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Opinion >  Column

Paul Turner: There’s the signpost ahead, your next stop, Spokane

Rod Serling, screenwriter, playwright, producer and narrator.
Rod Serling, screenwriter, playwright, producer and narrator.

Surely I’m not the only one who has wondered.

You know how, in the classic “Twilight Zone” episode titled “The Odyssey of Flight 33,” a jet airliner gets unstuck in time and its crew winds up looking down at New York City and the 1939 World’s Fair? That’s a problem for them because the show is set in 1961 when it first aired. As you may recall, the flight crew declines to land in 1939 and decides to try somehow to get back to their own time.

Well, here’s what I’ve long wondered: What if, instead of the 1939 World’s Fair, the crew of Flight 33 had found themselves looking down on Expo ’74?

Now, of course, that would have meant leaping into the future by 13 years or so. What would they have done? Would they have had any idea about what they were seeing? Would the captain have exclaimed, in just a slight tweak of the original script, “Dear God, we’ve come to Spokane, Washington?” Would there have been speculation in the cabin about whether the future city down below would be a good place to raise a family or if it was the largest burg between Minneapolis and Seattle?

I guess we’ll never know.

But the questions don’t end there. I mean, at least not if you have always felt Spokane had a certain “Twilight Zone” vibe.

Take the episode “To Serve Man,” for instance. What if instead of saying, “Mr. Chambers! ‘To Serve Man,’ it’s … it’s a cookbook” the shocked codebreaker had offered an allusion to Spokane’s vibrant literary scene?

“Mr. Chambers! ‘To Serve Man,’ it’s … it’s even better than his ‘Beautiful Ruins.’ ”

Or “Mr. Chambers! ‘To Serve Man,’ it’s … it’s a taut thrill-ride prequel to ‘Daredevils.’ ”

And so on.

Surely you have wondered what the formidable toy in the episode called “Living Doll” would have to say if she had resided in the Lilac City.

“My name is Talky Tina, and I’m going to make you go to a city council meeting.”

Or “My name is Talky Tina, and I’m going to hold a yard sale every weekend until Christmas.”

Perhaps even the famous episode called “It’s a Good Life” could be Spokanized. Imagine the reactions of stunned adults after 6-year-old Anthony Fremont used his supernatural powers to address annoyances.

“It’s good that you did that, Anthony. It’s good that you turned Bill into a crow with two heads.”

Or “It’s good that you did that, Anthony. It’s good that you wished her into the wheat field.”

Of course, once you start dabbling in this, it can be hard to stop.

In “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street,” the storyline could involve space aliens intent on reintroducing the toll on the Maple Street Bridge.

Instead of being about an astronaut from Earth who winds up in a zoo on another planet, “People Are Alike All Over” could be about a Seattle family that comes to Spokane to visit relatives and never stops complaining.

“The Lonely” could be rewritten to leave out the stuff about a prisoner sentenced to live on a distant asteroid and instead focus on the life of a bachelor farmer in the Palouse who is presented with a lifelike female robot.

“The Shelter” could be about a South Hill family that discovers a Cold War bomb shelter beneath their backyard and turns it into a place to hide from the noise of the barking dogs next door.

Now nothing says Spokanizing has to be restricted to “The Twilight Zone.”

But in sticking with our theme of ancient TV shows, here are few more from the Jurassic period.

“Leave it to Beaver”: Different rodent nickname and the parents wear T-shirts and sweatpants 24/7.

“The Big Valley”: A Spokane Valley family matriarch tries to figure out how some of her children turned out to be such boneheads.

“Bewitched”: A Spokane witch married to an advertising man serves up a steady diet of Dorothy Dean casseroles to clients who come for dinner. In an episode called “Cholesterol,” one client gets turned into a cheese eating chimp just as dessert is about to be served.

“The Dick Van Dyke Show”: The head writer of “The Alan Brady Show” experiences a midlife crisis and decides to become a college basketball coach in the Northwest. His wife sighs a lot and says “Oh, Rob,” which becomes a catch-phrase in the mythical town of Marmot Falls.

Or, if none of those does it for you, you are welcome to stick with reality.

But you know what Elwood P. Dowd (“Harvey”) had to say about that.

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