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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

1.18 --- Act Break

Directed by : Ted Flicker
Written by : Haskell Barkin
Starring : James Coco, Bob Dishy
First aired : 15th of November, 1985.

Struggling playwright Maury Winkler (James Coco, Murder by Death, The Cheap Detective) is in rather dire straits - he is simoultaneously dedicated to both avoiding his landlord who is prepared to evict him, and finishing his latest play which he and his partner Harry (Bob Dishy) hope will sell for big money.

After a heated argument over what particular manner of killing should one of their play characters employ, Harry suffers a heart attack and collapses on the floor. With his last breath, he informs Maury that the amulet he always wore with himself grants one wish to the owner, and asks him to use his wish to revive him. Maury agrees, but after Harry dies, greed overcomes him - he asks the amulet to pair him with the world's best playwright.

And does he ever - after a little magical proceeding, Maury is suddenly in 17th century England...alongside William Shakespeare (again, Bob Dishy) ! Shakespeare confuses Maury for a mere servant, but after seeing he can read, he asks him for his opinion on his most current play - Timon of Athens. Maury quips that "it ain't no Hamlet", to which Shakespeare, intrigued by that name (which he mispronounces as "Hamnet"), asks for further elaboration. After Maury recaps him what Hamlet is about, Will gets an idea - two of them will work on it together. Seeing what mess he got himself into, Maury pleads with the amulet to return him to status quo, but before anything happens Shakespeare seizes the little stone and inadvertently wishes for Maury to work together with him. Realizing he's doomed to rewrite Hamlet - and many more - and surrender all the credit, Maury slowly gets to work.


Even though the Bard stands as a great writer of tragedies, both Twilight Zone episodes which invoke Shakespeare - The Bard (23th of May, 1963.) and this one - are actually comedies. And while The Bard dealt with Shakespeare thrown into modern age, Act Break does the reverse - it transplants a hapless playwright on his way down to the 17th century. Experienced stage actors Coco and Dishy are excellent in their roles, and thanks to some extra Twilight Zone seasoning and sense of cosmic justice, this episode just hits the right spot. 'Cause over in the TZ, greed is a bad, bad habit.

And after panning Serling for his comedic misfires in the review for Ye Gods, I should note that the aforementioned The Bard was probably Serling's most accomplished comedy piece.

Comments on "1.18 --- Act Break"


Blogger Tim said ... (5:49 AM) : 

The gay innuendo flies fast and furious (and just under the radar) here, especially with lines like "I loved him like a brother" - possibly a reference to David and Jonathan's special relationship in the bible.


Blogger MrSinatra said ... (11:31 PM) : 

Great comment Tim!

One of the things I love about watching these old eps is seeing guys like Bob Dishy who were seemingly in everything, omnipresent, back then. I miss them. It's not the most inspired story, pardon the pun, but it is solid and funny and well acted. Silver.


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