Friday, July 27, 2007


One day during her second week as a secretary at the Sterling-Cooper advertising agency, Peggy was given the "grand tour" of the offices. When Paul started doing his impression of Rod Serling hosting 'The Twilight Zone' ("Submitted for your approval..."), Peggy didn't pick up on the reference. As she explained, she didn't like science fiction.

Her attitude worried Paul because there were rumors that CBS might cancel the show. (Whether his fears stemmed from just being a fan or because the agency was buying ad time for its clients on the show is unclear.) But luckily for him, Peggy proved to be in the minority. As time went on, 'The Twilight Zone' became one of the most enduring classics of Television, perhaps the culmination of the medium's "Golden Age". It's become so ingrained in our psyche that the phrase "The Twilight Zone" has moved beyond just being a pop culture reference to actually refer to those surreal, bizarre moments in our lives.

(An interesting bit of trivia in this episode, which may have been deliberate on the part of Matthew Weiner, the writer: even though the agency's clients might have been sponsoring 'The Twilight Zone', ad exec Don Draper's mistress and even his own children were ignoring it in favor of its competition on NBC, 'People Are Funny'. When 'The Twilight Zone' debuted, 'People Are Funny' was already a ratings powerhouse on Friday nights.)

Along with 'Star Trek', 'The Twilight Zone' is one of the biggest sources of Zonks in Toobworld. (For the uninitiated, Zonks are references to other TV shows as TV shows, when they should be sharing the same universe as the show making the reference.)

For the most part, the show should be be considered part of the main TV Universe, but there are certain episodes which must be located on other planets ("Eye Of The Beholder" and "The Invaders", for example) or in a parallel dimension (like "Number Twelve Looks Just Like You").

As for Rod Serling's participation as the on-screen narrator, he is the inspiration for the term "serlinguist", those TV characters who can talk to the viewers at home in the Trueniverse. Yet at the same time, he is the creative force behind the show in Toobworld as well. ('Perry Mason' mentions that he and Serling are old friends in one of the episodes of his courtroom drama.)

So even though most of the episodes have taken place on Earth Prime-Time ("Where Is Everybody?", "Nick Of Time", "Long Distance Call", "Nightmare At 20,000 Feet" etc), other TV characters have made references to the show when they've found themselves in freaky situations.

Here are a few examples:

"Next stop - 'The Twilight Zone'." - Detective Christine Cagney, 'Cagney And Lacey'

"I think I've seen this on 'The Twilight Zone'." - Mary, 'Night Court'

"It's like 'The Twilight Zone' around here, Wolf." - Jack Cafferty, 'The Situation Room'

JERRY: You know, this is like that Twilight Zone where the guy wakes up, and he's the same - but everyone else is different!
KRAMER: Which one?
JERRY: They were all like that!
- 'Seinfeld'

"I just had the weirdest experience. It was like something out of 'The Twilight Zone'!" - Larry Dallas, 'Three's Company'

"It was weird! It was like 'The Twilight Zone'! Only it wasn't in black and white." - Richard Addison, 'Moonlighting'

"This is weird! It's like 'The Twilight Zone'! I kind of half-expect Rod Steiger to just walk out here...." Jackie Thomas, 'The Jackie Thomas Show'

(Trust me, his use of "Steiger" was not a transcription error on my part!)

One good thing about the reference in the second episode of 'Mad Men' is that we can now use it to narrow down the date of the show to be more precise than just saying it takes place in 1960.

CBS announced that 'The Twilight Zone' would run the full complement of episodes for the first season on February 10th, 1960. But it would not be until May 11th of that year before CBS confirmed that the show would be renewed for a second season.

Although General Foods and Kimberly-Clark were the sponsors of the first season, the sponsors for Year Two would be General Foods and Colgate-Palmolive. Colgate-Palmolive is definitely a client of Sterling Cooper. (They manufacture Right Guard, the product in the ad campaign spotlight this week.) So it could be that Paul was worried about the show's cancellation because he was involved in putting the deal together to bring in Colgate-Palmolive as a sponsor the following year.

Therefore, I'm thinking that at least with the second episode of 'Mad Men', it's taking place at some point in April of 1960. The weather seems pleasant enough for people to be outside without coats (as we see with the divorcee who's moving in down the street from the Drapers). And the lawns are a deep green, which probably means they've had time to flourish for at least a few weeks in warmer weather.

[My thanks to Marc Scott Zicree's excellent book, "The Twilight Zone Companion" for the information... informatin... information.... And I'm glad he corrected a chronological error with the second edition!]

Toby OB

"I must be dreaming!
Either that, or I'm in the Twilo Zone
Rob Petrie
'The Dick Van Dyke Show'

No comments: