Declare the Upcoming Twilight Zone Reboot “Obsolete”? Not So Fast
We’ve been hearing about the upcoming Twilight Zone reboot for quite a while, and now we have a premiere date: April 1, 2019.
If you’re like most TZ fans, your reaction falls into one of two camps: enthusiasm or dread. I see it almost every time the reboot comes up: Someone either can’t wait, or is sure it’ll be a complete mess — a stain on Rod Serling’s legacy.
I have to admit, I fall somewhere in between. Basically, I’m cautiously optimistic.
I get the enthusiasm of the “pro” crowd. They’re TZ fans, so it’s only natural that the prospect of new episodes excites them. Who wouldn’t want a return trip to the fifth dimension? I like these kinds of stories myself, obviously, and I enjoy other anthologies, so the thought of having new episodes sounds like fun.
But I also sympathize with the “anti” crowd. Look at the first two reboots, they say. Sure, the ’80s one had some good stories, but by and large, it didn’t measure up — and the 2002 TZ was worse. Why should this one work? And come on, there’s only one Rod Serling!
Look, I understand. The challenge of rebooting one of the most beloved TV series of all time — of filling the shoes of the incredibly talented Mr. Serling — should give any sane person pause.
In fact, I think it’s fair to say it really can’t be done. My inner cynic is grumbling that CBS simply wants to cash in on Serling’s name and milk its venerable “Twilight Zone” property some more. So why shouldn’t I just send it to the cornfield now, sight unseen?
A couple of reasons. One is quite practical: I like seeing TZ get a boost. It’s good for business, you could say.
If you’re a regular reader of my blog and/or follow my Twitter page, you’re already a fan of this remarkable series. But not everyone is. Sure, TZ is an absolute classic. The very words “Twilight Zone” are part of our lexicon, a phrase used daily even by people who have never seen the show to describe anything weird or unexpected.
But that doesn’t mean it can’t die, so to speak. Yes, it’s lasted almost 60 years so far. Well, I want to see it last another 60 — and beyond. That can’t happen unless people watch it. And there’s no guarantee they will ad infinitum.
I’m like a lot of fans. At some point when I was a kid, I was clicking around, found a TZ rerun, and in no time, I was hooked. But that’s the thing — I found it because it was there. What happens in an age where we have dozens of streaming services, hundreds of channels, and millions of websites? The chances of just stumbling across TZ become less and less likely.
I have three streaming services right now: Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. Very often I will look up a vintage TV show or a classic movie and find it’s only on disc. There was a time when I could watch a lot of them on Netflix, but it’s been dumping them, one by one, year after year. I followed some to Hulu, and guess what? It’s doing the same thing. (Night Gallery is about to leave Hulu.)
“It’s okay, I have my discs,” some fans will say. Good! I do, too, and I enjoy them immensely. But a lot of people don’t even own a disc player anymore, and even if they do, they default to what’s convenient.
For now, TZ is streaming on all three of the services I just mentioned (minus Season 4 on Netflix). But is even The Twilight Zone untouchable? Maybe, but I think it’s a mistake to assume it is.
So for me, part of the value of a reboot is that it raises awareness, so to speak. It happened the first time, in fact. I know numerous fans who saw the ’80s TZ first when they were kids, and only later caught the original. That goes for some filmmakers who caught the TZ bug then, too. We can dismiss the reboots all we want, but they do help keep the Twilight Zone name alive.
(By the way, this is part of the reason I still champion the ad-laden, badly edited episodes shown on Syfy, especially at marathon time. It continually helps new fans find the series.)
A second reason that I’m reserving judgment on the reboot: Why not give it a chance? Sure, the bar is dauntingly high. No one knows that better than I do. But rather than think of it as someone trying to BE Serling, why not think of it as someone paying tribute to Serling?
Night Gallery‘s full name was “Rod Serling’s Night Gallery”. Well, I like to think of the upcoming reboot as “Jordan Peele’s Twilight Zone”, not an attempt to redo “Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone”. If famous classical composers could compose “variations on a theme” by previous composers and come up with some interesting work, I think we can give Peele a shot.
And who knows? I think there’s a good chance we’ll be pleasantly surprised. Peele is a very talented filmmaker who’s made it clear what a big TZ fan he is. (If you haven’t seen “Get Out” yet, I recommend it.) I’m sure he’s giving the reboot his all, so I intend to watch it with an open mind and see what he comes up with.
Let’s check with the Mystic Seer … *inserts penny* Should I watch the Twilight Zone reboot? *pushes lever, reads card* “That makes a good deal of sense.”
And the Seer would never steer us wrong …
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Hope to see you in some corner of the fifth dimension soon!