Director: Chris Nyby
Writer: Rod Serling
Cast: Jesse White, Carol Burnett, Howard Smith, Frank Behrens, Sandra Gould, Albert Carrier, Barbara Morrison, Donna Douglas, Danny Kulick, Jack Younger, and John Fiedler
Composer: None (Stock Music)
Air Date: 5/25/1962
Production Code: 4827
Hoping to earn his wings, guardian angel Harmon Cavender (Jesse White) embarks on a mission to help Agnes Grep (Carol Burnett)—a socially awkward, recently unemployed woman—with her financial situation. As Cavender later discovers, however, providing Agnes with fame and fortune does little to improve her quality of life.
Combining slapstick humor with paranormal tropes, “Cavender Is Coming” earns its reputation as the worst episode of The Twilight Zone. Specifically, viewers may take issue with this installment for its goofy situations, tonal inconsistencies, and cringe-worthy allusions to the most popular Christmas film ever made.
In spite of her buffoonish tendencies, Agnes Grep comes across as an extremely kind, humble, and likable person—an aspect that can likely be attributed to the performance of Carol Burnett, who, though known for her eccentric style of acting, avoids portraying the main character in a childish or annoying manner.
“Cavender Is Coming” deserves criticism for its embarrassing production values, which resemble those of a high school drama skit. Especially ridiculous (perhaps intentionally so) are the Heaven scene props, which consist of lawn chairs, folding tables, and plastic wings for the head angel.
This offering is also marred by comedic devices that, although well-suited for a sitcom, seem entirely out of place in an episode of The Twilight Zone (the original broadcast version of “Cavender Is Coming” does, however, feature a laugh track to better emphasize the lighthearted nature of Agnes’ predicament). Examples include juvenile sound effects, sped-up voices during a chaotic party, and character actions that would never occur in a real-world setting (e.g. the bus driver’s decision to jump through a glass window after resigning from his job).
Offering a screwball twist on the premise for It’s a Wonderful Life, “Cavender Is Coming” should be commended for promoting charity, nonconformity, and acceptance of unique personality types—all valuable concepts that suffer from an idiotic presentation.
“Cavender Is Coming” benefits from a positive life lesson. Those with a mature sense of entertainment should nevertheless forgo this episode, also a dreadful remake of a timeless holiday classic.
Overall Quality: 2/10
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