Story by Rockne S. O'Bannon
Directed by Joe Dante
Original Airdate - November 29, 1985
Jonathan Ward - Danny Hayes
Jason Presson - Eric
Michael Rich - Peter
Heather Hasse - Lianna Ames
Jeff Calhoun - The Shadowman
Kathleen Coyne - Mother
Tricia Bartholome - Redheaded Girl
Julie Hendler - Girl with Braces
Melissa Moultrie - Janie
Christopher Gosch - Boy #1
Marc Bently - Boy with Glasses
David Goldsmith - Kid #1
Amy O'Neill - Blonde Girl



A young boy named Danny in junior high is bullied by others at his school, and he's also terrorized at home because he's afraid of the dark and can't sleep without a nightlight.  His mother chides him about it and turns it off, saying he's too big for a nightlight.  When she does, he hears noises from under his bed, and is terrified when a large, dark shape emerges from under it.  The shape says he's the Shadow Man, and he won't harm the person under whose bed he lives.  The boy watched in astonishment as the window opens and the Shadow Man leaves.  Kids are attacked as they walk home from dates and other places by a large shadowy figure, and the entire community is afraid.  Danny is sure that this is his Shadow Man.

Danny has a crush on Lianna, one of the most popular girls in school.  After more bullying by Lianna's boyfriend, Danny hatches a plan to offer to tutor his crush in math, since his Shadow Man will prey on everyone else but not him.  He can walk the streets and act like a real hero, making the girl like him.  He becomes popular because of his perceived fearlessness, but the girl's old boyfriend isn't convinced.  He knows Danny's a coward and challenges him to a fight that night at the park.  Danny agrees, because he is sure the Shadow Man will be there to attack his opponent and not himself. 

When they meet at the playground, Danny is confident.  His opponent is too until he sees the Shadow Man loom up behind Danny, and tell Danny to run, even as he's running away.  Danny turns and smiles at the Shadow man, but the shadow picks him up by his throat and starts to throttle Danny.  Danny is confused, and asks him why.  The Shadow Man's words are, "I am a Shadow man from under someone ELSE's bed." 


While this is really in essence a silly episode, it does pack a whallop.  Who hasn't been worried about something under their bed, when they were a kid?  It strikes that central theme of night terror and unseen forces surrounding us in the dark.  You never know what might be out there, lurking.  It's an urban legend come to life, and is effectively done by the new Twilight Zone.  It's directed by Joe Dante, he of "Gremlins" fame, and written by Rockne S. O'Bannon, the writer of the 1990 movie "Fear," a slasher fan favorite and one of my husband's favorite films.  This was O'Bannon's first story for the new Twilight Zone and he went on to do seven more, most of them some of the best of the series. 

Danny as played by Jonathan Ward is not really a nice kid, and in the end we don't mind at all that someone else's Shadow Man takes care of him.  In fact, we might have helped if we had been there.  He's a wimpy coward who uses others as his crutch, and cares not a whit for anyone else.  The rest of the teens in the production are believable, if a bit young looking.  Jason Presson is adequate as the principle bully, but he has much more charm than Danny does.  Heather Hasse as Lianna is suitably sweet looking, but that's about it.  She had another NTZ episode in the second season, "Time and Teresa Golowitz," but she had about the same kind of role and didn't do much. 

My husband and I used to scare our kids with Shadow Man references when they were young, in a teasing way, and still do to this day.  They weren't really scared, I think, but it was fun to have this connection to the show.