Original Release Date: November 3, 1961
Writer: Rod Serling
Director: James Sheldon
“It’s good what you’ve done to Dan. Real good.”
“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.”
One of the essential, iconic episodes of The Twilight Zone, “It’s A Good Life” introduces us to the shrinking small town of Peaksville, Ohio where food is running short, machines have been rendered useless, and contact with the outside world is scant. This is all the work of a terrifying monster: a six-year old boy with telekinetic powers named Anthony Fremont (Billy Mumy, perhaps best known as Will Robinson on Lost In Space). All day long the people around Anthony must say happy things and think happy thoughts or else face the wrath of a child –“It’s good that you did that. Real good.” The true terror in this episode lies in the limitless powers possessed by a petulant, remorseless child who has no restraint. It is a parent’s worst nightmare! The teleplay was adapted by Rod Serling from Jerome Bixby’s 1953 short story of the same name. Anthony’s parents are played by John Larch and Cloris Leachman.
One evening, the Fremonts host a gathering of friends to celebrate a surprise birthday party for Dan Hollis (Don Keefer). However, after being denied from playing his new Perry Como record, Mr. Hollis has a few drinks and berates young Anthony, hoping that someone else will attack the boy while he is distracted. Anthony angrily transforms Mr. Hollis into a jack-in-the-box, with his head swinging back and forth as indicated by his well-lit shadow on the wall. The group of adults simply stand and look on in horror. Anthony’s father asks Anthony to send the remains of Mr. Hollis out to the cornfields, from whence things never return. Moments later Anthony changes the weather to start snowing which Mr. Fremont knows will kill their crops, yet he nevertheless must continue to praise Anthony. “But it’s good that you’re making it snow, Anthony, – it’s real good. And tomorrow – tomorrow’s going to 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 six, 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.”
The Twilight Zone Trivia:
- This episode contains the longest opening narration of any episode in any The Twilight Zone series.
- The word “good” is repeated 46 times in this episode.
- A scene of a dinosaur battle sequence put on television by Anthony is taken from The Lost Continent (1953)
- This was one of four episodes included as a segment in Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983).
- Producer Buck Houghton later recalled how lines from this episode were echoed offscreen by the cast. On the set whenever an error was made someone would say, “Well, that’s a good thing you did.”
- Bill Mumy has often joked about sending people out to the cornfields over the years, a nod to his role in this episode.
- Rod Serling’s introduction at the beginning of this episode was recycled and digitally edited for the pre-show of the Disney Parks attraction “The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.” The attraction first opened at Disney-MGM Studios in 1994, almost two decades after Serling’s death. A poster advertising “Anthony Fremont’s Orchestra” is displayed next to the concierge desk in the lobby of the attraction, an ironic reference to Anthony’s hate for music.
- The opening narration of this episode was used in a 2001 Michael Jackson entitled “Threatened.”
- In a 1974 interview, Rod Serling indicated plans to turn the story into a feature film. This was one of Serling’s last interviews before his untimely death in 1975.
- This episode was amusingly lampooned in a 1991 “Treehouse of Horror II” episode of The Simpsons.
- During a later reboot of The Twilight Zone, a sequel episode was released called “It’s Still A Good Life”, starring Bill Mumy and Cloris Leachman as well as Bill’s real-life daughter who played his character Anthony’s child. The sequel was released in 2003. This holds the record for the longest time between an original television episode and its sequel, 41 years and 3 months.
- Time Magazine ranked this as the third best episode of the series, just behind “Time Enough At Last” and “The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street.”