Ray Bradbury Theater – Touch of Petulance (S4E6)

rbttouchofpetulance06We hear gunshots and an extremely old Eddie Albert stumbles out of his house.

The next scene is a bright morning at the same house.  Birds are chirping, the paperboy is delivering the 24-hour old news, and Johnathan & Alice Hughes are getting ready for work.

Alice drives Jonathan to his train, and the happy couple kiss goodbye.  On the train, he sees Eddie Albert reading a newspaper from 2025.  This would be 35 years in the future, but Eddie is 55 years older than Jonathan (going by their real birth dates), so the math does not even come close to working out.  No one would ever notice this, except Eddie Albert is looking old.  Real old.

Looking closer, Jonathan sees an article on the front page that is about Jonathan Hughes shooting his wife.  He accuses Albert of some sick joke and runs away, but Albert implores him to listen.  He begins reeling off facts and dates about their lives.  Staying out of New York on 09/11/01 might have been a good tip.

Some of the future stuff is not so great.  His business will go downhill, he will have a child die, he will take a mistress — woohoo! — and lose her — doh!  He will grow to hate his wife.  Jonathan thinks this is impossible, and Albert understands.

rbttouchofpetulance12Albert admits that he killed their wife in 2025.  He wants Jonathan to avoid the same mistakes.  He says that he “somehow” got here in order to save their soul.  That “somehow” is the standard pass that only Bradbury gets among Sci-Fi writers.

Jonathan’s wife comes to the train to pick him up.  She invites Albert home to dinner. The episode really gets deadly at this point.  Maybe it is Albert’s age — he is kind of like Spencer Tracy in Mad, Mad World — I’m no age-ist, but at some point, you have to let go.

Or maybe it is the god-awful synth music.  Of course, that is in every episode, but it seems to be even more trying here.

The concept of time-travel to reshape your former self is so intriguing that it is hard to screw it up.  This is just so melodramatic and miscast — especially Albert and Alice, but Jonathan is no prize either — that it is hard to care about anything.

After dinner, Albert has a very intriguing thought.  Rather than futilely trying to save the marriage, maybe he should just shoot Alice now rather than in the future.  Ancient Albert can take the rap, die soon in prison, and his younger self can begin a life that will not end in tragedy.  Now that is a twist!  Jonathan is understandably not crazy about that idea.  Neither was Bradbury, I guess.


How to drive a mailman crazy.

Albert leaves the house, and assures Jonathan that he will get back to his time “somehow”.  Sadly, Jonathan’s response is not, “Next time bring some lottery numbers, Future Me.”

Jonathan goes back in and his wife immediately starts nagging him to close the door. Albert has given him a pistol. This is not enough to make him start shooting, but you see the first tiny crack in the young marriage.

I was hopeful there for a few brief seconds, but this was really a chore to sit through.


  • Title Analysis:  I must admit, petulance doesn’t mean precisely what I thought it meant.  Showing sudden, impatient irritation, especially over some trifling annoyance.  I am at a complete loss to connect that definition to the episode.
  • So they lived in the same house for 35 years?  Maybe for an older couple, but I’m not sure newlyweds stay in their first house that long.  Especially painted that sickly green.  For 35 years.
  • John Laing also directed Mars is Heaven.
  • Can a city do product placement?  Plandome NY certainly got a lot of plugs in. Road signs, train station signs, they even lived on Plandome Drive.

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