Film and TV

Top ten Twilight Zone references in pop culture

The groundbreaking sci-fi series The Twilight Zone is still socially relevant, and it's also inspired much social satire since it first appeared on television sets in 1959. The homage and spoofs range from many Simpsons episodes to a Melvins song to the Theater Company of Lafayette's Return to the Twilight Zone (Volume 8), A Parody, which opens tonight at the Mary Miller Theater.

Here are the top ten Twilight Zone references pop culture.

10. The airplane scene in Bridesmaids In a hilarious homage, Kristen Wiig's character, drunk and doped up on an airplane, begins to get paranoid a la William Shatner in "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet." But instead of a gremlin on the wing, Wiig thinks she sees a colonial woman churning butter.

9. Many, many "Treehouse of Horror" Simpsons episodes Whether it's Bart seeing a gremlin on the side of the school bus in "Terror at 5 1/2 Feet," Homer purchasing an evil Krusty doll as a nod to the episode "Living Doll," or the family being abducted by aliens akin to the ones in TZ episode "To Serve Man," The Simpsons constantly revisits The Twilight Zone in its Halloween specials. Homer says it best in the cartoon based on "Little Girl Lost," where he enters the 3rd dimension: "It's like something out of that twilighty show about that zone." 8. "Help For The Lovelorn," the black and white episode of Felicity Say what you will about the melodrama of Felicity, her hair or whatever, but this TZ-themed episode is pretty awesome. Done all in black and white and directed by former TZ director Lamont Johnson, it's an eerie tribute. Felicity plays (as usual) a lovelorn girl who seeks help from a creepy clinic to heal her broken heart, and the visit ends up going terribly awry and finishes as a parody of the classic episode "Five Characters in Search of an Exit."

7. "The Brain Center at Whipple's" by The Melvins This track borrows its title from an episode about men becoming obsolete at their jobs due to the rise of machines. The cryptic lyrics speak of motors and brains, so we can only assume it's some sort of reference to the unsettling episode.

6. The Corn Field in Second Life In the iconic TZ episode "It's a Good Life," a town is controlled by a six-year-old boy with telekinetic powers who wishes people to an other-worldly cornfield when they displease him. In the internet game Second Life, the corn field is, as the game's Wikipedia explains, "a region of mythological status where once naughty avatars were sent to think about what they had done. 'The corn field' is a vast star-lit field of corn and was cut off from communication with the rest of the world." Both corn fields sound pretty creepy. 5. Paul's favorite show on Mad Men Since the show's set in the '60s, it was inevitable that Mad Men would have to acknowledge The Twilight Zone. And it does. Copywriter Paul Kinsey quotes Rod Serling's "submitted for your approval" opening to a confused Peggy Olson, and foreshadows the cancellation of the show by saying, "Mitch in Media says CBS might pull the plug -- I'll kill myself."

4. "Time Enough at Last" by The Fall This song by The Fall pays tribute to the episode of the same name, about a literature-loving bank teller who never gets a chance to read, until he survives nuclear war while protected by a bank vault. He finally has the time to read -- until he breaks his glasses.

3. The SNL skit with Pamela Lee Anderson This parody of the classic "The Eye of the Beholder," which features a gorgeous woman undergoing plastic surgery in order to fit into a world where everyone has a pig face, gets the SNL treatment with Pamela Anderson starring as the troubled beauty. The episode goes as normal, until all the men proclaim that Anderson is actually hot. Norm MacDonald sums it up as Rod Serling at the end: "Frankly, usually I try to have some kind of ironic twist or moral in these things, but I got nothing this time, because that woman was hot!"

2. Gilmore Girls, "The Long Morrow" While Twilight Zone references are often creepy or comical, they're rarely sentimental. But this reference on Gilmore Girls is. Rory's boyfriend gives her a replica of the rocket from the TZ episode of the same title before he moves away, an allusion to the episode's couple, separated when the man goes into outer space. Aww.

1. Senator Robert Matheson on The X-Files Isn't it cool when sci-fi shows reference other sci-fi shows? The X-Files named a character Senator Richard Matheson, after one of The Twilight Zone's writers. On the show, Senator Matheson worked under President Rod Serling. Just kidding -- that would have been way too obvious.

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Robin Edwards
Contact: Robin Edwards