I grew up on the original Twilight Zone. When I was really young and the show was in its first season, I remember desperately wanting to watch it but being sent to bed instead. Listening to that perennially evocative theme song through my bedroom door, I just knew I was missing some of the neatest television ever. When I was finally allowed to stay up and watch (first ep I remember seeing as a kid: the one with the plane that got stranded in time), my suspicions were confirmed. This was the greatest show ever!
At least until the Boris Karloff hosted Thriller, that is.
Like plenty of old fans, I've watched the show in rerun since. While many of the episodes crawl and betray their early teevee origins, at their best, you can still see why the show is beloved. Creator Rod Serling (and, more consistently, Charles Beaumont and Richard Matheson) did something unique for the day: taking a despised mode of genre fiction and adapting it into thought-provoking television. (It's easy to forget that s-f was primarily thought to be kid's stuff back then.) Since the show's debut, we've seen a variety of anthology attempts at replicating what Serling wrought. Some have their fans (Outer Limits, Tales from the Dark Side); others have slipped into obscurity (Darkroom, anyone?). None of 'em carry the cachet of Twlight Zone.
Watched the premiere of UPN's Zone last night. And all I can say is that the producers must be ecstatic over the fact that Family Affair debuted this season: the title of Most Pointless Remake has already been grabbed, thanks. This new TZ isn't bad, mind you, just sort of hohum - made me long for Dark Side's low-budget vigor.
The hour-long show was divided into two separate stories. Perhaps I've seen too many twist ending fantasies, but both tales were so obviously handled that both my wife and I could see the endings five minutes into the story. First tale involves a gated community for families with troubled kids (soon as you see the neighbors sobbing over a newly planted tree, you can see where the story's bratty teenage daughter is heading); second gives us Jason Alexander as Death in the midst of a mid-"life" crisis. The actor has a few good lines, and there's a nicely squirmy scene involving undying burn victims, but, c'mon, they've already lensed Death Takes A Holiday. Twice!
Forrest Whittaker is the series host, so I don't feel too badly wishing that this series dies a quick death because the guy seems to be working as an actor, anyway. Not to put the man down or anything - Bird and Rage in Harlem showed that he's got significant acting chops - but the guy's too of-this-world to be an effective fantasy series host. Stiffed-lipped Rod was a host. Boris Karloff was a host. So's George Clinton. Forrest is the guy who turns the ignition key when the jeep is running. . .
(Reprinted from Pop Culture Gadabout)