It's a Good Life (The Twilight Zone)
|"It's a Good Life"|
|The Twilight Zone episode|
|Episode no.||Season 3|
|Directed by||James Sheldon|
|Teleplay by||Rod Serling|
|Based on||"It's a Good Life" by Jerome Bixby|
|Featured music||Stock plus "Moonglow" and "Stardust"|
|Original air date||November 3, 1961|
"It's a Good Life" is episode 73 of the American television series The Twilight Zone. It is based on the 1953 short story "It's a Good Life" by Jerome Bixby and is considered by some, such as Time and TV Guide, to be one of the best episodes of the series. It originally aired on November 3, 1961.
Tonight's story on The Twilight Zone is somewhat unique and calls for a different kind of introduction. This, as you may recognize, is a map of the United States, and there's a little town there called Peaksville. On a given morning not too long ago, the rest of the world disappeared and Peaksville was left all alone. Its inhabitants were never sure whether the world was destroyed and only Peaksville left untouched or whether the village had somehow been taken away. They were, on the other hand, sure of one thing: the cause. A monster had arrived in the village. Just by using his mind, he took away the automobiles, the electricity, the machines—because they displeased him—and he moved an entire community back into the dark ages—just by using his mind. Now I'd like to introduce you to some of the people in Peaksville, Ohio. This is Mr. Fremont. It's in his farmhouse that the monster resides. This is Mrs. Fremont. And this is Aunt Amy, who probably had more control over the monster in the beginning than almost anyone. But one day she forgot. She began to sing aloud. Now, the monster doesn't like singing, so his mind snapped at her, turned her into the smiling, vacant thing you're looking at now. She sings no more. And you'll note that the people in Peaksville, Ohio have to smile. They have to think happy thoughts and say happy things because, once displeased, the monster can wish them into a cornfield or change them into a grotesque, walking horror. This particular monster can read minds, you see. He knows every thought, he can feel every emotion. Oh yes, I did forget something, didn't I? I forgot to introduce you to the monster. This is the monster. His name is Anthony Fremont. He's six years old, with a cute little-boy face and blue, guileless eyes. But when those eyes look at you, you'd better start thinking happy thoughts, because the mind behind them is absolutely in charge. This is the Twilight Zone.
Six-year-old Anthony Fremont has godlike mental powers, including mind-reading. He has isolated his town of Peaksville, Ohio, from the rest of the universe. The people must thus grow their own food, and supplies of common household items, such as bar soap, have been dwindling. He has blocked television signals and caused cars not to work. He creates horrible creatures, such as three-headed gophers, which he then kills. Everybody is under his rule, even his parents. The people live in fear of him, constantly telling him how everything he does is "good," since he banishes anyone thinking unhappy thoughts into the otherworldly cornfield from which there is no return. Never having experienced any form of discipline, Anthony does not even understand that his actions are wrong, and is confused when his father tells him that the neighbors are reluctant to let their children play with him after he sent several of his playmates to the cornfield.
One night each week, Anthony gives the townsfolk one hour of television, which he creates and projects onto the family TV set. The adults gather around in the Fremonts' living room, squirming uncomfortably as Anthony shows them a vision of screaming dinosaurs, engaged in a gory battle. Unable to voice their real feelings, they tell Anthony that it was far better than what used to be on TV.
After the program is over, the adults celebrate Dan Hollis' birthday. He gets two presents from his wife: a bottle of brandy (which is one of only five bottles of liquor left in the village) and a Perry Como record. Dan is eager to listen to the record, but he's reminded by everyone that Anthony does not like singing. Getting drunk from the brandy, he starts complaining about the miserable state of the town, not being able to listen to the record, and no one singing "Happy Birthday" to him. Dan snaps and confronts the child, calling him a monster and a murderer. While Anthony's anger grows, Dan yells for someone to attack Anthony from behind and end his reign of terror. Aunt Amy (who isn't able to sing anymore because of Anthony) tentatively reaches for a fireplace poker, but no one has the courage to act. Anthony transforms Dan into a jack-in-the-box, causing his wife to break down. The adults are horrified at what Anthony has done, and his father asks him to wish Dan into the cornfield, which Anthony does.
He then causes snow to begin falling outside. The snow will kill off at least half the crops and the town will face starvation. Anthony's father starts to rebuke Anthony about this, but his wife and the other adults look on with worried smiles on their faces. The father then smiles and tells Anthony in a terrified voice, "...But it's good you're making it snow. A real good thing. And tomorrow... tomorrow's gonna be a... real good day!"
No comment here, no comment at all. We only wanted to introduce you to one of our very special citizens, little Anthony Fremont, age six, who lives in a village called Peaksville, in a place that used to be Ohio. And, if by some strange chance, you should run across him, you had best think only good thoughts. Anything less than that is handled at your own risk, because if you do meet Anthony, you can be sure of one thing: you have entered The Twilight Zone.
- John Larch as Mr. Fremont
- Cloris Leachman as Mrs. Fremont
- Don Keefer as Dan Hollis
- Billy Mumy as Anthony Fremont
- Alice Frost as Aunt Amy
- Max Showalter (as Casey Adams) as Pat Riley
- Jeanne Bates as Ethel Hollis
- Lenore Kingston as Thelma Dunn
- Tom Hatcher as Bill Soames
Reception and legacy
Rod Serling's introduction at the beginning of this episode was recycled and digitally edited for the preshow of the Disney Parks attraction The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. In the preshow video, Serling stands in front of a service elevator door, rather than a map of the United States, and explains to guests the journey they're about to experience. The attraction, which first opened at Disney-MGM Studios in 1994, almost two decades after Serling's death, is an homage to the original series with an original story based on it. When conceiving the attraction, Disney Imagineers wanted to include Serling in the attraction and opted for a voice artist to play him; Mark Silverman was chosen by Serling's widow to provide his voice. A poster advertising "Anthony Fremont's Orchestra" is displayed next to the concierge desk in the lobby of the attraction, an ironic reference to Anthony's hate for music.
In 1997 TV Guide ranked the episode number 31 on its 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time list.
In a 1974 interview with Marvel Comics, Rod Serling said "I'm on my third draft of a feature film based on Jerome Bixby's short story, 'It's a Good Life'. We did it originally on Twilight Zone but now we're doing a full-length version. Alan Landsburg, who produced Chariots of the Gods, is producing it. It's in the fantasy-horror genre." This was one of Serling's last interviews before his death in 1975.
In The Omen series, the Antichrist as a child has supernatural powers similar to the main character.
The 1980 song "Cemetery Girls" by novelty rock group Barnes & Barnes refers to the episode in its lyrics ("Fresh souls in the cornfield...Anthony put them there..."), and with samples of lines. Since the album was released several years before fictional twin brothers Art (Bill Mumy) Barnes and Artie (Robert Haimer) went "public" about their identities, the reference is somewhat of an in-joke.
This episode is evoked in The Regulators, a 1996 novel by Stephen King writing under the pseudonym Richard Bachman, in which an alien entity with psychic powers possesses young Seth Garin and uses his abilities to kill Seth's parents, terrorizes the folks that subsequently take Seth in, and isolates the suburban street on which they live from the rest of the world while turning it into a child's version of the Old West.
The 1997 episode "Johnny Real Good" from Johnny Bravo is also based on this episode. Johnny has to babysit a boy named Timmy, who also has supernatural powers and sends Johnny several times to a nearby cornfield for "thinking bad thoughts."
The episode was referenced in a 1997 episode of The Drew Carey Show in which Drew enters his house and calls out for his parents. When they don’t reply, he says “I must have wished them to the cornfield.” (Season 2, Episode 12.)
The episode was referenced in a 2015 episode of Better Call Saul, "Bingo" in which Howard tells Jimmy that Kim was moved to the East Wing of his law firm, to which Jimmy responds "The East Wing? That's the corn field, why are you sending her to the corn field?"
The episode was referenced in a 2007 episode of American Dad!, "I Can't Stan You", where Stan listened in on his neighbors' private conversations. Anyone who was heard criticizing him had their house seized by the CIA and was summarily banished to the Cornfield Motel.
The episode was referenced in the season two premiere of Martin, "Do You Remember the Time?". During a (false) memory of when Martin Payne met his girlfriend, Gina, Gina cries out, "You're a bad man! You're a very bad man!" as Martin holds Gina hostage from the police. This is the phrase Anthony yells at Dan Hollis shortly before turning him into a jack-in-the-box and banishing him to the corn field.
Fallout 3's quest Tranquility Lane pulls heavy inspiration from this episode.
In the 2002 revival series, a sequel to this episode was broadcast, titled "It's Still a Good Life". In the episode, Anthony is a middle-aged man who now has a daughter Audrey who has inherited his powers. Bill Mumy and Cloris Leachman reprised their roles from the original episode. Anthony Fremont's daughter, Audrey, is played by actor Bill Mumy's real-life daughter Liliana Mumy.
A commercial for Me-TV airing on that channel in 2015 features an adult Bill Mumy as adult Anthony intercut with scenes from the original episode, apparently interacting as the adult Anthony uses his powers to beam Me-TV to little Anthony's set. In early 2017, the network used clips from this episode in promos for the show's late-night reruns.
- "Top 10 Twilight Zone episodes". Time. October 5, 2009. Retrieved February 15, 2020.
- MacDonald, Brady (July 28, 2015). "Disney voice-over actors bring theme park rides to life". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 30, 2017.
- TV Guide Guide to TV. Barnes and Noble. 2004. p. 667. ISBN 0-7607-5634-1.
- Rod Serling Recalls—'Marvel Planet of the Apes' UK Issue 12 (1975)
- ""Barnes & Barnes - Cemetery Girls"". YouTube. Retrieved July 9, 2019.
- "I Can't Stan You". TBS.
- Second Life; Second Life Wiki
- "Bill Mumy—Biography". Billmumy.com. Retrieved June 22, 2007.
- "The Twilight Zone". Zap2it.com. Archived from the original on April 9, 2008. Retrieved June 22, 2007.
- "The Twilight Zone Special Remake Episodes". Sci Fi Weekly. Archived from the original on August 6, 2007. Retrieved June 22, 2007.
Played by Mumy's real life daughter, Liliana Mumy
- Zicree, Marc Scott: The Twilight Zone Companion. Sillman-James Press, 1982 (second edition)
- DeVoe, Bill. (2008). Trivia from The Twilight Zone. Albany, GA: Bear Manor Media. ISBN 978-1-59393-136-0
- Grams, Martin. (2008). The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic. Churchville, MD: OTR Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9703310-9-0
- Diaz, Junot. Penguin Books New York (2007) The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao p.g 224
- Wiater, Stan, et al. (2007). The Stephen King Universe: The Guide to the Worlds of the King of Horror (1st ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Renaissance Books. p. 427. ISBN 978-0-525-94190-3