The Twilight Zone: The Comedian

Due  to completing my fallout series, looking back at season 11 of Doctor Who, my Tuesday articles on Big Finish audios will move to Thursday and Tuesdays will take a brief visit to The Twilight Zone.  

The twilight zoneCBS All Access recently brought Star Trek back to our screens with Star Trek: Discovery and through the brilliant Jordan Peele, we’ve now started a new series of another classic: The Twilight Zone.  With only two episodes aired at the time of this writing, I wanted to check them out and determine just how much of the classic is still alive.  Can Jordan Peele bring The Twilight Zone to a modern audience?  And I think the answer is yes… with a caveat.

Opening with The Comedian, we are treated to the story of comedian Samir Wassan who  simply isn’t funny.  His jokes are opinions about politics and he can’t get anyone to laugh.  When at the bar one night, legend J. C. Wheeler (Tracy Morgan) appears to him and asks if he really wants to be successful.  And suddenly he is!  But, as with everything in The Twilight Zone, there’s a price tag involved and it might just be too high.

It’s not a question of whether the story is good.  Netflix has Black Mirror to fill the void that The Twilight Zone left and that might actually be a better show, but we need more time to make that determination. No, it’s a question of: does it have what it takes to carry the name.  Frankly, Black Mirror is astoundingly good, but The Twilight Zone is a name that goes back over 50 years and has a legendary reputation.  Jordan Peele’s opening is wonderful and immediately invoked that spirit that goes back to my childhood.  Black Mirror will never be able to do that for long time fans.  That’s not to knock Black Mirror!  It’s just a testament to the nature of the Zone.  And that’s a heck of a challenge for Mr. Peele!  He’s no Rod Serling… but he’s not doing a bad job trying.

The cast is also spot on.  Comic rival DiDi Scott (Diarra Kilpatrick) is a wonderful foil, putting Wassan down and making his decision to be the best that much easier.  Amara Karan (who Doctor Who fans will remember as Rita from The God Complex – a character I really wanted to see travel with the Doctor) is wonderful as Wassan’s girlfriend.  But the story comes down to a standard story of The Monkey’s Paw or any genie story: a wish has a price and that price is too high.  There’s nothing unique in it.  It’s good, but completely predictable.  On top of that, the episode plays for nearly an hour.  The best of the Zone were the 30 minute episodes that left the viewer stunned.  If there is one added perk to this version, it’s the mini-game fans of the classic series will get to play; the “spot the icon” where some element of the classic series might make a cameo.  In this case, watch out for The Dummy.  

the comedianIs it good?  Absolutely.  Does it have character?  Certainly.  Can it sustain?  Maybe.  But it’s early days and we have to be fair.  The first episode of Black Mirror is one I always warn people to stay away from until they know if they like the series.  Maybe this first episode will be the weakest.  Maybe the ones that follow will be better.  The first episode I was stunned to find on Youtube!  CBS All Access actually gave us a complete story for free unlike that atrocity they pulled with Star Trek: Discovery.  I think I’ll give this a few episodes to talk about it with our friends at the Junkyard.

It’s time to cross over into The Twilight Zone.  ML

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4 Responses to The Twilight Zone: The Comedian

  1. scifimike70 says:

    As far as the traditional Twilight Zone messages about consequences and comeuppances may be concerned, the first two new TZs under Jordan Peele’s reign can honour that much. The question as to whether or not any following episodes of this new TZ will be significantly different remains so far to be answered.

    We knew that in the classic TZ that the protagonist would either learn a life-changing lesson for the better or get a poetic punishment, even if it might make him or her sympathetic enough as with Joe Caswell (Albert Salmi) in Execution. The twist revelation that usually ensued to enhance whatever message the episode had in store for us may seem predictable in some cases and yet appealingly realistic in the sense that what goes around comes around. Black Mirror’s Crocodile, UK Thriller’s A Coffin For The Bride and The Ray Bradbury Theatre’s Marionettes Inc. have individually made it an entertainingly reusable resolution. Even fan videos follow that tradition like a vintage short that I remember from years ago (last seen on YouTube) called A Deer Friend where a reckless driver’s lack of empathy for the deer he accidentally killed is quite poetically responded to in full.

    Thank you, ML, for this review on the first new TZ episode which I think will help many TZ fans, or audiences in general, decide whether or not to give Jordan Peele’s new endeavour a chance. For his success with Get Out which was a splendid SF-horror movie, he understands what can qualify as appropriate SF-horror-genre entertainment. 😱

    Liked by 1 person

    • scifimike70 says:

      One obvious question is what possible remakes or reinventions of classic Twilight Zone episodes could Mr. Peele have in mind? He reused and slightly altered the title for one classic TZ for the second episode. But reflecting more on how the 80s TZ remade one classic TZ and reinvented it for a woman (and played by Helen Mirren) coupled with an impressive remake in the previous TZ reboot for Eye Of The Beholder and even a very significant sequel for It’s A Boy’s Life (for Bill Mumy to reprise Anthony Fremont and of course as a grown-up), we can be confident Mr. Peele’s TZ remakes won’t fall into the same trap as those from the 1983 Movie.

      Fan-film remakes now on YouTube, along with a stageplay recreation of The Obsolete Man (also reinvented with a female version for Romney Wordsworth), could also prove how TZ fans (as with Trekkers and Whovians) are becoming more empowered. But in most cases, at least from I’ve seen, TZ fan-films are remakes or reinventions and very good ones. Particularly a fan film short based on The Hitch Hiker. Yet of course there have been TZ fan-films with their own well done stories. But on the official end of The Twilight Zone spectrum, how will any potential TZ remakes appeal this time round?

      We may soon find out and only in the vast dimension known as…The Twilight Zone.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Roger Pocock says:

    Odd that they should start with such a weak episode. When you say Jordan Peele is no Rod Serling, I don’t see how he compares unfavourably as the presenter. In fact, I think Peele is excellent. He’s not going to be able to compete with nostalgia, but I don’t see how he could have done a better job that he does with his opening and closing narration, having seen three episodes so far. I think he’s brilliant, actually.

    Liked by 1 person

    • DrAcrossthePond says:

      Funny you say that. He has grown on me immensely since the first episode. I think when I watched episode one, I was looking for Serling to be there; I was absolutely invested in the nostalgia. But by episode 4, I even comment on his presence. He’s doing a great job!! ML

      Liked by 2 people

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