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  • Things and Ideas: The Twilight Zone

    By Pup
    Published in 

    I began writing this a long time ago in the heat of the moment. I had just heard that there would be another unnecessary remake, this one of a much beloved series that helped to define who I am as a person. Irreplaceable. I heard it would be lead by someone I respected, but that did little to cool the fire at the time. Even now, fast approaching the premiere, I am not sure how to feel or what to think. I find it difficult to actively root against just about anything and I do hope that Jordan Peele and crew get to flex their creative muscles and continue to add to the beautiful world of clever, decisive social commentary in media, but I am apprehensive.

    We have better technology and more ways of measuring people’s wants and reactions, which has lead to amazing shows. The existing comparisons will exist no matter what, but I personally have the feeling of witnessing uncanny valley. Digitally rendered faces are flawless, without scars or asymmetry, but there is still something off. I still prefer my imperfect crew. Maybe people would have preferred new Cola if they weren’t already used to the flavor of Coke, but that doesn’t erase the existence or deep-seeded memories of enjoying one on a hot amalgamation of a childhood summer day. So while there will be a comparison, how could it compare? I feel like that is a fair mindset to go into this process with.

    Identity theft is not a joke, Jim.

    Remake Culture

    We’re at a point in time where having disgust towards remakes, reboots, and adaptations is getting its own remake, but it just doesn’t stop. Most of them are innocuous, either verging on annoying (News Flash: Charmed doesn’t need to tell me it’s feminist every five seconds. It never did, because it always was. The intelligence of the audience just used to be trusted to see that in the first incarnation.) or vaguely amusing (Pikachu is being voiced by… Deadpool?), and there are even a few that could be exciting- how great would it be if Ryan Gosling reprises one of his first guest star roles in the feature film version of Are You Afraid of the Dark? However, this third reincarnation of The Twilight Zone was really getting under my skin.

    Culture, Commentary, and the Human Condition

    For those of you who somehow are unaware, The Twilight Zone is a cultural landmark and to call it “influential” would be the understatement of the century in this dimension and the rest. It was an incredibly popular show that took risks and played with formats, each episode having its own meaning, yet fitting in to the overarching theme of the show. It was an expansive universe, sprawling between half-hour and hour long episodes, that extended into other mediums. I even found a few Twilight Zone books that I absolutely cherish. So much of modern entertainment has been influenced by it that naming just a few titles would be an injustice, as the range goes far beyond Sci Fi shows. Replaying episodes and creative ways of escaping censorship have origins with The Twilight Zone. Even mainstream comedies and dramas give their regards to the phenomenon, so why does anybody feel the need to dredge it through the mud in yet another completely unnecessary and, moreso, insulting remake?

    Given the general consensus of “meh” towards the second remake to give some extra push to the writers along with the renaissance of SciFi/Horror in recent years, I actually don’t doubt that this version won’t suck, to put it bluntly. I have faith in Jordan Peele and I was glad to hear that he is trying to find his own voice in the Narrator role. Get Out, despite having plot holes that you could sail a ship through, was a good, strong movie and Us is absolutely blowing up right now, which does make this the perfect time for this premiere, as I’m sure was preplanned. The choice of host was clever and suitable, as The Twilight Zone was smart, often tinged with humor, and hit upon both universal themes as well as modern issues. It looked to the past and to the future, being critical of the now and the always. We have been able to glimpse the ability to take on these views in Peele’s work. There is a decent chance some of his works were in some way inspired by The Twilight Zone and made his own, as is the best way to get into the psyche of Sci Fi/ Horror- building. Serling even had a humor to him, which doesn’t seem to be too well known, but it’s a necessary part of truly being able to flesh out the human experience.

    There is even a decent sized list of known actors playing parts in this anthological redeux, which is similar in many ways to the original, but I fear they are forgetting about how many of those actors did not become famous until after. I know, it’s hard looking back and trying to get into the actual mindset of how things were when the original was on air, but to miss that is to miss the point. The original guest stars really do read like a Who’s Who of ‘60s stars, though. Another key piece of the puzzle in the legacy of the original is the chances it took on then-unknowns, because that helped to pave its ability to last this long in some more minor ways.

    I understand that studios compete and known names are bankable, as they come with built in fan bases. The Twilight Zone is definitely very well known. I’m sure I’m missing some, but there are many other SciFi/Horror shows that either recently came out or are in production right now, so I get why everyone is trying to one up each other with new releases. For a small sampling, mostly of reboots and adaptations, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is getting a movie directed by the Guillermo del Toro, a The Lost Boys television series, a Buffy remake that by the grace of TV God has Joss Whedon on board, to join the recent hits such as The Quiet Place and it’s own sensory-deprived fraternal twin The Bird Box (hear no evil, see no evil, am I right?), The New Adventures of Old Sabrina, which was paced in a way that never would have lasted on a week-to-week basis, the latest Halloween, the slew of Neil Gaimen’s fantastical works that have finally made it onto the screen to varying degrees of success, and the blend of stereotypical feel and original content that formed Stranger Things and Black Mirror.

    Speaking of which, I’m not even too concerned about quality. Black Mirror is a cultural hit all on it’s own. It has been called a Twilight Zone rip-off enough times, but managed to maintain its own identity and fan-base. We are experiencing a great time for originality in this field and I AM IN LOVE WITH IT. I love it. I really, really love it and I’m so excited, so I’m insulted by the laziness that others are getting away with.

    I’m mostly afraid that this new version will make The Twilight Zone a rip-off of itself.

    There is no other Rod Serling.

    He was not perfect, but he didn’t need to be to be an effective and wonderful Host. Many of my idols are from that era and, as a result, have factors that are questionable to modern palates. I have relatively little problem separating the genius from the man when discussing the legacy of art, because it transcends individuals. Rod Serling was a very smart, creative individual, with a unique background, but you can find nuances from many other sources throughout the series. It’s beautiful, really. That is not something you recreate by trying to recreate it. That is something you are inspired by and move on to make something of your own; that’s how it was created itself! The Twilight Zone is a moment in time, a reflection. It manages to be so firmly stood in its era while free to roam around time and space. Leave it be. It doesn’t need anyone’s help to make itself continuously relevant.

    The Serling estate has not had control of The Twilight Zone since long before Rod’s death, but Carol Serling will be involved in this remake. This is honestly a relief to an extent, because she should have the best intent for the legacies at heart. I hope there will be more press statements and interviews involving her.

    Rod eventually invested himself in another anthological series, this one more macabre, The Night Gallery. It didn’t gain the traction that The Twilight Zone did, rearing in the birth of popular television and stunning audiences in black-and-white scenery that begat shades of grey, but it was considered a natural continuation. The ruddy bastardization that is the “Syfy” moniker is using the reboot artists behind Teen Wolf to capitalize upon that, as well. Teen Wolf had approximately nothing to do with the original movie and was a teen drom-com. Add this information to the few titles that came out that are being repurposed from the original and there are no clear inferences to be gained from this.

    On a Positive Note, Finally...

    It is rare to find a time so naturally inclined towards the use of the term “Twilight Zone” in real life as this moment in time. This feels true regardless of race, sex, age, political alignment, or morals. This realization is what I finally found comfort in regarding this reboot. We are looking at the world through collectively confused eyes and to have a global awareness that this is both weird and a shared experience can be kind of amazing.

    Furthermore, it excites me that there is still interest, though sometimes you have to feel protective about what you love. There is no way to untangle TTZ from my being; it has been a part of me since I was born, but I get it. We don’t need it right now, but it makes sense. I just hope that it’s more than a hoggy money grab (CBS All Access, really?) and I have found faith in the little and unimportant notion that is is more.

    The Value

    The Twilight Zone didn’t survive because it was The Twilight Zone. It survived due to its pervasiveness, it’s singular understanding of the human psyche, it’s vulnerable moments, it’s humorous moments, and it’s grasp of how the current relates to the total. The Twilight Zone makes you think about life and your place in it. It helps you to see possibilities, both good and bad. It expands the mind and person. It’s hopeful and teaches lessons, so many lessons. It was fearless. You don’t need to steal a name or format to do any of those things. A Twilight Zone by any other name could cut so deep, but maybe it’s okay to stop pretending that we are starting a conversation in favor of being aware and involved in the ones that are going on, the ones that have been happening way before “woke” needed a cute, monosyllabic term to describe a state of being that college freshman in Philosophy 101 have been getting high off of for years unknown. This can be a good thing. This can be fun and entertaining, but also informational. This can be a high quality show, but also an unfortunate example of greed and resting on laurels. It can even try to be as complex and giving as The Twilight Zone is.

    Let’s just leave it at this...

    Shatner better be involved.

    Wait, that’s not what I meant. I mean, he should be, but what I meant to say is...

    I have seen more shadow than substance, which does a disservice to the great legacy of The Twilight Zone, but the picture is starting to clarify and come into the light. Judgements can be saved and opinions will vary, but anything that helps to increase our ability to be human to each other and helps the legacy of the original to thrive has good in it.

    Sometimes you have The Howling Man, but I will prefer Night of the Meek here- positivity for the sake of itself, for the sake of each other, and that is another lesson


    The Twilight Zone.

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