Satan has made some very memorable appearances on TV series. The cool thing about the devil’s decision to come into the home of millions of Americans is that though he may often take on the same basic look, his intention can vary considerably. And the stories! Wow, you would not believe how much trouble Satan can himself into. You may believe how much trouble Satan can get your favorite characters into, however.
The Twilight Zone
For my money, the most memorable appearance by Satan in a TV show is the time the devil actually got captured. “The Howling Man” on this episode of “The Twilight Zone” is a guy being held captive behind bars, lock and key in a monastery. The monks have managed to discover the trick that holds Satan at bay. When a stranded traveler arrives, a monk finally confesses to him that the man whose tortured howls echo throughout the monastery is none other than the devil. Of course, the traveler thinks the monk is mad and helps the howling man escape. As he makes his way out of the monastery, a series of cuts transforms the poor captive into a goateed Lucifer.
Satan even manages to make the quantum leap from a dimension of sight, sound and mind to a dimension of Halloween silliness. A Halloween episode of “Quantum Leap” runs the gamut from featuring a teenage Stephen King getting the ideas for his most famous novels from Sam Beckett to a cameo appearance by Satan in the form of Sam’s hologram companion, Al. The devil may just be a dream figure when he shows up on “Quantum Leap.” Or he may be an instilled dream-figure central to coming arrival of the show’s “evil leapers.” And, yes, even I am embarrassed at having written the words “evil leapers.”
The Twilight Zone, Part II
“Of Late I Think of Cliffordville” is another episode of “The Twilight Zone” in which Satan appears. Or, possibly, merely a satanic minion. But since that appearance is in the form of Julie Newmar, does it matter? Any red-blooded heterosexual male is going to give the matter of selling his soul to her about two seconds of thought. I mean, come on! That devil is Julie Newmar!
One of the oddest choices to play Satan in TV history took place in one of the oddest little towns in TV history. Remember the short little guy in “American Graffiti” who drove the scooter before hooking up with Richie Cunningham’s car? Toad was his name and an apt description for how he looks. That capture of the howling devil in “Twilight Zone” temporarily brought peace to the world before he escaped from the monastery just prior to the arrival of Hitler on the world stage. Well, when toad the devil shows up in the quirky village of Cicely, Alaska the world seems to have been pretty taken over by evil so this Satan is just having a little fun by tempting little people with little sins.
See, this appearance by Satan on “The Simpsons” is really quite insightful. All those images of the devil as this ugly horned goat-type being is totally off the mark. If you could spot the inherent evil of Satan by his appearance, most people would run away and not be tempted. Satan would pretty much have to arrive looking like what you least expect to have any real influence. Satan is a liar and a fraud and living amongst you right now not as a heavy metal guitarist but as goofy talk show host. Ned Flanders walks among the people of Springfield as the town’s nicest guy; a total pushover. So, yes, it makes perfect sense that Ned Flanders is, in reality, none other than Satan. At least in a Halloween “Treehouse of Horror” segment in which he tries to purchase Homer Simpson’s soul in exchange for a donut.