Jordan Peele's 'The Twilight Zone' Plans to Honor the Original -- but Deliver a Modern Spin

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), March 30, 2019 | Go to article overview

Jordan Peele's 'The Twilight Zone' Plans to Honor the Original -- but Deliver a Modern Spin


Byline: Michael Cavna Washington Post

The wall-spanning computers, thin spacesuits and caked makeup effects might look squarely of their Hollywood era, but the '60s aesthetic was never the point of "The Twilight Zone." The science-fiction anthology series resonates as timeless because its mission was always about the human condition, tested by the whims and mysteries of the surreal.

Celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, Rod Serling's original series is often cited as one of the best television shows ever, largely because it cloaked allegories about humankind's deepest fears and sins beneath the lab coat of science-fiction tropes. As narrator and creator, Serling toyed with senses of time, space and perception, playing like a behavioral scientist with themes of power, nostalgia, social politics and prejudice.

All that has proved immensely attractive to a team of 21st-century producers, who are re-imagining the classic series for modern times. Led by filmmaker Jordan Peele, their vision for a revived "Twilight Zone" will debut Monday, April 1, when the first two of the season's 10 episodes ("The Comedian" and "Nightmare at 30,000 Feet") become available on CBS All Access.

"We are living in an era that feels like an episode of 'The Twilight Zone,'" says executive producer and director Simon Kinberg, who is also behind this year's "The Dark Phoenix." "Every day, both nationally and internationally, things are happening that (seemingly) could only have been created by the mind of wry, ironic science fiction. ... The absurdity, the surreality, the sliding truth and fiction of today's world just feels very much like a 'Twilight Zone' episode."

To affirm the original show's modern influence, simply look to Peele's new horror hit, "Us," which had a record-setting $71 million domestic debut last weekend. For that film, Peele was inspired by the 1960 "Twilight Zone" episode "Mirror Image," in which a female character eerily sees her doppelgnger in a mirror and comes to believe that this evil double is trying to replace her.

CBS' "Twilight Zone" revival similarly features original stories and characters, even as it pays homage with many Easter egg references to Serling's series -- honoring, as Kinberg says, "the spirit and the structure and the tonality of the original series."

The producers, who are passionate fans of the original, needed to tackle two crucial questions to bring the revival to life: What about "The Twilight Zone" works in 2019 -- and what most needed to be reworked?

"What we landed on was that in some very fundamental ways, 'The Twilight Zone' isn't broken," says Win Rosenfeld, an executive producer on the new show and the president of Peele's Monkeypaw Productions, which has a deal with Universal.

What the new show's creatives appreciated was that the original series' craftsmanship -- from story to performance -- was so often impeccable. The original featured a wealth of established and future stars, including Robert Redford, Robert Duvall, Carol Burnett and much of the cast of a follow-up '60s sci-fi hit, "Star Trek. …

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