Original Air Date: March 10, 1961
Writer: Charles Beaumont/OCee Ritch
Director: Buzz Kulik
“Static” is a stand-out episode in my view. It explores the remarkable technological shifts during the 20th century through one old man and his beloved but antiquated radio unit. In some ways the episode carries with it similar themes of simplicity and nostalgia as found in “Walking Distance” or “A Stop At Willoughby” or “Kick the Can.” As Marc Scott Zicree notes, “In anyone who mourns the demise of the old radio shows and the advent of television, this story of a radio that still receives Tommy Dorsey, Major Bowes, and Fred Allen must surely strike a responsive chord.”
“Item of consequence: a radio. A carryover from that other era when quiz shows went up to only sixty-four dollars and entertainment was aimed only at the ears. Mr. Charles Beaumont has given us a most unusual story called ‘Static.’ We invite you to watch Mr. Dean Jagger fiddle with a few of these knobs, change a few stations, and find a couple of programs that are broadcast only in The Twilight Zone.” No one ever saw one quite like that, because that’s a very special sort of radio. In its day, circa 1935, its type was one of the most elegant consoles on the market. Now with its fabric-covered speakers, its peculiar yellow dials, its serrated knobs, it looks quaint and a little strange. Mr. Ed Lindsay is going to find out how strange very soon when he tunes in to the Twilight Zone.”
An aging curmudgeon named Ed Lindsay (played by Dean Jagger) lives in a boarding house with a group of elderly people. The group spends most of their days glued to various television programs. However ever the contrarian, Ed heads down to the basement where he finds his old twenty-five year old radio. When he brings it up to his room he is pleasantly surprised to find many of his favorite old programs from childhood still on the air. When he tells the others at the boarding house, they are skeptical. When he shows them his radio the programs do not play. Ed realizes this is a magic radio. He decides to seclude himself in his room and live in his nostalgia for his idyllic youth listening to the radio.
We learn of an elderly maid who lives in the building named Vinnie Broun (played by Carmen Mathews). She was once engaged to Lindsay and they reminisce about their long-lost chance at happiness, while the others dismiss Lindsay entirely. In an effort to help Lindsay overcome his madness with the radio, Broun sells it. When Lindsay finds out he is furious. He storms out to the dealer and buys it back. When he brings it home the radio works like new, playing all the old shows and songs. Then a young Vinnie miraculously appears in his doorway. They realize they have traveled back in time, no longer subject to “static,” being given a chance at love.
“Around and around she goes, and where she stops nobody knows. All Ed Lindsay knows is that he desperately wanted a second chance and he finally got it, through a strange and wonderful time machine called a radio… in the Twilight Zone.”
The Twilight Zone Trivia:
- In an interview with Director Buzz Kulik in Marc Scott Zicree’s The Twilight Zone Companion, he suggests that “Static” is an episode which presents a theme opposite from that explored in the earlier episode “The Trouble with Templeton.” Whereas “The Trouble with Templeton” suggests you cannot return to the good ole’ days, “Static” shows that, with a little magic, and a lot of hope, a return is still possible.
- “Static” began as an unpublished short story with the title “Tune in Yesterday” by OCee Ritch, a friend of and frequent collaborator with Twilight Zone writer Charles Beaumont. They discussed the story at a party with Richard Matheson.
- Beaumont so liked the original title of “Static” that he re-titled his nostalgic essay on radio, originally published as “Requiem for Radio” in Playboy, as “Tune in Yesterday.”
- “Static” is one of six episodes filmed on videotape.
Click here to return to my survey of The Twilight Zone series.