Twilight Zone – Dealer’s Choice (11/15/85)

I wonder what it was like to watch this series every week in 1985.  Was there a hopefulness that it might be a worthy successor to the 1960s classic?  Were people satisfied with the first episode featuring Shatterday and A Little Piece and Quiet?  They were both pretty strong, high-concept segments.  Yeah, I’ll tune again next week.

Wordplay was another fun, high-concept outing.  Chameleon didn’t have much of a story, but was enjoyable thanks to the performances and the NASA setting.  The ending was a little underwhelming.  Still, maybe they found a way to make a TZ for the 1980s.  I’ll give it another chance next week, if I’m home.

After that, with a few notable exceptions, the new TZ produced too many maudlin soap opera segments and short one-joke outings with no depth or arc.  Gone was the grit, irony and cosmic comeuppance of the original.  A good twist seemed to have become as passe as plot in a literature or skill in art.

I have a feeling this episode might have been the last stop for a lot of viewers.  After the insufferable James Coco, and then the tedious Bradbury monologues tonight, maybe turning over to catch the last half of Knight Rider seemed like a reasonable move.

Barney Martin (Jerry Seinfeld’s TV father), Garrett Morris (SNL), M. Emmett Walsh (everything), Morgan Freeman (everything else) and world’s greatest actor Dan Hedaya [1] are gathered for a poker game.

Hedaya always seems to win with a hand containing three sixes.  They ID him as the devil.  There is a showdown.  The guys try to trick him, but he tricks them.  They bust him but he is a real sport, creating sandwiches and beer for them.  The end.

No, that’s really it.

I assume this was to be the meaty segment of the episode.  It was the longest segment at 22 minutes. It contained a cast that in 1985 were probably all familiar faces. Just, nothing happens.

Walsh is clueless as his characters often are.  Martin seems to be tzdealerschoice15playing a mentally challenged man — wait, are they going to keep the money they win from him?  He should be playing for cigarettes with Martini and Cheswick. Morris has a knack for putting the wrong inflection on just about every word he speaks.  Freeman is mostly the voice — literally — of reason. Tragically, the great Dan Hedaya is very subdued here.

Strangely, I must admit the 22 minutes flew by faster than did the first much two shorter segments.  It must have been the actors, because there was certainly nothing in the script to captivate me.  It is not tense or suspenseful.  Despite the comedic talent, it isn’t really even particularly played for laughs.

As Homer Simpson once said, “It’s just a bunch of stuff that happened.”  Except not much happened.

I rate it a flush, and not in the good way.


  • [1] Only a slight exaggeration — he is usually a hoot.  How can there be no decent clips of him in Cheers on YouTube?

2 thoughts on “Twilight Zone – Dealer’s Choice (11/15/85)

  1. I enjoyed this episode as a star-ridden 22 minutes’ diversion, but you’re right in that its similarities with the ‘ole Twilight Zone spirit are skin deep. Regarding your assertion of what audiences back in the day thought of the revival’s uneven tone, the series’ Wikipedia page confirms it:

    “The Twilight Zone debuted the night of September 27, 1985 to a generally warm reception: it would win its Friday-night time slot in four of its first five weeks…Though the production crew was convinced that they were making all of the right decisions, ratings began to slide as the novelty of the show wore off. “You have not known humiliation until you have been beaten by Webster and Mr. Belvedere”, said executive story consultant Alan Brennert.”

    “I can see why people who were expecting The Twilight Zone were disappointed with it,” said staff writer Michael Cassutt of the show’s low ratings. “…our show always seemed uneven to me. There were episodes perfectly in keeping with The Twilight Zone spirit, and then others that could have been from The Outer Limits or from anything.”

    But hey, there’s still several good episodes ahead. Count your lucky stars you ain’t tackling the 2002 series!

    • Thanks for the background! It would be nice to have another book like Twilight Zone Companion for this version. I hadn’t really given any thought to the 2002 series. I guess I’ll get there eventually if I keep going — slot 1 seemed to become the TZ / Night Gallery slot. I survived Ray Bradbury Theater, I can survive the 2002 TZ.

      Right now, I need to find another show to fill in The Veil’s slot.

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