I've never sat down and watched the original The Twilight Zone. I've seen bits and pieces of it, of course, as well as 1983's Twilight Zone: The Movie that helped launch John Lithgow. But I also have no real desire to revisit either one.
I am, however, all in on Jordan Peele's reboot of the series, which premiered April 1 on CBS All Access.
We got two episodes at the drop — "The Comedian," with Kumail Nanjiani and Tracy Morgan, and "Terror at 30,000 Feet" with Adam Scott. And, of course, Jordan Peele as the host and narrator, hot of the heels of his latest thriller, "Us."
This doesn't quite live up to Rod Serling's 1950s classic thus far. It couldn't. There wasn't anything like it at the time. And in a 2019 world that's already been seasoned with Black Mirror — to say nothing of the actual reality we see on TV day after day — it'd be wrong to expect this TWZ reboot to have the same sort of impact.
That doesn't mean it's can't be a good watch, though, and another tentpole for CBS All Access, alongside the likes of Star Trek: Discovery.
That's a caveat, sure. But this is a series that's worth watching. What follows is mostly spoiler-free.
"This is it, kid. This is it."
Those words echoed by Tracy Morgan toward the end of "The Comedian" — on The Twilight Zone on CBS All Access — portrayed so many things. They were the beginning of the end. He knew it. Kumail Nanjiani's Samir Wassan knew it. We knew it.
The audience at the comedy club where Samir had been killing it night after night didn't know it, but they didn't care, either. Nor did they really have a choice.
Morgan's words were the end of the beginning. The first episode of the reboot of the 60-year-old classic on CBS All Access was coming to a close. And by that point, we knew — probably — what was about to happen. The only question was how.
The end was inevitable, of course. This was hardly a new storyline. You could see the devil's bargain from a mile away. (Though I'm not sold on Morgan's JC Wheeler being the actual devil. But they certainly drink at the same bar.)
Samir wasn't funny. His jokes on the 2nd Amendment didn't get close to landing. That was actually harder to watch than I anticipated because it was Nanjiani delivering the lines. The acting was fine, but anyone who's seen or heard Nanjiani in real life knows that he's capable of actually delivering a politically charged set in a way that's going to be funny, poignant and personable. That's what he does.
Wheeler, in a cloud of smoke (and in the fleshy flesh), offers another way. Samir is starstruck and desperate enough to miss that the man "who had it all" doesn't have a damn thing anymore, and he's more than happy to pass along the pain, disguised as a way to help Samir bring the funny.
"Don't you want it all?," he asks Samir? "Yes. More than anything."
Samir was slow on the uptake. We knew what was happening long before he did, and that's maybe not the most suspenseful way for the show to go. But on the other hand, the point of The Twilight Zone really isn't to take us somewhere we haven't been, or to twist its way into the darkest recesses of ourselves like Black Mirror.
It's to tell a story. And Samir ended his the only way he could.
Terror at 30,000 Feet
"The past is the past. That will help me get through the now."
Something is going on in Justin Sanderson's head. Or, rather, something already has happened to Justin Sanderson's head. In the past. Some sort of psychotic break we don't really find out about.
But here he is, headed through the most well-lit airport you've ever seen (to say nothing of the airports in Washington, D.C.), on a flight to Tel Aviv. He sees his on face on a magazine in a newsstand, under the headline "The end of civility." Samir Wassen is featured on the magazine above. (Nice touch.)
From the moment he steps foot in the plane, something is ... off. He's looking the other passengers in the eye, as one tends to do. But he's definitely getting the feeling that something's not right.
The appearance of an MP3 player presents the Enigmatique podcast and "The Tragic Mystery of Flight 1015" — the same flight number Justin is on. Justin has to find headphones to listen as his AirPods — well, you know.
He starts a minute in (figure he skips the Casper ads like the rest of us?) and begins to learn about the disappearance of Northern Gold Start Flight 1015. Which he is on.
You don't get anywhere near the same sense of mystical paranoia in the original "30,000 Feet." These are very different times, with different fears. (Including, of course, the idea of a plane simply vanishing.)
And what you lose in that respect you gain by watching Adam Scott try to prevent the disaster in the first place, only to see that go horribly wrong.
They payoff in the end isn't so much in the resolution, which is largely unsatisfying and sort of gives the sense that someone was saying "time to wrap this up", even though there's no real limit to these CBS All Access shows — and in fact all of The Twilight Zone episodes vary in length.
It's a swift, clean ending, maybe satisfying in the sense that it wasn't satisfying. Things worked out just about as much as they didn't work out — for Justin, anyway.
Coming on April 11: Replay
New episodes of The Twilight Zone air on CBS All Access on Thursday, starting April 11.
CBS All Access costs $5.99 a month with commercials, or $9.99 a month if you want to get rid of the adverts. (Most of them, anyway.) There's also a 15 percent discount if you pay annually.
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