By RYAN LEFORT
Ron Sterling’s revolutionary anthology series “The Twilight Zone” is once again breathing life. The show that captivated the minds of 1960s television watchers is back on CBS’s streaming service CBS All Access. The revamp of the original sci-fi television series comes to us from comedian turned Oscar-winning writer and director Jordan Peele. Peele, now taking the place of Ron Serling as the show’s host, is here to lead us back into the fifth dimension through a series of twisted, horrific and magical tales.
The first two episodes of the new reboot, which were released on CBS All Access on April 1, both boast some major star power. Kumail Nanjiani, who received critical buzz for his role and screenplay for “The Big Sick” (2017), and Tracy Morgan, who stars in “The Last O.G.” (2018) co-produced by Peele on TBS, both star in the pilot episode of the reboot “The Comedian”.
The premise of the episode revolves around a stand-up comic (Nanjiani) who is given advice from a famous comedian (Morgan) to use experiences from his own life in his act only to find that by doing so those experiences disappear from reality. The second episode titled “Nightmare at 30,000 Feet” stars Adam Scott (“Parks and Recreation”) as a paranoid journalist who discovers a podcast listing the events of how his flight will eventually crash and disappear.
Elements of the original show can be found throughout each episode. The basic formula of every episode is fairly similar; an ordinary person has something unexplainable happen to them that eventually leads them to their destruction or to a sudden realization with a dramatic twist dropped here and there. At first glance, this new adaptation appears to do a good job at recreating all the elements from the original series while also giving it a modern touch-up.
But the one element that can’t be recreated is the show’s original host Ron Serling. At the end of the day, “The Twilight Zone” is Serling’s creation, and without him, the show feels hollow. Serling had a lot of creative control with the original Twilight Zone series, and while Jordan does a fantastic job as the host for the show, he doesn’t have the same mysterious and ominous presence that Serling had.
You would think that after having successful ventures like “Get Out” (2017) and the recent critically acclaimed horror flick “Us” (2019) that Peele would have a knack for creating strange and disturbing stories for a TV show that have some political or social satire wedged in there. The twists and commentary are present through each episode, but it is the delivery of those aha moments that feel very watered down and almost predictable to a certain extent.
“The Twilight Zone” has spawned the creation of multiple sci-fi anthology series such as “Tales from the Crypt” (1989) and the very popular “Black Mirror” (2011), which has been called “The Twilight Zone” of the technological age. The emergence of these recent entries in the long list of anthology series has become very repetitive in recent years and this recent reboot of the series is just that… repetitive.
The timing of this reboot is not just any coincidence. In the past five years, TV shows and movies have been getting the reboot treatment more and more. Some prime suspects include “Will and Grace” (1998), which returned to NBC two years ago after a 10 year hiatus. The cult classic “Twin Peaks” (1990) also made a return to Showtime in 2017 after being canceled after two seasons back in 1991. Even “Star Trek” has found its’ way back onto the small screen with “Star Trek: Discovery” (2017), the first original series produced by CBS All Access.
Despite the feelings of mass nostalgia, it seems that with the recurring trend of reboots in the past few years people aren’t interested in new and thrilling ideas. Instead, they seem to prefer the same old same old reimagined for a newer generation.
What made the original Twilight Zone one of the most iconic shows of all time was that it was one of the first shows that pushed the boundaries of not only science fiction but television itself. It made people think and re-examine themselves, which is something that Peele’s Twilight Zone tries to attempt. In the end, it relies on big and dramatic twists to help carry each episode without providing a different perspective on the world. Peele’s Twilight Zone has everything the original had, the iconic theme song, the intro, and the mysterious narrator, but it can never recreate what Serling did to cement “The Twilight Zone” as one of the most creative and ingenious television shows ever created.