Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Twilight Zone: Episode 1.12 "What You Need" (December 25, 1959)

The brilliant Peter Metrinko from Chantilly, Virginia recently emailed me with a Scranton reference featured in an episode of the very first season of the classic CBS television series The Twilight Zone.

Narrated by Rod Sterling, The Twilight Zone focused on ordinary people who suddenly found themselves in extraordinary (sometimes supernatural) situations. The stories would typically end with an ironic twist that would see the guilty punished. It premiered on October 2, 1959 and ran for five seasons on CBS until 1964, running a total of 156 episodes (138 half-hour shows and 18 hour-long episodes). The final episode aired June 19, 1964.

On Christmas night, Friday, December 25th, 1959, an episode titled "What You Need," was first broadcasted. "What You Need," the 12th episode of the inaugural season, told the story of an old eccentric Pedott (Ernest Truex), who wanders the streets and in bars offering people "what they need," whether it be matches, shoelaces, scissors--he seems to have exactly the item he forsees a person will need in the immediate future. When a grifter (Steve Cochran) at the bar sees his clairvoyant powers firsthand, he starts manipulating Pedott for his own financial gain.

The Scranton reference occurs in an early scene at the bar where the skeptical conman Fred sees Pedott's accurate predictions firsthand. A bartender relates a story about one of the patrons sitting at the bar, a down-on-his-luck former baseball pitcher named "Lefty" whose professional career has ended with his pitching arm nonfunctioning and him drowning his depression in the bar every night:

Pedott: I know what it is you need. Right here. (takes a piece of paper from his basket and hands it to Lefty) Take it.

Lefty: Bus ticket?

Pedott: That's right. That's what it is. A bus ticket.

Lefty: Bus ticket to Scranton, Pennsylvania. (laughs) Now what's in Scranton, Pennsylvania, old man?

Pedott: One never knows.

Bartender: (laughs) Coal mines. That's what's in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Nice, lovely, beautiful coal mines. You can't pitch with that arm anymore, Lefty. Maybe you can dig with it. (laughs)

Suddenly, Lefty is called to the pay phone. When he returns to the bar, the good news from the phone call is revealed.

Bartender: Dead rich uncle? Or did your horse come in?

Lucky: No. Crazy. Real crazy. Old manager of mine, been looking for me for three weeks. Got me a job. Coaching job. Minor league club in Scra... (looks at the ticket in his hand) Scranton, Pennsylvania. Wants me to take a bus there. He wants me to take a bus there, how 'bout that?

For a complete description of the episode "What You Need," click here.

Season One of The Twilight Zone is available on DVD. VHS copies with 4 classic episodes from the series on each tape, including the episode "What You Need," are available to borrow from Valley Community Library. To place a hold for the VHS ("What You Need" is the third episode on Volume 1 of the set), click here.

A GREAT BIG THANK YOU again to the incredible Peter Metrinko for this Scranton reference. I promise to post all the other Scranton references you included in your email to me as time permits.

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