Story by Martin Pasko and Rebecca Parr
Directed by Gus Trikonis
Original Airdate - February 14, 1986
Dick Shawn - Nelson Westbrook
Janet Carroll - Marilyn Cavendish
Joel Brooks - Jack Holland
Lawrence Poindexter - Milo Trent
Annette McCarthy - Carla
Ralph Manza - Sol
Kevin Scannell - Announcer
Mike Pniewski - Page
Paul Keith - Paul Loomis
Thomas Bellin - Ed Winter
Jon Melichar - Engineer



During a regular day at a radio station in the 1940's, a fledgling radio actor becomes part of a radio play produced by the legendary Nelson Westbrook.  Nelson arrives in an ambulance, dictating the script to his assistant as he jumps out.  The sound effects man on the production has purchased an authentic African voodoo statue, to give the studio ambience for the jungle drama.  It also seems to bring to life anything the actors say, and by the end of the production the studio looks like an Amazonian rain forest.  A vulture appears and flaps its wings, parrot's squawk, rain comes down, vines grow wild and the natives definitely become restless. 

The producer thinks it's marvelous, until his assistant points out to him the disasters coming up in the script.  They hurriedly rewrite it, sending the pages out to the actors almost as they have to speak the lines.  The announcer takes all this in his stride, maintaining his composure through arrows and wild animals, as monkeys romp through the studio.  The play is finally over and everyone breathes a sigh of relief, until the announcer reminds the audience to stay tuned for their next play, "Invaders from Space."  Nelson jumps up and shouts "No!!", but it's too late.  A flying saucer breaks through the ceiling, which has two bright-eyed aliens in the Twilight Zone music queues up in the background.



Droll, satirical, and magnificently whimsical, "Cold Reading" is a hoot to watch unfold. It's written by Rebecca Parr and Martin Pasko, who wrote steadily for the new Twilight Zone, but this is their best I think. Since I came along towards the end of the Baby Boomer era, I missed the old time radio shows.  I do enjoy listening to them today, though, and this episode brings back the days of the radio dramas, albeit from a fantasy angle. 

Dick Shawn plays the megalomanic radio producer, who must continue to top himself on each succeeding production.  He knows no bounds and will write volcano explosions, bomb blasts, anything that will give his productions more pazazz.  Shawn was always great at going over the top, which you know if you ever watched his performance in "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World."  He barreled his way over the other actors, who were all overacting shamelessly.  In "Cold Reading" he is appropriately crazy as Nelson Westbrook, and is a joy to watch. 

Kevin Scannell plays the announcer, whose mellow voice stays on an even keel throughout the entire crazy production.  Even he's astonished during the Maypo Wheat commercial, where he shows his appreciation of the neatest trick in this segment.  The bowl of cereal hovers in mid-air as the announcer reads the commercial, with a pitcher pouring milk into the bowl hovering alongside.  Great stuff.

Janet Carroll is accomplished at the beginning of the episode, and a bedraggled mess by the end; no one plays astonished better than she does.  Ralph Manza, a character actor of astonishing versatility, plays the sound effects guy, and he excels at standing around looking amazed at what is happening in the studio.  Everyone in this segment is wonderful, and it's one of the best of the series.