BY SABRYNA COPPOLA ’22
CBS and Jordan Peele have reimagined Rod Serling’s classic science fiction anthology “The Twilight Zone” and released the first episode on April 1. Given Peele’s impressive work creating unsettling tales “Get Out” and “Us,” the reboot of this cult favorite is a fitting next project for the star director. Peele’s skill for reflecting the horrors of reality in his work is evident in the new season of “The Twilight Zone.”
The original series aired on CBS from 1959 to 1964 and was created and presented by Rod Serling. The show was comprised of stand-alone episodes, each following a character that would find themselves in “the twilight zone,” a dreamlike place between our world and another. The tragic heroes of each episode would find themselves in bizarre and unsettling situations, usually affected by preternatural forces. Because of the restrictions on political content on television, Serling would use allegories to convey the morals of his stories. His creepy fables would warn against prejudice and hysteria, and remind viewers of the importance of being careful what they wish for.
The newest installment of this iconic series is careful to follow Serling’s model while keeping the episodes contemporary and fresh. Peele is well-known for the political overtones in his work, which will likely be reflected in this new series. The reboot addresses police brutality, the pitfalls of social media and the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Television production codes are much more relaxed about political content today than they were in the ’60s, so there is no need for the far-fetched allegories used in the original series. However, this use of realism may not be an improvement.
The only episode of the new series that is currently available to watch for free is called “The Comedian.” It stars Kumail Nanjiani (“The Big Sick”) as a struggling comedian named Samir. He meets his idol, J.C. Wheeler (Tracy Morgan), who tells him to make jokes about his personal life. He tells Samir that the audience doesn’t “care what you think, they care about you.” As Samir starts to make jokes about people in his life, they begin to vanish, changing the world to make it as if they never existed. He rockets to fame, but the repercussions of his powers catch up to him quickly. This episode mirrors the classic pervasive “Twilight Zone” warning that some wishes cost more than they’re worth.
“The Comedian” is delightfully similar to the original series in its message. But the added length of the episode and lack of the fantastical makes the story feel drawn out and uncomfortably direct. As Vox pointed out, the length of the episode limited the impact of its story by “[exhausting] a clever premise midway through because there simply aren’t enough different ways to exploit it.” Also, in an attempt to avoid being all-out scary, it lacks the eeriness that characterized the original series. In what could be an effort to combat the outright pessimism and terror of “Black Mirror,” a show known for its apocalyptic depictions of the future, the relaunch of “The Twilight Zone” feels tame. A review from the Atlantic explained, “What’s strangest of all about the reboot is its defiant lack of darkness, its unwillingness to even scratch at the human psyche.”
That being said, this series still has the potential to be a huge success. The premise of the series is extremely timely, and what it lacks in conciseness, it can make up for in creativity. It’s a shame that the episodes are not as accessible as they could be on another streaming platform such as Netflix or Hulu, but perhaps that makes the show more worth the wait. Both fans of the original series and new viewers are sure to be captivated by the surreal tales. As the show builds momentum and a larger audience, more and more viewers will be transported to Rod Serling’s “dimension of imagination.”