Director: William Asher
Writer: Rod Serling
Cast: Orson Bean, Henry Jones, Charles Lane, Horace McMahon, William Schallert, Florence MacMichael, Dorothy Neumann, Vito Scotti, House Peters Jr., Coleen O’Sullivan, and Timmy Cletro
Composer: None (Stock Music)
Air Date: 6/3/1960
Production Code: 173-3631
After an oddball with a penchant for model ships and zither music winds up homeless and unemployed as a result of his asinine behavior, a guardian angel named J. Hardy Hempstead (Henry Jones) gives Mr. Bevis (Orson Bean) a second chance at leading a normal life. Though Bevis finally earns the respect of his acquaintances and coworkers, the eponymous character soon realizes that true happiness stems not from the dictates of a superficial society, but from accepting oneself.
While Rod Serling’s inspirational premise offers an intriguing twist on the guardian angel trope, “Mr. Bevis” suffers from a weak narrative rife with flat humor and uneven character development. It’s a Wonderful Life fans may enjoy this episode for its reverse take on the aforementioned Christmas classic, though many Twilight Zone enthusiasts will undoubtedly prefer the previous entry for its superior execution of similar subject matter.
The characterization of Mr. Bevis lacks the imaginative qualities one would expect from a true eccentric, giving the impression that Serling simply threw together a mishmash of random interests and personality quirks with little regard for realism. That being said, Orson Bean handled Serling’s lazy material as adequately as possible, thus allowing Bevis to maintain a sympathetic vibe despite his dearth of relatable tendencies.
In contrast to Sebastian Cabot’s hilarious Mr. Pip portrayal from “A Nice Place to Visit,” Henry Jones’ depiction of a guardian angel fails to generate an entertaining presence due to his poor onscreen charisma. For all his eloquence and gentlemanly attributes, Hempstead comes across as a dull, unremarkable individual during his every interaction with Bevis (in fairness to the actor, Serling’s bloated dialogue coupled with longwinded backstory did nothing to increase the likability of Jones’ character). Unfortunately, the utter absence of chemistry between Jones and Bean culminates in tedious outcome devoid of any charm, irony, or cuteness whatsoever.
At its core, “Mr. Bevis” contains a solid message concerning the importance of not acquiescing to peer pressure or flawed standards of acceptable conduct. Though Serling’s cartoonish representation of a societal misfit may fail to resonate with fellow individualists, the late teleplay writer should be commended for encouraging freedom of expression during a time when nonconformity was so vehemently frowned upon.
“Mr. Bevis” can best be described as a poor-quality, bizarro-world rendition of It’s a Wonderful Life. All the elements of a classic Twilight Zone story are present, yet a number of lackluster performances and unsatisfactory character interactions hamper the execution of Serling’s concept.
Overall Quality: 4/10
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