Original Story by Haskell Barkin
Directed by Ted Flicker
Original Airdate - November 15, 1985
James Coco - Maury Winkler
Bob Dishy - Harry/William Shakespeare
Avery Schreiber - Landlord



Two men, Harry and Maury, who have obviously been writing partners for many years, are trying to come up with dialogue for a detective story they're writing. They are not successful writers; they're broke, they're behind on their rent, and the landlord is hounding them for it. This only serves to make them more desperate. During a particularly stressful session of bad writing, Harry has a heart attack. He tells Maury that the necklace he's wearing will grant one wish, and rather than Harry wasting his one wish on himself he instead asks Maury to wish him alive again if he dies.
All he has to say is "I wish...". Maury spends too much time going over the wish options with the amulet, the landlord interrupts again and pounds on the door, yelling for the rent, and in the middle of all that Harry dies. When he takes the necklace off the dead man, instead of wishing his friend back to life, he apologizes to Harry and his dubious talents, knowing that he'd understand, and wishes for the best writing partner ever.

Suddenly he's back in Shakespeare day, in Shakepeare's house, as his writing partner, and Shakespeare looks exactly like his dead partner. Shakespeare is sitting there writing at his desk, and wants to know who he is and why he's there, and assumes he's another half-mad servant. He begins yelling for the other servants to get rid of him. When Maury picks up a piece of parchment on the desk and starts reading, Shakespeare is astonished that the man can read, but he still wants him out of the house. When Maury mentions that the play he's reading is good, but no Hamlet, Shakespeare wants to know the plot of this "Hamnet." Maury tells him; Shakespeare thinks it's brilliant.

He asks Maury to work with him on this "Hamnet." Maury corrects him, saying it's Hamlet with an L, and takes off the necklace. He looks at the amulet and pleads with the dead Harry to help him, but he's used his one wish. Shakespeare takes the amulet away from him and asks what it is. Maury asks for it back, but Shakespeare says he might give it back when they've finished the play. Maury explains that it's of great sentimental value to him, but Shakespeare "wishes" Maury to write with him. Maury shrieks, because he now has to stay, and he realizes he now knows every single line of Shakespeare, from every play. Shakespeare invites him to sit down and begin his work on "Hamnet." Maury looks sad, knowing he's stuck in the Elizabethan period forever, and corrects him, saying "Hamlet. With an L."



"Act Break" is an interesting, sly episode.  Written by Haskell Barkin, who seems to have written mostly for cartoons, it's clever and the historical aspect of it is used to good effect.  It's paying homage to the long-held notion that Shakespeare couldn't have written the plays, but exactly who did has never been decided.

Bob Dishy and James Coco play off each other well, and look to be having a lot of fun themselves in this teleplay.  James Coco was always great at cynical comedy, and this showcases his talents.  Bob Dishy makes a good-looking Shakespeare, and handles the part with zest.  The Elizabethan set is wonderfully evocative of the time and place; the new Twilight Zone always had spectacular sets, and was one of the strengths of the series.