The Twilight Zone

Season 3 Episode 20

Showdown with Rance McGrew

Aired Unknown Feb 02, 1962 on CBS
out of 10
User Rating
89 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

Actor Rance McGrew makes TV Westerns for a living, but he's a lousy actor and a worse cowboy. Despite that, each week he "wins" against the bad guys. Finally the bad guys have enough and send Jesse James to Earth to teach McGrew a lesson.

Who was the Episode MVP ?

  • And the moral of the story is...

    Twilight Zone episodes generally have a moral, but I fail to see any moral in this one. What exactly is the point? What are they trying to tell us, if anything? Maybe it's that actors are often not as tough as the characters they portray, but so what? That's why they're called actors. And maybe they're trying to tell us that Old West villains sometimes get a bad rap, blah! blah! Okay, maybe "Jesse" wasn't Charles Manson, but he was a menace to society, so let's stop the lionizing please! The late Larry Blyden was not an untalented hack, and played the part well as Rance McGrew, the tough lawman who always got the best of "Jesse" in each episode of his fictional TV series, but Arch Johnson, otherwise a fine actor, was badly miscast as the Old West outlaw, who shows up to make sure that Rance's TV series gives Jesse and his friends their due, so-called. I agree that James Best would have made a fine Jesse James, as would James Stacy, or even Mr. Blyden himself. They all looked the part much better than Johnson, who might have made a good marshal. The silly plot is compensated for somewhat by the entertainment value.moreless
  • Interesting concept but poor execution.

    Many Twilight Zone afficionados consider Showdown with Rance McGrew to be one of the weaker episodes of the entire series and I concur with this assessment for the most part. Although the episode itself is not very good it's mostly a case of an interesting concept being ruined by poor casting. The script itself, which has the ghost of Western outlaw Jesse James haunting a no-talent actor over how James is being portrayed on the TV screen, is actually interesting and original. Unfortunately, a good idea got ruined by weak casting and the episode becomes a mess.

    They should have cast a then current cowboy star as Rance McGrew. Either Jack Kelly from Maverick or Eric Fleming from Rawhide would have been great in the role. Almost anything would have been better than Larry Blyden, an untalented hack who eventually became a game show host because it was the only way he could get work in Hollywood. I didn't find Arch Johnson very believable in the role of Jesse James either. Johnson was a decent enough character actor from the 60's who was the wrong choice here. James Best should have been cast as Jesse James. He would have played the hell out of the role especially if he had been opposite someone like Fleming or Kelly.

    Though it's always interesting to speculate about what might have been we're stuck with what we have on the screen. Showdown with Rance McGrew is a lesser entry in a great series. Skip it if you want to see what the Twilight Zone is really about.moreless
  • Television actor Rance McGrew is a man who proves impossible to deal with on the set of the Western themed television show of which he is the star. One day while filming a scene, he receives a rude awakening when he is transported to the Old West.moreless

    While bad episodes of "The Twilight Zone" are very rare, this is definitely one of them. I believe this episode ranks along with another third season episode titled "A Piano in the House," as one of the worst of the series. The episode is poorly written. Jesse James is angry with McGrew because of the inaccurate portrayals on the show. Yet the "true" portrayals as seen in this episode are even worse in my opinion. The scene at the end revealing Jesse James to be McGrew's agent is just ridiculous. McGrew claims never to have had an agent! Terrible episode.moreless
  • A Cowboy actor who never loses faces a real life showdown with the real Jesse James.

    Not one of the brighter moments of the series but calling Larry Blyden an untalented hack is just plain ridiculous. I agree that Blyden wasn't right for the part & neither was Arch Johnson as Jesse James. The idea of having Eric Fleming & James Best as the main characters might actually have worked to the shows advantage. The episode does have a few laughable moments but that's about it. Larry Blyden gave a much better performance in his earlier episode A Nice Place To Visit. Ironically, Rod Serling was asked to play the part of Rocky Valentine but turned it down.moreless

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (0)

  • QUOTES (6)

    • (Opening Narration)
      Narrator: Some one-hundred-odd years ago, a motley collection of tough mustaches galloped across the West and left behind a raft of legends and legerdemains, and it seems a reasonable conjecture that if there were any television sets up in cowboy heaven and any of these rough-and-woolly nail-eaters could see with what careless abandon their names are bandied about, they're very likely turning over in their graves. Which gives you a clue as to the proceedings that will begin in just a moment, when one Mr. Rance McGrew, a three-thousand-buck-a-week-phony-baloney discovers that this week's current edition of make-believe is being shot on location-and that location is the Twilight Zone.

    • Rance: (in character) There's something else I know that you don't know that you don't know that I know that you know Jesse James.

    • Rance: Now last, last year, we had one strip in which one of the Dalton boys went free.
      Jesse: He told me about it. He also told me how you captured him. You jumped 800' off a cliff and landed on the back of his horse when he wasn't looking. Now come on, Marshal, did you ever jump 800' off a cliff and land on a man's horse.
      Rance: Heights... heights make me... ill.
      Jesse: That figures.

    • Jesse: Just like I figured, this guy couldn't outdraw a crayon.

    • (Closing Narration)
      Narrator: The evolution of the so-called "adult" western, and the metamorphosis of one Rance McGrew, formerly phony-baloney, now upright citizen with a preoccupation with all things involving tradition, the truth and cowpoke predecessors. It's the way the cookie crumbles and the six-gun shoots... in the Twilight Zone.

    • Jesse:: We may be stiffs up there... but we're sensitive!

  • NOTES (1)