August 18, 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 Picks

"On Christmas Eve of 1966, Paddy Roy Bates, a retired British army major, drove a small boat with an outboard motor seven miles off the coast of England into the North Sea. He had sneaked out of his house in the middle of the night, inspired..."

"The book that changed lecturer, activist, and current presidential candidate Marianne Williamson’s life, A Course in Miracles, is not available for free online, but its workbook is. You can find it on the website for the Foundation for..."

"Here are two sets of statements from far-distant opposites in the climate change debate. The first is from Naomi Klein, who in her book This Changes Everything paints a bleak picture of a global socioeconomic system gone wrong: “There is a..."

"Voters who trust their government — and each other — are more supportive of ambitious welfare states than those who do not. Across nations, high levels of social trust correlate with high levels of social spending. The relationship between these..."

"With the presidential campaign under way, expect to hear a lot more about a shiny new toy of progressive economic thinking, “modern monetary theory.” It seems to be the only intellectual contortion that might allow candidates to promise..."

"“We don’t want to fight y’all. We’re not trying to go to jail.” That’s what A$AP Rocky, the 30-year-old New York City rapper, can be heard saying in a video of an encounter with strangers in Sweden that has ballooned into an international crisis."

"Israel’s top officials are considering denying Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib entry to their country due to their outspoken, controversial criticism of Israel’s policy toward Palestinians, not to mention their slurs against American Jews as..."

"For most of our lives, we have been conditioned to share a piece of personal information without a moment’s hesitation: our phone number. We punch in our digits at the grocery store to get a member discount or at the pharmacy to pick up..."