May 23, 2019

Jordan Peele Is Rebooting the Twilight Zone

““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.”

Read more

JJ Editor's Daily Picks

"With many other countries already studying the Asian playbook, the United States and Europe could benefit from doing the same."

"Trump's cursing is one of the most straightforward parts of his appeal... Trump is not the only politician whose profanity has stood him in good stead."

"‘If we get all of this because Netanyahu wants to make Trump happy, that’s fine with us,’ says local council rep in Golan Heights as plans ramp up for ‘new’ neighborhood honoring U.S. president..."

"...there is something worth paying attention to in this latest petition from fans keen to have a creative work made the way that they want it. The comments on the petition are instructive."

"The sunny job numbers and steady growth hide the fact that most people think the economy works only for people in power."

"Like many other Americans, I now wear AirPods all day at my desk to combat the awful tyranny of the open office. Since they don’t cancel noise, they provide me with writing music..."

"The logic of attributing mental states to nonhuman animals is complicated. We cannot use deductive inference, because there are no general rules..."

"As the canon of English literature slowly, gradually opens itself up to books by women and authors of color, Modern Library and Penguin Classics have just launched two new series..."

"Egalitarian couples assume their progressive ideology will carry the day. Sociologists know that it doesn’t.... sharing child care is associated with valuing gender equality..."

"Business Booms for Sephardic Food: Women are leading the way as small businesses bring traditional recipes to the commercial marketplace..."

"With most animal populations, the niches that encase the populations are of constant size. Animal societies growing in a given niche have dynamics neatly fitted by equations with a constant limit or ceiling."

"Now some 200,000 Jews live in Germany, a nation of 82 million people, and many are increasingly fearful.... 85 percent of respondents in Germany characterized anti-Semitism as a “very big” or “fairly big” problem..."