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Tonight CBS All Access rolled out their newest series, which is a reboot actually. The original Twilight Zone premiered in 1959. Hosted by Rod Serling, the series built its seasons and its popularity on a very basic and powerful human emotion…fear.
Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone explored our fears of nuclear annihilation, space travel and what might lurk out there, inanimate objects that moved and talked, war and technology that ran amok.
At its core, however, Twilight Zone exposed human nature, with all its frailties and sometimes its strengths. The series delved into collective fears and also pulled back the curtain on our single greatest fear: that we are each of us alone in the situation we find ourselves in, and our words and thoughts are not believed.
You Are Now Entering the Twilight Zone
Twilight Zone scared me as a young child. I missed the deeper messages initially. The talking doll and the evil ventriloquist dummy birthed more nightmares into my already fear soaked little life. Years later, watching reruns, I realized Serling’s stories sought to reveal rather than terrorize. And if the unexpected twists and turns created goosebumps, that was an added perk.
I came to appreciate the bold and creative story-telling of Rod Serling. I’ll never forget the classic episode “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” featuring a young William Shatner. His character, with an intense fear of flying, is not just terrified by a monster on the wing of the plane. He is terrified because no one else can see it. He alone bears the crushing burden of knowing the plane is doomed by a menace only he can see.
Tonight CBS All Access released episodes one and two of The Twilight Zone, created for a new generation and narrated perfectly by Jordan Peele, who is also the executive producer.
Episode One: The Comedian
The premier episode stars Tracy Morgan, Kumail Nanjiani, Diarra Kilpatrick and Amara Karran. Owen Harris directs The Comedian, which has a run time of 1 hour. The fantasy/drama carries a TV-14 rating, for very strong language. This episode, at least, is not suitable for young children.
Samir Wassan (Nanjiani) struggles to get the laughs as a stand up comic in a nightclub. His colleague and competitor, DiDi (Kilpatrick), brings the house down with her routine. However Samir, who wants to reveal truths while making people laugh, bombs night after night. His long suffering girlfriend Rena (Karran), a successful lawyer, provides for both of them financially.
After a particularly dull performance one night, Samir meets legendary comedian JC Wheeler (Morgan). He tells Samir that no one wants to hear him make political points. Wheeler challenges him instead to tap into his only true resource, his own personal life.
When Wheeler asks what Samir most wants, the younger comedian realizes that beyond making a difference in the world, he wants the fame, the fortune…and the laughs. Wheeler warns Samir that once he offers from his own life, and the audience connects with it, the material will be gone forever.
In this “be careful what you wish for” story, Samir discovers the high cost of fame.
My Thoughts on The Twilight Zone
I appreciated this first episode. Having only seen a brief trailer for the series in general, I kept expectations in check and didn’t read up on the premise before watching The Comedian. Interestingly, in reality I dislike watching stand up comedy. It troubles me and creates low level anxiety if the comedian doesn’t get the laughs.
So how bizarre that this first episode features a comic who isn’t funny. And yet he longs to be, more than he longs for anything else in the world. The whole situation created tension for me, adding an unsettling element while watching the story unfold.
I loved Jordan Peele’s opening and closing narrations, so reminiscent of Serling’s. And while the plot proved a bit predictable…perhaps because I’ve seen so many episodes of the old Twilight Zone…the characteristic twists at the end brought a smile. And I confess, I experienced a bit of a creepy chill in the closing moments . I so enjoy when that “oh wow” surprise sneaks up on me.
A Promising Twilight Zone
I look forward to watching episode two later this week. Called “Nightmare at 30,000 Feet”, this episode offers nods to the famous William Shatner tale. I’m willing to enter into this new Twilight Zone experience…and see what truths I can discover there.
The Twilight Zone airs on Thursday evenings, when it returns April 11, exclusively on CBS All Access. You can sign up for a free 7 day trial by clicking the link below. If you are an Amazon Prime member, you can add this streaming service for an additional monthly fee. Start a free Amazon Prime Video Channels Subscription trial HERE.
All Access airs CBS programing and original shows, including my favorite, Star Trek Discovery.
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