Exploring The Twilight Zone, Episode #124: "A Kind of a Stopwatch"
A man who loves to talk, played by Richard Erdman (TV's Community) comes into possession of a stopwatch that can freeze time, affecting the entire planet with one click. What will he do with this awesome power?
The Twilight Zone, Episode #124: "A Kind of a Stopwatch" (original air date October 18, 1963)
The Plot: Motor-mouthed McNulty (Richard Erdman) manages to alienate everyone with whom he comes in contact. He happily spouts off a constant stream of absurd facts and nonsense that's simply not of interest to anyone except himself.
In less than one year, he's made hundreds of suggestions to the company where he works -- none of them applicable to the business of the company. As soon as he walks in the door of his favorite bar, the other customers groan and begin fleeing, just so they don't have to listen to more loud, inane babbling from McNulty, all to the consternation of an otherwise friendly bartender (Herbie Faye).
McNulty has become such an irritant that he's fired from his job. Adjourning to the bar, he finally finds someone who's receptive to listening to him, a gentleman named Potts (Leon Belasco) who's already half in the bag. Nonetheless, he listens to McNulty, and then gives him an old stopwatch. As McNulty is about to discover, the stopwatch has very specific properties that make it uniquely powerful.
The Goods: Rod Serling adapted his teleplay from a story by Michael D. Rosenthal, and it begins with a goofy comic tone that's typical of other, less-than-successful Serling episodes. For all his talents, Serling was not particularly good at writing comic dialogue or inventing funny bits of business. Fortunately, "A Kind of a Stopwatch" moves from joke-mode into 'this dude is weird' territory, and the story becomes more sure-footed.
In part, that's because Serling understood off-beat personalities. McNulty appears to be oblivious to the irritation he causes, but it becomes apparent that he's been deceiving himself throughout the entire episode, ignoring the negative aspects of his life in order to focus on the positive and just keep going. He craves the company of others, and seeks their approval, but he's been taking the wrong approach. Left to his own devices, he might well end up alone in his old age.
Which makes the ending a triple twist of a whammy.
The Trivia: Richard Erdman began his acting career in the 1940s and has worked steadily until the present day. He has made more than 20 appearances as the endearingly baffled Leonard in the great TV series Community. Erdman and his second wife, Sharon, have been married since 1953.
On the Next Episode: "A washed-up jockey gets his wish while waiting for the results of his race fixing hearing."
We're running through all 156 of the original Twilight Zone episodes, and we're not doing it alone! Our friends at Film School Rejects have entered the Zone as well, only on alternating weeks. So definitely tune in over at FSR and feel free to also follow along on Twitter accounts @twitchfilm and @rejectnation.