Wednesday, January 02, 2013

The Twilight Zone Lousy Plot Generator

Though I love The Twilight Zone, I’m the first to admit that the series ran some horrible episodes — entertaining, yes, but still horrible. These include the ones where you can see the twist coming a mile away — “They’re obviously toys, duh” — and the ones where the twist is unpredictable, shocking to the point of making the whole plot seem incoherent — “This mysterious town is actually the model village that goes with a train set… owned by a giant alien child… who speaks English!”


And that’s why I designed this Twilight Zone Lousy Plot Generator, because it’s basically that easy to construct a bad episode of this show. Just pick a numeral between 1 and 9 and then do that four more times. Read the plot points associated with those numbers in order. Voila — you’ve just invented a bad Twilight Zone episode.

The set up.
  1. A young schoolteacher is driving late at night on an isolated road…
  2. A big city businessman gets laid off from his job and takes the early train home…
  3. A beautiful seductress meets her lover in her Manhattan apartment while her husband is at work…
  4. A young boy cruelly mocks a hobo he passes on the street…
  5. A mousy secretary worries that no one respects her opinion, and vows to make something of herself one day…
  6. One honest man is the only person in town to defend the local eccentric, whom everyone suspects of being a witch…
  7. A bearded, haggard man stumbles over the dusty horizon alone…
  8. An aged actress clings to the memory of her late husband, and longs for the days when they were together…
  9. A harried adman tires of the rat race and steps out of the office one day, to walk the streets and collect his thoughts…
Escalation.
  1. And then wakes up to find he/she’s suddenly someone else, married with children and moving to a new home…
  2. Only to return home to find that his/her family has lost their money. In fact, in this flip-flopped house, those who were once servants are now served by the once-wealthy family members…
  3. Only to find later that an unexplained run of good luck has driven all his/her neighbors and friends to jealousy…
  4. Later, over lunch at a roadside diner, his/her sister flaunts her high-flying, fancy-free lifestyle, creating feelings of envy…
  5. And eventually wanders to a lush, Eden-like paradise where his/her every wish is granted and where they meet their ideal mate…
  6. When an old gypsy woman approaches him/her and asks for one wish, no matter how outlandish…
  7. When he/she encounters a stranger whose antiquated style of dress and manner of speaking suggest that he’s from a long-passed time period…
  8. But then is shocked to find his/her home invaded by a stranger claiming to be a vampire…
  9. Only to eventually attend a party where the guests — all of them guilty of thumbing their noses at one social more or another — get picked off, one by one, by a killer…
And then it gets weird.
  1. But then they arrive in a town that’s inexplicably populated by rabbits…
  2. And then he/she realizes that there was truth in the seemingly incoherent ramblings of that person in the first act, whom everyone dismissed as a loon…
  3. No one believes him/her that this isn’t the way it’s supposed to be…
  4. And then there’s the shocking realization that he/she’s inherited a great deal of money…
  5. But then it turns out that the whole situation is a product of the protagonist’s superpowered imagination…
  6. Inexplicably, he/she then wakes up horribly disfigured…
  7. Then there’s a knock at the door. Who comes in but a man looking exactly like and claiming to be George Washington…
  8. But then it turns out that every other human is a ghost of someone who previously happened upon this cursed locale…
  9. However, all of that is rendered moot when the radios start broadcasting the news: a nuke strike is imminent!
And finally, the shocking twist!
  1. And then you find out that they were all mannequins the whole time.
  2. Because then he/she learns that the waitress who appeared in the opening scene is actually the Devil, and they accidentally made a deal with him.
  3. But in the end, it turns out they’re all characters in a play that the writer eventually tires of and abandons. They’re lost forever in a crinkled-up sheet of typewriter paper.
  4. And then it turns out they were on Mars the whole time!
  5. But then it turns out that what the protagonist believed to be an impediment is actually considered by this episode’s universe to be a virtue, proving that social advantages and disadvantages are merely a result of one’s perspective.
  6. Wait no. They were dead the whole time.
  7. But in the end, the protagonist realizes that he/she is actually an alien who came to study earth and then contracted amnesia. Memories restored, he/she returns to the mothership, to the awe of everyone else in the neighborhood.
  8. It was all a dream… dreamt by Hitler himself!
  9. And they get on the flying saucer, believing that a brighter future awaits them but oblivious to the awful truth.
And the lesson you’re supposed to learn is…
  1. Don’t be racist, stupid.
  2. Be charitable, stupid.
  3. Beware communists, stupid.
  4. Live in the present, stupid.
  5. Be careful what you wish for, for all wishes are rooted in greed, stupid.
  6. Don’t drink and drive, stupid.
  7. People who ask for help are actually angels in disguise, stupid.
  8. Nonexistent. There’s no moral on this one — just feel weird about stuff.
  9. The most terrifying monsters are ourselves. Stupid.
And yes, by the way, I did watch the New Year’s Day Twilight Zone marathon. It’s one of my favorite holiday traditions.


Well, that and this.

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