10 classic Twilight Zone episodes to watch before CBS All-Access launch

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Twilight Zone ‘Time Enough At Last’ – Image by CBS

2. Time Enough At Last

Originally aired: November 20, 1959 – Season 1, Episode 8

Written by: Rod Serling, based on a short story by Lynn Venable

Opening narration: “Witness Mr. Henry Bemis, a charter member in the fraternity of dreamers. A bookish little man whose passion is the printed page, but who is conspired against by a bank president and a wife and a world full of tongue-cluckers and the unrelenting hands of a clock.

But in just a moment, Mr. Bemis will enter a world without bank presidents or wives or clocks or anything else. He’ll have a world all to himself… without anyone.”

Plot: Henry Bemis, a bank teller with thick glasses, loved to read. He loved it to the point where everyone (including his wife and boss) were annoyed that he was always preoccupied with reading.

Bemis always takes his lunch break reading in the bank’s vault. But one day when he goes down there, there’s an explosion. When he regains consciousness and leaves the vault, he finds the entire world destroyed. A nuclear war demolished everything and everyone.

He wanders alone and gets to the point where, when he finds a revolver laying around, he contemplates suicide. Then he sees the ruins of a public library, with enough books left unharmed to last him a lifetime.

Why it’s a classic: I don’t think I’m overstating when I say the end of this episode (not detailed above) is one of the most widely regarded—and widely parodied—twists in Twilight Zone history.

The Simpsons, Futurama, Family Guy, Modern Family, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and even Fear the Walking Dead have all referenced or parodied the devastating, emotional ending of this episode.

In 2009, TV Guide listed it as its 11th greatest television episode of all-time. Additionally, it’s grounded by Academy Award-nominated (and Primetime Emmy Award-winning) actor Burgess Meredith as Bemis.

You may remember Meredith as Rocky’s trainer Mickey in the Rocky movie series. Or other things. His IMDB page spans 60 years of consistently working in the industry. Meredith also appeared in three other Twilight Zone episodes.