Thursday, January 10, 2019

The Twilight Zone Goes West--Part 6

The Twilight Zone was always very hit-and-miss when it did comedies. "Showdown with Rance McGrew," which aired on February 2, 1962, mostly hits its mark, largely thanks to Larry Blyden's funny performance in the title role.

Rance McGrew is an arrogant, hypochondriacal actor who plays a character also named Rance McGrew on a Western. Despite his inability to draw his gun without accidentally flinging it into a saloon mirror, he plays an impossibly skilled lawman who regularly takes down the likes of Jesse James and Billy the Kid.

Well, it turns out the real Jesse James and other outlaws have been watching this series with growing disdain. How guys like Jesse James ended up in Cowboy Heaven and how they get TV reception is not explained.

So Jesse summons Rance to a real saloon for a real showdown. Rance, unable to call for a stuntman when things get dangerous, is soon begging for his life, promising Jesse anything if he lets him live.

So when Rance is returned to the set, he soon finds that Jesse is now his agent, insisting that changes be made in how the historical outlaws are portrayed on the show.

As I mentioned above, Larry Byden's performance as Rance sells the show, with actors such as Robert Cornthwaite as a nervous director and Arch Johnson as Jesse also bringing humor to their roles. The end result is some funny slapstick mixed with satire of over-the-top westerns and Hollywood phonies. It's not one of the classics, but its worth watching.

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