Debut of ‘Twilight Zone’ reboot doesn’t quite land, but 8 more chances for great takeoff

"The Twilight Zone" (2019) by CBS All Access

The third time is said to be the charm, but the premiere of “The Twilight Zone” reboot doesn’t quite have the same appeal as Rod Serling’s classic sci-fi anthology, at least for the first two episodes.   

The first episode, ‘The Comedian,’ stars Kumail Nanjiani  (Silicon Valley), Saturday Night Live” alum Tracy Morgan and up and coming comedic actress Diarra Kilpatrick  (American Koko) who happens to be the half-sister of Detroit’s former mayor.  Nanjiani plays Samir, a down on his luck stand-up comic who strikes a Faustian bargain with a superstar comedian, played by Morgan. The old standby of the deal struck with the devil has become a writing cliché, but the fun of the episode is in figuring out the exact impact on the hapless un-funnyman. Interestingly, Nanjiani does a cameo in the second episode, so see if you can spot him.

The second episode is ‘Nightmare at 30,000 Feet’ starring Adam Scott and is a remake of the original series episode ‘Nightmare at 20,000 Feet’, which starred William Shatner. If you recall, Shatner played a plane passenger who’s the only one who can see a gremlin on the wing.  There is no gremlin on the wing in this episode, but maybe somewhere else in a story that ends being a crazy blend of “Sully,” “Lost” and “The Walking Dead.” 

Both episodes feature film auteur Jordan Peele as host and narrator, sometimes cradling a beverage-filled glass, but never a cigarette, in a role he will fill in every episode. Peele also receives a co-executive producer credit, along with Simon Kinberg (X-Men film franchise) and Marco Ramirez (The Defenders).

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the original “Twilight Zone,”  a visionary series that set the pace for future anthologies and cast the die for a television landscape where the anthology has become the rule—not the exception, given the success of The Black Mirror,” “American Horror Story,” and Love, Death + Robots.” 

Most people forget that there have been two prior attempts to reboot the series on television. In 1985, “Twilight Zone.” featured actor Charles Aidman, who served as the show’s narrator for the first two seasons before being replaced by Robin Ward for the final season. In 2002, UPN, featured the Academy Award-winning Forest Whitaker as narrator.  Covering cultural topics and social commentary, the updated “Twilight Zone”displays real promise despite a debut featuring a couple of virtual misfires. Viewers can still look forward to a highly talented cast with a level of representation wholly absent from the original. In the meantime, it needs to give us more “Get Out” and a little less homage.  

Overall Rating: ★★1/2 out of four

“The Twilight Zone” by CBS All Access

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