Best Of The Web
““The Twilight Zone,” the landmark anthology series, is back, as a revival on CBS All Access, with Jordan Peele, the director of “Get Out” and “Us,” as its executive producer, occasional writer, and Rod Serling-like figurehead—he is the host and narrator, with a crisp pocket square at the breast of his undertaker’s suit. The costume department did not take sufficient care to keep the jacket sleeves from bunching, but that is how things go with this reboot: fine material, but some careless tailoring.
As ever, the show inhabits “the middle ground between science and superstition,” to quote its intro. The first episode opens on a comedy-club mural, in which a crowd of partygoers in evening clothes tilt up their chins and grin—an invocation of the ballroom photograph from the Overlook Hotel in “The Shining.” (Kubrickian chilliness and Stephen King-ly bizarreness are among the modes of the series, as is genre-geek homage-unto-itself.) The stand-up comic onstage, Samir Wassan (Kumail Nanjiani), bombs with a set of sincere and cerebral material about the Second Amendment. Repairing to the bar to console himself, Samir meets a famous comedian, played by Tracy Morgan, whose performance brings a sinister edge to his familiar edgy clowning.
Like a djinn, or a devil at the crossroads, the legendary performer tells Samir to make his material more personal, to tell stories his audience can connect to. There’s a caveat: “Once they connect to it, it’s theirs, and once it’s theirs, that shit is gone forever.” What follows is a fable imagining the birth of an art monster. Samir tells a joke about his dog, and soon the dog is missing, even from photographs. It’s all downhill from there, except for his career. As a statement about the neediness and narcissism of artists—a ghastly exploration of the consequences of believing that everything is copy—the episode is acute. The mania that Nanjiani builds to in Samir’s climactic set, in which the performer describes himself as “a garbage can who needs lots of money and validation emptied right into me,” sells the cold sweat of the mood.”
JJ Editor's Daily Picks
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