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5 Shows like The Twilight Zone: Mind-Bending Anthologies

Michael Taylor itcher‘The Twilight Zone’ used fantasy, sci-fi, and horror to explore societal issues in an anthology format, utilizing the best actors of its era, and featuring iconic twist endings. If you’re looking for similar anthologies to explore, you’ll love ‘Black Mirror’, ‘The Outer Limits’ and ‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents’. ~ Michael Taylor

“You unlock this door with the key of imagination…” (From Rod Serling’s opening ‘Twilight Zone’ monologue)

Known as the “angry young man of television” Rod Serling was a writer frustrated with 1950’s television censorship. In response, he created ‘The Twilight Zone’, where he could explore issues of prejudice, war, and idealism through fantastical tales with twist endings with a moral or philosophical message.

The CBS series, (which ran from 1959-1964) including iconic moments like William Shatner battling a Gremlin on a commercial plane in ‘Nightmare at 20,000 Feet’, and Burgess Meredith playing a meek bookworm trapped in a post-apocalyptic world in ‘Time Enough At Last.’

It was an anthology series: episodes were self-contained with different casts and separate storylines, making each episode feel like a mini-film or play.

So if you’d like to explore other TV shows like ‘The Twilight Zone’, let’s look into series like ‘Black Mirror’, ‘Amazing Stories’, and more.

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‘Night Gallery’ (NBC, 1970-1973)

Following the cancellation of ‘The Twilight Zone’, Serling created ‘Night Gallery’, which provided a variation on the anthology format: each episode began with Serling beside a macabre painting which would inform the tone of the episode.

Unlike ‘The Twilight Zone’, ‘Gallery’ dealt exclusively with horror, and while not as lofty as Serling’s original series, there are several episodes such as ‘The Caterpillar’, ‘The Sins of the Father’, and ‘Green Fingers’ that are sublimely creepy.

Similarity Match: 95%
While ‘Night Gallery’ shared the same creator as ‘The Twilight Zone’, Serling’s lack of quality control with the former meant less social commentary and more straightforward ghost stories.

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‘Black Mirror’ (Channel 4, 2011-present)

‘Black Mirror’ explores the destructive nature of our dependence on technology and social media, be it romantic relationships, political careers, or privacy concerns.

Featuring performances from actors like Toby Kebbell, Domhall Gleason and Hayley Atwell, it’s truly thought provoking, with science fiction storylines that feel like they could become reality tomorrow.

Similarity Match: 90%
Like ‘The Twilight Zone’, ‘Black Mirror’ uses science fiction tales with twists endings to explore social commentary, but it’s a more bleak and unsettling journey.

***
‘The Outer Limits’ (ABC, 1963-1965)

“There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission…” Those cryptic words introduced each episode of ‘The Outer Limits’, which pitted unlucky mortals against threats of the alien, supernatural or technological variety.

With scripts written by notable science fiction writers like Harlan Ellison, and featuring a look akin to German Expressionism, ‘The Outer Limits’ was one of the darkest shows of its time.

Similarity Match: 85%
While initially inspired by ‘The Twilight Zone’, ‘The Outer Limits’ differed in that a twist ending or message wasn’t always apparent, relying more on mood and tension than morality tales.

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‘Amazing Stories’ (NBC, 1985-1987)

Stephen Spielberg brought his love of 60’s anthologies shows to the 80’s with his series that delved into fantasy, horror and sci-fi. The show is notable for it’s A-list directors, including Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Clint Eastwood and Robert Zemeckis among others.

Similarity Match: 80%
Spielberg’s affection for ‘The Twilight Zone’ helped inspire his series, but his sun-dappled sentimentality stood in stark contrast to the black and white melancholy of Serling’s series.

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‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents’ (NBC, 1955-1962)

One of the first filmmakers with name recognition, Alfred Hitchcock parlayed his fame into this successful anthology, notable not only for its tales of suspense and horror, but for the Master of Suspense’s humorous monologues and sarcastic remarks at commercial sponsors.

Hitchcock lent his filmmaking skill to several episodes, and employed talented directors like Robert Altman, Ida Lupino, for others. Fun fact: He would later use the television production crew to shoot his horror classic ‘Psycho.’

Similarity Match: 70%
Pre-dating ‘The Twilight Zone’, ‘Hitchcock Presents’ differs in that there are no fantastical elements, and while both employed twist endings with moral messages, Hitchcock did so under protest due to censor issues for letting characters get away with murder!

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Don’t Want to Escape ‘The Twilight Zone’?

I don’t blame you! It’s an addictive series that fuels the imagination. But hopefully you’ll check out my other suggestions for other anthologies that inform as well as entertain.
 
What shows like ‘The Twilight Zone’ would you recommend to others?
 
Tells us in the comments.
My name is Michael Taylor and I′m your go-to source for finding the best in Alternative rock in all its various genres, such as Goth, Grunge, Post-punk, Shoegaze, Britpop and Electronica, with some metal thrown in for good measure. Film-wise, I′m all about sci-fi and horror, comic book movies, and cult classics. I love checking out all the best concerts and film events in my hometown of Austin, TX. I′ve written for sites such as Cracked, and I cover all my various pop culture obsessions on my site smellslikeinfinitesadness.com
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