Thursday, December 23, 2010

TZ Promo: "The Night of the Meek" (12/23/1960)

"The Night of the Meek"
Season Two, Episode 11 (#47 overall)
Cayuga Production # 173-3663

The second of season two's six videotaped offerings, "The Night of the Meek" manages to transcend its humble production limitations and offer something truly remarkable. It's transcendent, period. I watch it every year around the holidays, where it stands proudly alongside such venerable classics as It's a Wonderful Life, White Christmas, and Miracle on 34th Street. Tonight, this delightful episode turns 50.

There is literally nothing wrong with this episode, which is a bit of a surprise, given that it's a light comedy by Serling (Serling and comedy mix about as well as oil and water). Art Carney is utterly charming, swimming in pathos but eager to please, as Henry Corwin, a drunken bum who, once a year, works as a department store Santa Claus (how he survives the rest of the year is a mystery).

John Fiedler is equally impressive as the prickish department store manager who berates him, fires him, then sics the cops on him. We dislike him, but we never really hate him. C'mon, it's Christmas. We don't hate anyone this time of year. By the end of the episode, we'll actually kinda like him.

1994's The Santa Clause stole its basic premise from this episode, which is my way of telling you how this episode turns out without actually telling you. 2003's Bad Santa, meanwhile, stole the idea of a drunk who works as a department store Santa. However, Henry Corwin is nothing like the slimy criminal that Billy Bob Thornton portrayed. He's a decent guy, terminally sad, usually drunk. He reminds us of Jack Klugman's Joey Crown, from season one's "A Passage for Trumpet."

In a strange way, the blurry videotape look actually works in the episode's favor. There's an immediacy to it, like live TV, and a spontaneous vibe that adds to the magic. The impressive set, which looks about the size of a full city block, is perpetually blanketed in falling snow.

And there are reindeer! REAL LIVE reindeer!

Our friends at Bif Bang Pow! have a Henry Corwin/Santa Claus action figure in the works (a prototype was shown at Comic Con in July; he's in the background above), but we likely won't see it till late 2011.... just in time for the holidays, I imagine.

Next week: Repeat city, folks. Season One's "A Stop at Willoughby" gets its second showing. In two weeks: We're back to film again (man, season two's like a yo-yo!), where we find a young man on the eve of his execution. If you're still glowing with holiday cheer by then, this should take care of that.


Anonymous said...

Wow, this blog is great! I am also currently making my way through every episodes :)

Craig Beam said...

Thanks! Keep reading... lately the focus has been on weekly episode promos, but I've got a few cool things coming up.

Michael Chambers said...

Great blog. Well done.