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Recap / The Twilight Zone S3 E73 "It's a Good Life"

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Boy, is it ever.

Rod Serling: Tonight's story on The Twilight Zone is somewhat unique and calls for a different kind of introduction. This, as you may recognize, is a map of the United States, and there's a little town there called Peaksville. On a given morning not too long ago, the rest of the world disappeared and Peaksville was left all alone. Its inhabitants were never sure whether the world was destroyed and only Peaksville left untouched or whether the village had somehow been taken away. They were, on the other hand, sure of one thing: the cause. A monster had arrived in the village. Just by using his mind, he took away the automobiles, the electricity, the machines—because they displeased him—and he moved an entire community back into the dark ages—just by using his mind. Now I'd like to introduce you to some of the people in Peaksville, Ohio. This is Mr. Fremont. It's in his farmhouse that the monster resides. This is Mrs. Fremont. And this is Aunt Amy, who probably had more control over the monster in the beginning than almost anyone. But one day she forgot. She began to sing aloud. Now, the monster doesn't like singing, so his mind snapped at her, turned her into the smiling, vacant thing you're looking at now. She sings no more. And you'll note that the people in Peaksville, Ohio, have to smile. They have to think happy thoughts and say happy things because once displeased, the monster can wish them into a cornfield or change them into a grotesque, walking horror. This particular monster can read minds, you see. He knows every thought, he can feel every emotion. Oh yes, I did forget something, didn't I? I forgot to introduce you to the monster. This is the monster. His name is Anthony Fremont. He's six years old, with a cute little-boy face and blue, guileless eyes. But when those eyes look at you, you'd better start thinking happy thoughts, because the mind behind them is absolutely in charge. This is the Twilight Zone.
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The town of Peaksville, Ohio is home to an omnipotent child named Anthony Fremont. He can change anything he wants and banish anyone he wants into the cornfield.

The town gathers to celebrate "television night" in which Anthony makes television for everyone and to celebrate the birthday of Dan Hollis. However when Dan dips too much into booze, he ends up thinking some very bad thoughts.

Rod Serling: No comment here, no comment at all. We only wanted to introduce you to one of our very special citizens, little Anthony Fremont, age 6, who lives in a village called Peaksville in a place that used to be Ohio. And if by some strange chance you should run across him, you had best think only good thoughts. Anything less than that is handled at your own risk, because if you do meet Anthony, you can be sure of one thing: you have entered the Twilight Zone.
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For tropes on the original short story, see It's a Good Life.


It's a good thing that we're going to list the tropes here:

  • Adaptational Villainy: While Anthony is already a menacing figure in the short story, he comes across as a bit more malicious in the TV version. Part of this is simply due to his Age Lift; being older and more verbal makes him seem more aware of what he's doing. The adaptation also focuses more on his overtly destructive actions and less on his well-intentioned actions.
  • Age Lift: Anthony was three in the short story, while six here. (Also qualifies as Pragmatic Adaptation, since a three-year-old wouldn't be able to learn lines or take direction.)
  • Ambiguous Innocence: Like most children his age, Anthony defines things as "good" or "bad" solely by how they make him feel and doesn't understand that what may be good for him may not be good for somebody else. The fact that nobody in the town has the courage to punish him for bad behavior only makes it worse.
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  • A Birthday, Not a Break: Dan Hollis receives a Perry Como record at his surprise birthday party. Although he wants to play it on the Fremonts' record player, the others talk him out of it because of Anthony's hatred of singing. Dan later gets drunk on whisky, another of his presents, and starts making noise, much to Anthony's annoyance. While Pat Reilly is playing "Moonglow" on the piano, Dan starts singing "Happy Birthday" and tries to convince Pat to play the song. However, he is too afraid to do so. Dan finally loses his cool and tells Anthony that he is a monster. He implores the others to attack Anthony from behind but none of them have the courage to do so. Anthony then turns Dan into a jack-in-the-box before sending him to the cornfield.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Kid with omnipotent powers and no one able to contradict him. Of course Anthony wins.
  • Berserk Button: For Anthony, it's singing. Any kind of singing, whether a capella or with music, seems to make him extremely angry.
  • Bratty Half-Pint: Anthony does what he wants without regard for how other people feel about it, since he knows that nobody will discipline him.
  • Children Are Innocent: No, really, he is. Anthony has the mental outlook of a normal six-year-old child, which is what makes him all the more terrifying.
  • Closed Circle: Outside of Peaksville is only a gray nothingness where the rest of the world used to be. The people of Peaksville aren't sure if Anthony destroyed the rest of the world or took Peaksville to some alternate dimension. What is for sure is that the town is suffering for being isolated; the people are barely eking out an existence by growing their own food, and they pass certain material items around to each other as "presents" because that's all they have left.
  • Crapsack World: Kid with omnipotent powers and no one able to contradict him. When your entire life is run by a child, it's definitely a Crapsack World.
  • Creepy Child: Anthony.
  • Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: Dan tries this, yelling at Anthony and begging for someone to use the opening to kill him. It doesn't work out.
  • Downer Ending: Dan Hollis defies Anthony, so Anthony turns him into a jack-in-the-box, and sends him to the cornfield. Because his Aunt Amy complained about the heat earlier, Anthony makes it snow the next day, which kills off half the crops.
  • The Dreaded: Everyone in town is absolutely terrified of Anthony, such that nearly every thought and action is directed towards keeping him content.
  • Enfant Terrible: Anthony, obviously.
  • Evil Redhead: Anthony is a redhead and is the Villain Protagonist of the story.
  • Goo Goo Godlike: Deconstructed. A small child with reality warping powers wouldn't understand responsibility.
  • Happiness Is Mandatory: Everyone in Peaksville represses negative thoughts and emotions for fear that if Anthony senses unhappiness he will either lash out in anger at the thinker for being dissatisfied with the world he has made or make a misguided attempt to help.
  • Happy Birthday to You!: Dan Hollis sings it as "Happy Birthday to Me".
  • Karma Houdini: Anthony gets no comeuppance for his bad deeds.
  • Kids Are Cruel: The thing is, Anthony isn't any different from regular little children, as far as his mental and emotional states. The problem is that he has complete omnipotence over his environment and everyone in it, and that does not go well with the mood swings and lack of empathy common to every preschooler. Especially since nobody dares to try to discipline him.
  • Lost in the Maize: Anthony sometimes makes things or people that draw his ire disappear from Peaksville entirely, which he refers to as "sending them to the cornfield". While this term has a very literal meaning in the original short story, the Twilight Zone episode never explains it, turning it into a sort of ominously vague euphemism.
  • Mind Rape: In the beginning, Aunt Amy was the only person who could exercise any control over Anthony, until she offended him by singing in his presence and his mind "snapped" at her. She's left as a shell of her former self, smiling vacantly, and no longer watching how she acts or what she says around Anthony.
  • Named by the Adaptation: In the short story, Anthony's mother is not named. In the television adaptation, her first name is given as Agnes.
  • "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer: After setting up the backstory of Peaksville, Rod Serling remembers that he forgot to actually show us "the monster":
    Rod Serling: Oh yes, I did forget something, didn't I? I forgot to introduce you to the monster. (cut to Anthony, smiling, climbing up onto a gate) This is the monster.
  • Obliviously Evil: According to Bill Mumy (who played him), Anthony is honestly trying to make the world a better place, he simply doesn't grasp that what makes him happy isn't best for everyone. In short, his immaturity prevents him from taking other's views into consideration. This is explored further in the short story.
  • The Omnipotent: As noted above, there appears to be no limit to what Anthony can do.
  • Playing with Fire: It is mentioned that Anthony set Teddy Reynolds on fire for thinking mean thoughts about him.
  • Psychic Static: Dan Hollis tries to invoke this by distracting Anthony, and he begs the others to kill Anthony while Anthony's attention is focused on his outburst. Unfortunately for Dan, everyone is still too afraid to raise a hand against Anthony.
  • Pushover Parents: Anthony's parents. How could they be anything else?
  • Reality Warper: Anthony, seemingly without any limits.
  • Recycled Script: A portion of the audio and footage of Serling's opening narration from this episode was later used as part the pre-show in the Disney Theme Parks thrill ride The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. Specifically, the part where he says "This as you may recognize is a map of the United States", it cuts off at map and continues with "a maintenance service elevator still in operation, waiting for you". Additionally, Serling's voice narration in the ride was provided by voice actor Mark Silverman as Rod Serling passed away in 1975.
  • Running Gag: Not a particularly funny one, but every time someone complains or gets unhappy with Anthony even slightly, the others are quick to assert that it's actually a good thing.
  • Scary Jack-in-the-Box: This is what Anthony transforms his one on-screen victim into. This scene is parodied in The Simpsons' Treehouse of Horror II, where Bart turns Homer into a jack-in-the-box. Unlike Dan Hollis, Homer remains alive and able to speak and hop around in this form.
  • Shout-Out: Dan is disappointed he can't listen to Perry Como because Anthony hates singing.
  • Spoiled Brat: Anthony has had his powers since he was born, meaning that by the age of six he is totally habituated to getting his own way in every situation and has had no occasion to learn to compromise or respect boundaries.
  • Stepford Smiler: The only way to keep Anthony happy is to think happy thoughts and act like everything's okay.
  • Telepathy: Don't even think anything bad about Anthony. Really, don't.
  • Tragically Misguided Favor: The townspeople apply the "real good" mantra to everything that happens, whether or not Anthony is directly responsible, for fear that he might sense unhappiness from someone he likes and cause even worse damage with a poorly informed attempt to help.
  • What If God Was One of Us?: Specifically, what if God had the mentality of a young child?

It's a good thing we didn't forget to list the tropes in various other adaptations of this work. It's a very good thing:

    open/close all folders 

     Twilight Zone: The Movie 
The third segment of Twilight Zone: The Movie is a loose adaptation of this episode. On a long road trip to a new home, a schoolteacher named Helen Foley meets Anthony, who in this version is ten years old and has the ability to venture outside of his isolated realm and into the wider world. He invites her to come home with him, where she discovers his supernatural nature and the dire consequences it has had for him and the people around him.
  • Adaptation Deviation: The movie segment uses the same basic premise of "a small, isolated community lives in fear of a child with godlike powers", but the specifics of characters, setting, and plot are different.
  • Adapted Out: Anthony mentions that his real mother and father hated him and wanted to "send [him] away to someplace bad." Ethel tells Helen that he did something terrible to them but she does not go into details. In the short story, Anthony's parents are major characters.
  • Age Lift: Anthony is about ten or eleven years old. He is three years old in the short story and six in the original episode.
  • Canon Foreigner: Neither Helen Foley or Anthony's elder sister Sarah appear in the short story. In the story, Anthony is an only child.
  • Deranged Animation: Played for nightmare fuel. Anthony is obsessed with cartoons, so instead of "the cornfield" he sends his victims to "cartoonland", depicted as a technicolor nightmare. He also brought a Tasmanian Devil-like toon character into the real world.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: Ethel is eaten by a monster after Anthony transports her into a cartoon. As Anthony says, "Th-th-th-th-that's all, Ethel."
  • Green Thumb: As he and Helen drive away from his old house, Anthony turns the desert landscape into a beautiful garden filled with many different kinds of flowers.
  • Hair-Raising Hare: Anthony's "uncle" pulls a rabbit-like monster out of a hat.
  • Mythology Gag: Helen Foley tells Walter Paisley that she is going to Willoughby and that she is from Homewood. Walter tells her that it looks like she missed a turnoff at Cliffordville.
  • No Name Given: Anthony's fake mother and father are not named.
  • Remake Cameo: Bill Mumy appears as a diner patron named Tim. He sarcastically tells his friend Chris that it was "real good" that he attacked Anthony.
  • Tuckerization
  • Wipe That Smile Off Your Face: Anthony took away his real sister Sarah's mouth so she would not be able to yell at him anymore.

    It's Still a Good Life 
Forest Whitaker: Forty years ago, Rod Serling introduced us to a monster, a monster so powerful he was able to make the world disappear just by using his mind. For the residents of Peaksville, Ohio, the nightmare had begun. The monster knew their every thought, could feel their every emotion; and when they made him angry, which was often, he would banish them into a cornfield from which there was no return. And the most frightening thing about this monster was that he was only six years old. Now it's forty years later, and the people of Peaksville are still in Hell. Oh, yes, there's one other thing: The monster now has a child of his own, and though she possesses none of her father's powers, he still loves her very, very much.

The 2002 revival series produced a direct sequel to It's a Good Life, starring Bill Mumy and Cloris Leachman in their original roles alongside Mumy's daughter. Having grown to adulthood without any limits on his power or challenges to his self-centered worldview, Anthony has become set in his monstrous ways, and the people of Peaksville continue to live in fear of his volatile temper. The only person to whom he shows a kinder aspect is his daughter, Audrey. When Anthony's mother realizes that Audrey has inherited her father's powers, she sees an opportunity to end Anthony's reign, but things don't go according to plan.


  • Ambiguous Ending: Was Audrey sending all the townspeople away only to restore the outside world within a few days a display of childish capriciousness or a calculated plan to make Anthony see the folly of impulsively sending people away? Does Anthony actually want to go to New York or is he obeying Audrey out of fear of her superior powers? Will Audrey be a calming influence on Anthony as they explore the world, or will the two use their powers to wreak havoc?
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Anthony himself learns this lesson after his daughter sends everyone to the cornfield, realizing how lonely it is with just him and his daughter as the last people on Earth. Although his daughter is able to restore the world, it's ambiguous whether the lesson stuck enough to make him think twice before lashing out in the future.
  • Beware the Superman: Anthony's actions in the original episode can be summed up to him being only six years old, and with his parents being too afraid of his powers, his sense of right and wrong was defined by what he liked and didn't like. As a result, when he grows into an adult, he goes ahead and selfishly uses his powers knowing that no one can do anything to stop him, and if they tried, he just sends them into the "corn field."
  • Call-Back
    • Anthony sets George on fire and mind rapes Lorna. In the original episode, it was mentioned that Teddy Reynolds and Aunt Amy suffered these respective fates.
    • The final line of the episode is Anthony telling Audrey that “It’s gonna be a good day, a real good day”. The original episode ends with Anthony’s father speaking a very similar line.
  • Continuity Nod
    • Lorna mentions how much Anthony loves tomatoes and considers giving him some from her garden, presumably as a way of currying favor. In the original episode, Bill Soames brought two of the last cans of tomato soup in Peaksville to the Fremonts' house because he heard Anthony likes it.
    • In the original episode, Anthony enjoys piano music. In the 2002 episode, he has learned to play the instrument himself.
  • The Dog Bites Back: After Anthony terrifies Joseph on bowling night and later threatens to send both him and his close companion Cynthia to the cornfield as part of a collective punishment for the town, Joseph does what Dan Hollis suggested forty years earlier and tries to bludgeon Anthony while he's distracted. He only fails because Audrey intervenes to protect her father.
  • Even More Omnipotent: Audrey is even more powerful than her father, as she can do the only thing he cannot: return things to normal. She displays it by bringing back a watch belonging to her grandmother that Anthony erased from existence. In the end, she is even able to restore the entire world that Anthony caused to vanish.
  • Ironic Echo: Agnes tells Anthony that he is a bad man, a very bad man. This is the same thing that Anthony said to Dan Hollis in the original episode over 40 years earlier.
  • Knight Templar Parent: Adult Anthony's Establishing Character Moment is to punish a boy named Timmy for accidentally pushing his daughter Audrey out of a tree, not by hurting him directly, but by burning his father George and then sending him to the cornfield. Unsurprisingly, Timmy stopped playing with Audrey after that.
  • Mercy Kill: Anthony tells his daughter that he sends people to the cornfield "for their own good, so that [he] won't hurt them anymore". How sincere he is about this is open to interpretation.
  • Mind over Matter: Anthony is seen using telekinesis to play the piano.
  • Mind Rape: Anthony punishes Lorna for keeping the secret of Audrey's power from him by destroying her mind, a more extreme version of what he did to Aunt Amy in the original episode.
  • Missing Mom: Anthony sent Audrey's mother to the cornfield at some point before the story begins.
  • Morality Pet: Anthony has a genuinely caring relationship with Audrey, who seems to be the only person able to dissuade him from harming people. He spares Timmy at her request (although he winds up taking out his anger on Timmy's father instead) and she distracts him from a frustrating bowling game when he threatens his opponent.
  • No Challenge Equals No Satisfaction: Anthony has grown tired of always winning at bowling and challenges Joseph to a game. When Joseph deliberately sends his ball into the gutter twice in a row, Anthony becomes angry at him for letting him win. He is about to punish him but Audrey asking him to play pinball with her stays his hand.
  • Offing the Offspring: Agnes Fremont hopes to arrange the assassination of her son.
  • Playing with Fire: Anthony incinerates a man with his mind early on in the episode.
  • Please Spare Him, My Liege!: Audrey and Agnes both try to intercede on behalf of various people Anthony threatens over the course of the story, with varying degrees of success.
  • Psychic Static: Agnes has developed the ability to shield her thoughts from Anthony after more than 40 years. She taught Audrey to do the same thing, though in her case it proved unnecessary as Anthony couldn't read her thoughts.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: While Anthony did somewhat mature a bit, he kept his spoiled attitude and overly simplistic worldview.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: The climax involves Agnes delivering one to Anthony.
    Agnes: For forty years, I did nothing while you tortured the people of this town! I sat back and watched while you destroyed everything I cared about... everything I loved.
    Anthony: Not everyone. You love me.
    Agnes: Love you? Love? You? I curse the day I gave birth to you. Night after night, I lie awake, thinking of ways to put an end to this madness. To put an end to you! And do you want to know why, Anthony? Because you are a bad man. A very bad man. The worst that ever lived.
    Anthony: Mom, I'm warning you-
    Agnes: You are a monster, a spoiled, vicious monster, and if anyone deserves to be in the cornfield, it's you!
  • Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: Agnes mentions that Anthony sent his father Bill to the cornfield years earlier.
—-
No lesson to be learned here. No morals to be taught. Just an update from Peaksville, Ohio, where Anthony and Audrey Fremont want you to think happy thoughts, and you better do as you're told. Otherwise, you might wind up in that cornfield known as The Twilight Zone.


It's still very good we split this page off. A very good split.
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