"Static" is the 20th episode of the second season of The Twilight Zone, and was first broadcast in March of 1961. It starred Dean Jagger and Carmen Mathews as boarding house residents Ed Lindsay and Vinnie, and included a bit part for child actor and later documentary filmmaker Stephen Talbot, and a voice role for Bob Crane, who would later become a famous actor. The episode, like several others in the second season was shot on video tape, and much like the other episodes that were so shot, the grainy quality of the footage adds an antiquated atmosphere. The story was written by frequent Twilight Zone contributor Charles Beaumont, although interestingly, several elements of the story resemble the novel and movie Somewhere In Time, written by another frequent Twilight Zone contributor, Richard Matheson.
Ed Lindsay and his estranged lover Vinnie (no last name given) live together at a boarding house, along with several other stock characters, including his friend "The Professor" and his antagonist Roscoe. Tired of his fellow lodgers habit of constantly watching television, Lindsay finds an old cabinet radio in the basement, and carries it up to his room. When scanning for a station, he finds Tommy Dorsey and his orchestra, as well as several other older programs. The other residents of the boarding house are surprised when he talks about hearing live broadcasts from performers who are dead, especially since the radio only broadcasts static when anyone but Lindsay is listening. Is Lindsay's hearing of old broadcasts anything but a delusion, and will any good come of it?
In my last review of a Twilight Zone episode, I worried that the series was getting too gimmicky, a fear that was quickly laid to rest with this episode. Not that this is the best Twilight Zone episode, but it certainly is filling viewing. One of the most obvious issues is how the Twilight Zone zig-zags in respect to technology. "A Thing About Machines" had a protagonist who was derided for his refusal to adopt to modern technology, while in this episode, the protagonist is celebrated for the exact same reason. This episode also continued the theme of The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine and The Trouble with Templeton (amongst others) of not giving a good answer to whether nostalgia was a good thing. It also was an early example of media awareness, giving a critique of television viewing (which of course, is interesting since it itself is a television show). And, in the middle of this, it also contains meaningful dialog and character development, something that has been lacking for a while. It is a good sign that while the show can be funny, it hasn't forgotten how to be profound.