Jordan Peele Puts His Spin On TV's Classic: 'The Twilight Zone' Oscar-winning filmmaker Jordan Peele has created a new version of TV's classic anthology series — The Twilight Zone — for the streaming service CBS All Access. The show debuts April 1.
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Jordan Peele Puts His Spin On TV's Classic: 'The Twilight Zone'

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Jordan Peele Puts His Spin On TV's Classic: 'The Twilight Zone'

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Jordan Peele Puts His Spin On TV's Classic: 'The Twilight Zone'

Jordan Peele Puts His Spin On TV's Classic: 'The Twilight Zone'

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/708664076/708664077" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Oscar-winning filmmaker Jordan Peele has created a new version of TV's classic anthology series — The Twilight Zone — for the streaming service CBS All Access. The show debuts April 1.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

"The Twilight Zone" is returning to TV screens. Rod Serling was the host and writer of the original series of science fiction and horror stories in the 1950s and '60s.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE TWILIGHT ZONE")

ROD SERLING: (As narrator) You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension.

INSKEEP: Now filmmaker Jordan Peele is executive producing and hosting a revival for streaming service CBS All Access. So let's enter that other dimension, a dimension not of sight and sound but of the mind of NPR TV critic Eric Deggans.

(SOUNDBITE OF "THE TWILIGHT ZONE (2019)" THEME MUSIC)

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Submitted for your approval, a talented, Oscar-winning writer, director, producer and performer who's helping reboot one of the most groundbreaking series in early TV history. The first thing you notice, he does a pretty good echo of series creator Rod Serling.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE TWILIGHT ZONE")

JORDAN PEELE: (As narrator) You're traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind.

DEGGANS: That new opening theme, modeled so closely on the original series, signals that Jordan Peele has created something of a loving tribute. It's a televised tip of the hat for nerds old enough to remember the original series and younger fans itching to learn more. But that same loyalty to the original show's formula, a different story every episode with a fantastical or science fiction-y twist, also limits this new "Twilight Zone." Most of the four episodes I saw were a little too predictable and a little too obvious to work well.

One episode, "Replay," features Sanaa Lathan as a woman who rewinds time by pressing buttons on her dead father's camcorder. She's driving her son to a historically black college and uses the camcorder to evade a bigoted sheriff determined to arrest him.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE TWILIGHT ZONE")

SANAA LATHAN: (As Nina Harrison) You've been profiling us, targeting us, following us - shooting us, killing us. Not anymore. Now we crossed the line. My son will cross that gate.

DEGGANS: This speech comes as white cops with drawn guns face a group of mostly black students recording on their cellphones. It's a powerful image, part Black Lives Matter movement, part nod to the Underground Railroad. But much of the plot is fractured and makes little sense, even in the topsy-turvy universe of "The Twilight Zone." This happens often. Powerful scenes are linked together by weak storytelling and too many holes in the narrative.

Consider the show's homage to one of the most famous "Twilight Zone" episodes, "Nightmare At 20,000 Feet." The original 1963 episode featured the king of overacting William Shatner as a passenger who swears he sees somebody on the wing of a commercial airplane in flight.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE TWILIGHT ZONE")

WILLIAM SHATNER: (As Robert Wilson) Do I look insane? I know I had a mental breakdown. I know I had it in an airplane. I know it looks to you as if the same thing's happening again. But it isn't.

DEGGANS: OK. The new episode, "Nightmare At 30,000 Feet," features Adam Scott as a passenger listening to a podcast which just happens to be about the disappearance of the plane that he's on.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE TWILIGHT ZONE")

ADAM SCOTT: (As Justin Sanderson) I'm sorry. This is going to sound very weird. But this podcast says that this flight - like, this flight - is going to vanish into the ocean. So if you wouldn't mind just listening? Just for a sec.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) Hey. Yo. I don't want to get lice.

DEGGANS: Here's the thing. Tackling this episode is like remaking "Stairway To Heaven." If you can't absolutely nail a new version, you probably shouldn't try it. The original "Twilight Zone" gave a serious showcase to science fiction and horror stories once seen as B-movie or kiddie fare, and it addressed complex social issues indirectly at a time when network TV was mostly escapist. But television is different now. It's embraced science fiction and horror. So simply updating the spirit of the original "Twilight Zone" just isn't good enough.

(SOUNDBITE OF "THE TWILIGHT ZONE (2019)" THEME MUSIC)

DEGGANS: I'm Eric Deggans.

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