'Twilight Zone' updates classics

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Those of us old enough to recall grade school air-raid drills and backyard bomb shelters can't help but cringe in recognition of the current climate of anxiety. We've gone from "duck and cover" to duct tape. No television show captured the uneasy fears of the Cold War era better than Rod Serling's "Twilight Zone." Tonight, the new incarnation of "The Twilight Zone" (8 p.m., UPN) revisits two classic episodes.

A very familiar face stars in "It's Still a Good Life." Back in 1961, child actor Billy Mumy scared the pants off America as Anthony Fremont, a 6-year-old monster who had the power to read everybody's thoughts and feelings. If you upset him, he would banish you to a mysterious cornfield. Tonight, Mumy returns to play a middle-aged Anthony, who still maintains his bratty dictatorship over his town. Cloris Leachman also reprises her role as Anthony's cowering mother. In this spooky sequel, Anthony is startled to learn that his pigtailed daughter Audrey (played by Mumy's real-life daughter Liliana) has developed powers that may surpass his own.

The updated version of the 1960 story "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street" may be too timely for some. Residents of a cozy but conformist neighborhood are driven to hysteria when the power and phone service goes out. One neighbor worries about the current Code Orange level of alert and news reports of "increased terrorist chatter." Things really heat up when they discover that only one house on the block still has power -- the home of the only family who has not joined their neighborhood block association.

Tonight's other highlights

Series notes

Arsenio Hall hosts a new round of "Star Search" (7 p.m., CBS) ... A good deed is rewarded with a lawsuit on "Ed" (7 p.m., NBC) ... Red makes his displeasure known on "That '70s Show" (7 p.m., Fox).

Late night

Kevin Spacey and Reggie Miller appear on "Late Show with David Letterman" (10:35 p.m., CBS) ... Jay Leno hosts the Rev. Al Sharpton and musical guests The Soundtrack of Our Lives on "The Tonight Show" (10:35 p.m., NBC).

Jim Belushi, Chris Elliot and Lillian Ellison are scheduled on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" (11:35 p.m., NBC) ... Juliette Lewis, Phil Mickelson and Matthew Harawitz are booked on "The Late, Late Show with Craig Kilborn" (11:37 p.m., CBS).