Review: 'Twilight Zone'

Jordan Peele hosts a mostly disappointing reboot of the
classic sci-fi anthology series
A remake of 'Terror at 20,000 Feet' in the new 'Twilight Zone' fails to take off.

It looked great on paper: hiring Jordan Peele (Get Out, Us) to be the exec producer and narrator of a revived Twilight Zone. So far, the scripts have been a disappointment, despite some effective choices in lighting, sound design and camera work.

"The Comedian" had Samir (Kumail Nanjiani) as a comic whose head is too full of political anger to come up with a routine. That's when the famous J.C. Wheeler (SNL's Tracy Morgan, surrounded with satanic smoke from a vape pen) comes out of the shadows and gives him a few notes. The gift Wheeler gives is the ability to shape the world through jokes. There's almost an idea here—a comic with the literal ability to "cancel"—but it's caught up instead in the old story about how success is a bitch.

In "A. Traveller," a dapper mysterious stranger in a 1940s suit (Steven Yeun) shows up like Santa on Christmas Eve in an Alaskan town, 1,400 miles from the North Pole. Greg Kinnear is not bad as a culpable looking police chief who may have some clues. Some atmosphere and a relatively expensive payoff, but there wasn't a new angle on this old story about division and conquering.

The biggest disappointment is an episode giving itself 10,000 feet more importance than its William Shatner-starring inspiration. In "Terror at 30,000 Feet," the interestingly surly Adam Beach is a journalist who hears a future podcast describing how the plane he's aboard is doomed to crash. He seeks the usual suspects aboard: Muslims? Russian gangsters? While the paranoid state of America in 2019 is a good starting point for a tale of terror, director Greg Yaitanes can't get us into the mood of fear. Maybe the point is that the jet is flying smoothly and that the trauma is all in the passenger's mind—like Trump's crises, it's all in a man's head. But unless you worship Lost as a marvel of narrative, the punchline is abject.

The rewrite of "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" (1963) maybe a confession that the original teleplay was too frightening to be improved upon. Compare to the retelling in Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983). George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road) careens around the confines of a teetering plane in a bad thunderstorm. A white-knuckler (John Lithgow) is already babbling in terror when he sees something dreadful out on the wing of the plane. Lithgow's tremendous acting, a wrenching depiction of shame and fear, is augmented a little by the editor's craft: a half-second shot of artificially distended eyeballs when the passenger goes face to face with what's out there. Sedate it wasn't. If anything that's particularly off putting about this Peele reboot, besides the hour-long running times, it may be that they've gotten enamored with the cultural importance of what they're doing. Rather than Serling's greatest legacy, that preachiness was where he most often went banal and flatulent.

The Twilight Zone
CBS All Access

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