Updated: May 15, 2019
Jordan Peele revives the 1960s classic with a modern twist.
By Aimee Martinez, Staff Writer
“The Twilight Zone” has entered the 21st century, bringing color in its 2019 reboot.
It does not deliver the charm or nostalgia of the 1960s version, but it does revive the original intro with a slight change for gender neutrality — though “one” doesn’t flow quite as well as “man.” With such an iconic show, it is hard to come close to the brilliance of creator Rod Serling, but writer and executive producer Jordan Peele (“Get Out,” “Us”) does a fine job bringing the iconic program back to life.
The first episode, “The Comedian,” opens with Samir Wassan (Kumail Nanjiani) on the comedy club stage attempting to amuse the crowd with a political joke about the Second Amendment. Much to his dismay, his act falls flat; the audience frowning in disapproval. But when famed comedian J.C. Wheeler (Tracy Morgan) offers Wassan a path to glory, he stoops to telling cheap jokes for a quick rise to fame. Along the way, he sacrifices more than just his integrity.
Each character is unique and portrayed well by the actor. The story is captivating, and the foreshadowing images are the icing on an already well-baked cake. The final reveal left me that same satisfying astonishment I feel watching old episodes.
Peele assumes a mysterious voice, a dramatic eyebrow raise and a dapper suit to draw viewers into this ominous dimension of imagination. His narration is not distinct like Serling’s was with his mid-Atlantic accent, but it does the job. He is presented in a unique position: seated in a chair, fiddling with the props. It’s a welcome contrast to Serling’s hands-off standing position.
The second episode “Nightmare at 30,000 Feet” reinvents the original “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” with Adam Scott (“Parks and Recreation”) in the role previously played by William Shatner (“Star Trek”).
The episode begins in a plane terminal with investigative journalist Justin Sanders, played by Scott, freshly recovered from a mental breakdown after witnessing horrors in Yemen. He remarks on the curious nature of the plane’s departure time, flight number and the date; they all have the same numbers. After discovering a podcast recounting the story of his own flight’s disappearance, he does everything in his power to prevent it.
One of the things “The Twilight Zone” excelled at was simplicity. The stories were smart, using few characters and props, and were fueled mainly by the writing. Instead, what was once a simple unraveling of a seemingly psychotic man in the original episode became a more complicated plot crammed with a weird futuristic podcast and too many characters to remember.
The voice of the podcaster is not fitting for the dark tone of the episode. Having two narrators, the podcast and Peele, felt odd.
With an availability to bigger production and higher quality cameras, plenty of shots provided more perspective to the scene. Although color adds to this, it takes away from the haunting and mystical feeling that underlies the show. When Serling was pressured to switch to color, cinematographer George T. Clemens told him he couldn’t give Serling the same feeling in color as he could in black and white.
Both shows attempt to reflect the societies of their time observing the human condition and the values of the culture. The new episodes touch on the quality of comedy and society’s impulsiveness. They are entertaining, though the second episode fails to reach expectations. The show presents a much different look and feel than the original, but such is to be expected. As a whole, Peele did a good job making it his own. If there’s anyone capable of giving the show a good resurrection, it is Peele.