Night Gallery – The Housekeeper (S1E1)

The good news is, The Dead Man ran a little long, so this story is only 20 minutes.

Miss Wattle is applying for a job as Larry Hagman’s housekeeper.  The agency tells her he specifically requested someone old and funny looking, someone that no one else would want — an old hag!  “The darling!” she exclaims, thrilled to have a shot at the job.

In an interview with Hagman, he asks if she has any family or friends.  And if she feels cheated by nature.  He finally gets her to admit her envy of younger, more attractive women.

He takes Miss Wattle out to dinner and points out his wife Carlotta snuggled up to another man.  She is a terrible person, but is worth $7 million.  Hagman proposes a personality transplant between the kind Miss Wattle and the shrewish Miss Hagman.

To prove it is possible, Hagman takes her to his lab where we get the ludicrous scenes of cats chirping, birds meowing, a crowing pig, a squealing rooster, etc.  To make it worse, I saw this same gag on an episode of Gilligan’s Island.

Hagman performs the transplant using a frog as a conduit (which is a better concept than it sounds like).  Now that Miss Wattle is occupying his wifes hot bod, he still expects her to perform the normal wifely duties.  Remember this is 1970, before men went metro.  She has other plans and sees him as a monster, locking herself in the bedroom for 3 days.

She emerges, says she is giving her notice and divorcing him.  Hagman is prepared for this and brings out the magic frog.  Just as the transformation begins, an old woman opens the door.  After the light show, she says, “How many times?  Dear God, how many times?”  Hagman replies, “Until we get it right.”

Other than the English language, there is nothing about this scene that I understand.

  • Hagman brings out the box with the frog which facilitates the transplant.  But only the 2 of them are in the room, so who is she going to transplant with?
  • As the light show indicating the transplant begins, his wife opens the door and another old woman just happens to be standing there.
  • The first transplant required Miss Wattle to stare at a picture of the wife for 95 minutes; this time, it requires no prep work.
  • After the transplant, it is Miss Wattle’s voice in the new old woman’s body.  But the new old woman is not the original Miss Wattle (who is dead, anyway) — we’ve never seen her before.
  • She says “How many times?  Dear God, how many times” like this has happened over and over, but it only happened the one time to Miss Wattle.  Plus, clearly he will have to kill her in the new body, because now the mystery lady is in his wife’s body.  So it’s not going to happen again.  It’s not like she is necessary to the plan any longer.
  • So who is Hagman’s, “Until we get it right” intended for?  Miss Wattle will be dead and the new old lady has no idea what is going on.

The new old lady is credited as Miss Beamish, so I assume a scene was deleted after The Dead Man ran long.  Certainly the cheap-ass box set gives no clues.  Most likely, Hagman had them send over another candidate, saying Miss Wattle wasn’t quite ancient enough.  Googling this episode brought up Rod Serling’s Night Gallery: An After Hours Tour.  That book calls the 2nd old lady an “intruder” — which makes even less sense.  Yeah, one of those 80 year old women B&E perps you always hear about.

Still, it mostly succeeds in spite of the logic problems thanks to the look of the episode and the script.  There are some funny moments here.  Twilight Zone might have been better off letting Douglas Heyes script their “funny” episodes rather than Rod Serling as most of his efforts were deadly (and not in the good way).

Even the title is clever as Hagman is ostensibly hiring a typical housekeeper, but her role is literally to be a house-keeper to enable him to keep his wife’s house (and money).

Post-Post:

  • Twilight Zone Legacy:  Jeanette Nolan was in 2 episodes, and Suzy Parker was in 1, although played 12.  Written by 9-time TZ director Douglas Heyes under the pseudonym Matthew Howard.
  • My guess is that Heyes used the pseudonym so he wouldn’t have his name on both episodes; this is, after all, supposed to be Rod Serling’s party.  And why didn’t Serling write the first episode?  He had a year after the pilot to come up with a script, but doesn’t contribute until the 2nd episode.
  • Rod Serling is the Bob Dylan of writing, paradoxically managing to be prolific but lazy.  Quick with an idea — which might not be completely his — but not willing to take the time to polish it.
  • John Meredyth Lucas directed 3 Star Treks and wrote 4 episodes, including Naziiiiiiiis innnnn Spaaaaaace.

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