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Monday, December 19, 2005

1.01 --- Shatterday

Directed by : Wes Craven
Written by : Alan Brennert (story by Harlan Ellison)
Starring : Bruce Willis, Dan Gilvezan, John Carlyle
First aired : 27th of September, 1985.

Peter Jay Novins (Bruce Willis) is a new wave yuppie, dedicating most of his time to his business ventures, neglecting family and love interests. One evening, while waiting for his latest girlfriend at a bar, Peter accidentaly dials his home number...which is answered by himself.

After several minutes of puzzled cross-examination from both parties, Peter realizes that the person on the other side of the line is him when they both use his favourite catchphrase at the same time. Seeing that the "other himself" is now living at his apartment and leading his life, Peter withdraws all the money from the bank, moves to a hotel room and plots how to make his doppelganger's life more miserable.

However, as he finds out through regular telephone contact, it is he who sinks into misery, as the "other" Peter slowly starts to mend broken relations which plagued his life in the past decade or so. He reconciles with his ex's and his current girlfriend, and starts giving more attention to his ill mother, which "old" Peter basically ignored. With every passing day (which are inventively titled someday, duesday, woundsday and shatterday), "old" Peter slowly loses his reality grip and fades away.

Finally, on shatterday, he is visited by his alter ego who informs him that his mother will be arriving soon. Old Pete is by this time in wretched state, being barely able to speak, but he does confess regret at his previous lifestyle, and wishes his "new" self a better life. They shake hands, after which old "Peter" disappears, while the new Peter Jay Novins exits the hotel room, ready to lead a new, better living.

***

Season one, and thus the new Twilight Zone, opens with this somewhat uninspired piece of split identities, in which one man's quest for better life is presented as a personal disorder (in most literal meaning of that term, that is). Bruce Willis, at that time a virtual unknown, handles the dual role good, but it is obvious that he is better suited to the role of "old" Peter Jay, who slowly disintegrates over the course of the episode. The "new" Peter Jay is somewhat underplayed, coming across not as the better, upgraded person, but more as a smug imposter who does opposite things just for the piss of it - although this is dispelled at the end.

Wes Craven, coming off freshly from his Nightmare on Elm Street experience, does a capable job directing this episode, throwing in a neat symbolism in shape of rain - during the personality split, it's raining like hell outside, but once Peter Jay re-invents himself, the sky clears and he leaves the hotel as the sun appears.

The story does somewhat echo Rod Serling's old Twilight Zone stories, in a way that the main character finds redemption after meeting an alternate incarnation of itself. It is a stretch, but you could call Shatterday a distant cousin of Serling's Walking Distance, which originally aired 30th of October 1959.

Comments on "1.01 --- Shatterday"

 

Anonymous John said ... (8:39 AM) : 

I agree with your review of this episode. I did enjoy it, and thought it was a good New TZ episode.

Bruce Willis did a good job with the down-and-out loser character. I don't know why he is always so believeable in that type of role. In Die Hard he was very convincing as a regular guy who was very frustrated with his life. Maybe it's his face. He always has a sad look about him.

As far as New TZ episodes go, this one was slightly above average - There were better, and there were certainly worse!

 

Anonymous Dave said ... (5:50 PM) : 

I love Ellison's 1975 short story (and love to hear him read it), but did not enjoy this episode as much as I thought I would. What works as prose does not always translate well to film. Ellison's prose injects their phone conversations with crackling vitality, and it does not show up on film (as well).

Fantastic effort, and a good episode, but not great.

Dave

 

Anonymous Rob G. said ... (12:29 AM) : 

I think a closer comparison to the original Twilight Zone than "Walking Distance" would be "Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room." In both stories, a guy who made bad choices in life is confronted by an alternate, better version of himself, and in the end is replaced by that better version.

 

Blogger Mairosu said ... (4:29 AM) : 

You're right on there, Rob.

 

Anonymous drumboy said ... (8:39 AM) : 

I thought this was an alright episode, primarily due to Bruce Willis's excellent performance in the lead, but I was disappointed in the choice of this to lead off the series. I know I got a bad impression when I watched this, and actually watched very little new TZ for the longest while after seeing this. I still don't particularly like it- I feel it could have been done a lot better.

My rating: 3.5/10

 

Anonymous Anonymous said ... (3:57 AM) : 

The story is almost exactly the same as the Alfred Hitchcock presents story "The case of mr.Pelham" from 1955.

 

Anonymous Duc in altum said ... (2:33 PM) : 

Un premier épisode ambitieux car très intellectuel et moral, avec un seul acteur. Le dédoublement de personnalité fait penser au "Double" de Dostoievsky par le point de vue qui rend le premier Peter plus attachant que son arrogant remplaçant. La morale reste assez surprenante, qui considère que changer, s'améliorer, réparer ses tords, c'est commettre un assassinat presque inhumain de qui l'on était.

 

Blogger rhuneke said ... (12:27 PM) : 

I love TZ so much I even started writing stories in the tradition of the show. Curious? Check out http://nighthawkfiction.blogspot.com for information on my newly published book. Hope to hear from you!

 

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