When I saw this announcement from the gossip/news site TV Line hit my inbox yesterday, I sighed. But not in relief.
I’m sure this will be an unpopular opinion with many people, but I was legitimately hoping that this new “Twilight Zone” reboot would get cancelled. The renewal of a show that you feel is terrible is almost as bad as seeing a good show that you like get cancelled, don’t you think?
As regular readers here well know, I am a die-hard fan of the original Twilight Zone. I think it’s one of the greatest television series of all time, and I believe that in another 60 years, we’ll still be talking about it and enjoying it.
When I saw that it was once again being “rebooted”, honestly I rolled my eyes and didn’t even want to watch it. It’s been hailed as “a modern reimagining of the beloved 1960s sci-fi anthology,” with pre-premiere reviews saying things like, “the show proves itself a worthy successor to the original while updating its familiar formula for the modern world we live in.” (TVLine editor Dave Nemetz)
Mhmm. I just LOVE words like “updating” and “modern”.
Just for the record, NO CLASSIC SHOW NEEDS UPDATING OR MODERNIZING.
But despite my repulsion at the thought of yet another person thinking they can step into Rod Serling’s shoes, I knew that I’d have to watch at least some of this series in order to ever share my opinion about it.
So I did. I’ve watched all five episodes that have aired so far. And even though you might be thinking, “But Wendy, you went into this new series with an already-bad-attitude. How can you be objective?” Don’t you worry — I can be objective. Because if someone actually COULD successfully reproduce what made the original Twilight Zone so epic and enigmatic, I’d be among the first ones to sing the writers’ praises. If you can be the next Rod-frickin-Serling, then you deserve an award and all the accolades in existence.
But you know what? There’s only one Rod Serling. And if this new reboot has shown us anything, it’s that.
I typically don’t like reboots in general (though there have been a few successful ones recently like MacGyver and Magnum PI), but you know, when it comes to the Fifth Dimension, I can even kind of give the ’80s and ’00s revivals a pass because let’s be honest — they were using the name “Twilight Zone”, but they weren’t REALLY trying to be TZ. I’m not saying they were necessarily “good”, but I could sit and watch them again and be reasonably entertained. Lord knows I’ve seen every episode of the original Twilight Zone, some of them dozens of times, and I’ll gladly watch them a dozen more. But I’ve been almost literally choking through every single episode of this new reboot.
I’m not a fan of Jordan Peele’s work to begin with, and it’s clear that he’s TRYING to recapture what made the original so great. But like everyone that’s come before him, and IMO everyone that will come after him, he’s come up way short. And that’s because Rod Serling himself WAS “The Twilight Zone”. It wasn’t just about being a good writer, it was about being an extraordinary human being.
For one thing, I am not a believer that “updating” and “modernizing” something means you need to jam it full of bad language. Not every conversation had by anyone on this planet in 2019 is loaded full of 50+ f-bombs, etc. Everyone is saying that this is realistic, but not where I’m from. And the fact that this reboot is NOT appropriate for all audiences is, for me, the biggest issue. My grandma couldn’t watch this, my friends’ children couldn’t watch this, and that is a flat out insult to Rod Serling’s efforts to create something that is timeless and for ALL ages. There isn’t a single episode of the original series that I wouldn’t show a 9-year-old kid, and some of the original episodes are pretty intense and serious, like “Deaths-Head Revisited“, “The Obsolete Man“, or “The Shelter“. Serling knew how to put forth a message without resorting to shock value. And shock value doesn’t have to be JUST violence, sex, nudity, or jump scares. It can be things like language too.
Part of Serling’s genius was his ability to blend entertainment and message, and while not every episode is a 10, all of them have SOME redeeming quality. If the message was lacking, at least it was fun to watch. And even when the message was heavy, Serling never skimped on the entertainment value. Not a single episode of Peele’s reboot has been entertaining to watch. For me. This is just my opinion, so please, if you want to disagree with me, don’t be rude about it. If you’re enjoying it, that’s awesome. But I would NEVER in a million years want to re-watch even 5 minutes of this show. Yet I would happily sit down right now and watch 12 episodes in a row of the original series.
Peele’s approach to sharing his ideas is like the proverbial bull in a china shop compared to Serling. Serling always made his points without coming across as racist or offensive to anyone. In fact, Serling was often teaching you a lesson that you didn’t even realize you were learning. But Peele greatly lacks subtlety. You can tell the same story in many different ways, make the same point many different ways, and I feel like he’s not trying very hard to be subtle about anything. And the irony is that sometimes what actually makes the most impact, and has a LASTING impression, is the less obvious approach.
With the reboot’s premiere episode “The Comedian”, I definitely appreciated that it truly came close to being genuinely “TZ-ish”, though I personally would have preferred a slightly different, more redemptive ending. But the language was inexcusable. And the other four episodes that have aired so far — I couldn’t wait for them to end. Even Serling had a hard time pulling off an hour-long show (season 4), and the reboot isn’t pulling it off either. These could definitely benefit from heavy editing. I found that all of them felt as if they were dragging on too long.
If this series was called something other than “The Twilight Zone”, I think I’d have more tolerance for it. But when you’re out there deliberately piggy-backing on the success of an established classic, you’d better stay true to that classic and do it justice. And in my opinion, Peele and his reboot have yet to do that.
I hadn’t really planned to blog about the “Twilight Zone” reboot, especially after I didn’t like it. But the truth is that yesterday, I spent 25+ minutes writing a comment on Bloody Disgusting’s article about the renewal, only to later discover that said comment had been “detected as spam” and was nowhere to be seen on the site. Uh huh. That’s geek-speak for “Someone didn’t like what you had to say, so take your comment and shove it.” I finally was able to find a “this isn’t spam” button, and when I clicked it, the message changed to “Thanks, we’ll work on getting this corrected”.
I even tagged them in a tweet about it, but surprise, surprise… still no comment. Which honestly just plain pissed me off. So I reworked the comment for this blog post instead.