It's a Good Life (The Twilight Zone)
|"It's a Good Life"|
|The Twilight Zone episode|
|Directed by||James Sheldon|
|Written by||Rod Serling from the story "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 anthology 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 Magazine 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. 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 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 and he must listen to it at home. Getting drunk from the brandy, he starts complaining about the miserable state of the town, not listening to the record, and no one singing "Happy Birthday" to him. Anthony at first ignores him after telling him to be quiet. Dan eventually snaps with repressed rage surfacing 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 had done, and his father asks him to wish it into the cornfield, which he does.
Anthony 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 6, 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 map background intro which is seen at the beginning of this episode, was recycled and edited with a sound-alike voiceover artist to place him within the library preshow introduction for The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror attractions at Disney theme parks. The library room also contains other numerous episode artifacts from The Twilight Zone TV series such as Serling's name engraved on a shelf, books titled with all the episode names from the series, and a broken pair of glasses from "Time Enough At Last," among many other things.
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.
An updated remake of this episode with a lighter ending, written by Richard Matheson and directed by Joe Dante, was featured as the third segment of 1983's Twilight Zone: The Movie. Bill Mumy also made a cameo appearance in the segment.
The episode "Johnny Real Good" from Johnny Bravo is also based in 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 an 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.
In the 2002 revival series, a sequel to this episode was broadcast, entitled "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.
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Played by Mumy's real life daughter, Liliana Mumy
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- Diaz, Junot. Penguin Books New York (2007) The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao p.g 224