short stories. I seem to feel that, if I haven’t consumed an expansive story, I haven’t done something worthwhile.

Reader, that’s dumb.

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