Time to bring back the classic science-fiction show or have the glasses broken for the final time?
Recently there was news of a new Twilight Zone series with Jordan Peele at the helm. Peele has shown his infinity for smart horror stories with Get Out, but can Twilight Zone really thrive in 2017?
Twilight Zone was the pinnacle of smart science-fiction stories on television in the early ’60s. With Rod Sterling at the helm, the series often featured compelling narratives that explored various themes such as isolation, the concept of beauty, and extraterrestrials among many others. Twilight Zone has lived on in popular culture because of its incredible quality and iconic performances from many great actors of the time. Most audiences today will remember actor Burgess Meredith for his performances in the Rocky series or Batman ’66, but his performance in the Twilight Zone episode Time Enough At Last places him high in television infamy.
Another reason Twilight Zone continues its relevance to this day is its biannual marathon on the SyFy channel. The show is a staple in many households over the holiday seasons and the B&W episodes still have relevance to this day. Perhaps CBS has seen the opportunity in another recently resurrected science-fiction franchise, Star Trek Discovery, and has decided to dip their toes in the water for another comeback for their All-Access streaming service. There is certainly a lot of reverence for Twilight Zone to this day, but perhaps the television landscape has already found a replacement for the Twilight Zone.
The most obvious show on the air that is similar to Twilight Zone is Netflix’s Black Mirror. Black Mirror has taken many of Twilight Zone‘s concepts and formula, to create something all new for audiences of today. Black Mirror is an anthology series that focuses on new individuals in each of its story, extremely similar to Twilight Zone. Where things change is that the show focuses on the dangers of technology as opposed to aliens and maniacal dolls. Black Mirror has similar twists and turns to its forebearer, but in 2017 it is able to go in a far darker place than the early ’60s Twilight Zone episodes could ever go. Those hungry for an experience like Twilight Zone have settled into their new niche of Black Mirror.
Black Mirror is only one of the issues standing in the way of Twilight Zone. Perhaps even bigger than Netflix’s series is that reboots of Twilight Zone have failed time and time again. In 1983, with John Landis and Steven Spielberg brought the franchise to the big screen with Twilight Zone: The Movie. Essentially a remake of many famous episodes brought to the screen with fresh life, the movie did little more than reminding audiences about what they loved about the original. The series was brought back again in 1985 due to the popularity of Spielberg films like E.T. or Poltergeist. Even though The Twilight Zone was never a massive hit when it originally aired, CBS thought it was time to bring the show back. Even though the series included stories by Stephen King, George R.R. Martin, and Ray Bradbury many would be surprised that this series actually exists. It never gained the notoriety of the original. There was another ill-advised reboot in 2003 with Forest Whitaker as the host that only lasted one season. As you can see, many attempts have been made to bring the franchise back into the current cultural consensus, but when it comes time to talk about Twilight Zone everyone still talks about the ’60s.
Black Mirror isn’t the only series in town that runs with the ideas of the original Twilight Zone and make it into something new. Amazon has a new series coming out, Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams, that is an anthology series based on the works of Philip K. Dick. His work has already been adapted into films such as Blade Runner, Minority Report, and Total Recall. The show will also feature performances from Steve Buscemi, Anna Paquin, Bryan Cranston and others. This series will likely be more similar in tone to Dick’s movies as opposed to something dark like Black Mirror, exploring the importance and significance of humanity.
The other series in town is familiar to anyone who knows the story between Spielberg and Landis from the Twilight Zone movie. An accident led to multiple fatalities and Spielberg phoned in his segment for Twilight Zone: The Movie. Having soured on the idea of continuing with Twilight Zone, Spielberg created his own series that was very much in the same spirit, Amazing Stories. It was a throwback to science fiction magazine stories Spielberg had enjoyed as a child and ran for two seasons. Now Apple is going to reboot the series with Bryan Fuller as an executive producer. There is already a 10-episode order for the series.
There is no quantifying the joy and nostalgia of sitting down to watch episodes of the Twilight Zone. The show has been a staple in many households throughout the years through syndication and holds a special place in television history. There is just so much competition in the marketplace for a show like Twilight Zone. CBS could do many things with a new series that would likely win over critics, but at what cost to classic fans? If they go the same direction they’ve gone with Star Trek Discovery, what would stop Twilight Zone from just being a Black Mirror clone? A lot of people would also say that the memories of Twilight Zone begin and end at the show in its original B&W form. There is no way that the series will air in 2017 in B&W with the demands of 4K and HDR, but only so much can be altered until the show isn’t even Twilight Zone anymore.
The answer to the question of whether or not we need another Twilight Zone is pretty obvious. No, we don’t need another attempt to bring the franchise back to life. There are plenty of other shows that have filled that void and infused new life into the anthology format that the original show thrived with. That doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t bring it back though. Name recognition alone will get a lot of subscribers for CBS All-Access and if the franchise can attract the same kind of talent it has known for over fifty years, then just maybe the Twilight Zone can thrive again.