Director: Buzz Kulik
Writer: George Clayton Johnson
Cast: Jack Klugman and Jonathan Winters
Composer: None (Stock Music)
Air Date: 10/13/1961
Production Code: 4815
Desperate to make a name for himself, Jesse Cardiff (Jack Klugman) challenges the late Fats Brown (Jonathan Winters)—the most renowned pool player who ever lived—to a game of straight pool. Residing in the afterlife, Fats returns to Earth for one final match; but warns Jesse that being the best at anything can have unforeseen consequences.
This installment makes compelling use of a simple, one-note premise conceived by George Clayton Johnson—an occasional contributor to The Twilight Zone. Especially well-executed is the twist ending featured in “A Game of Pool,” the unpredictable nature of which will no doubt satisfy fans of this series.
Having portrayed Jesse as an overly tense competitor with no sense of humor or levity, Jack Klugman (known to viewers of The Twilight Zone for appearing in “Death Ship,” “In Praise of Pip,” and “A Passage for Trumpet”) should be commended for conveying the doubts and insecurities that define his character. Particularly worth noting is Klugman’s performance in the climactic scene, wherein Jesse, now guaranteed a victory over Fats, proceeds to taunt and humiliate his opponent despite nearly suffering a devastating loss—a believable display of faux confidence from a weak, desperate man lacking the gravitas or sportsmanship of a true champion.
Fats’ personal afterlife (a misty region containing only an announcement speaker and a pool table) may induce groaning from the audience.
Though highly unrealistic, “A Game of Pool” contains an important life lesson that pursuers of any specialized hobby or profession would be wise to follow. Specifically, the circumstances of Jesse Cardiff rightly indicate that, when carried to the point of obsession, even the most innocuous of activities (e.g. pool, chess, etc.) can become detrimental to maintaining a balanced and healthy perspective on life.
Complementing a fantastic narrative concept with top-notch performances and production values, “A Game of Pool” should be requisite viewing for enthusiasts of The Twilight Zone. Johnson’s clichéd representation of the afterlife does, however, cheapen the underlying message presented in this offering.
Overall Quality: 9/10
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