It's no stretch of the imagination to say that Rod Serling's 1959 sci-fi drama 'The Twilight Zone' is a classic series that ranks up there with the best shows of all time. In fact, it's so obvious, it's almost a statement of fact cowardly disguised as an opinion. It's like people who say they are against war or don't like death. Really? Wow, that's bold.
So, Serling's creation is a classic. I can sit and bask in all its black-and-white glory, low budget effects and post-nuclear to-the-camera moralizing during New Year's Day marathons on the Sci-Fi Channel for hours on end. This is not 'the real' Twilight Zone' but UPN's debunked experiment to remake the series and update it for a new generation (hosted by a wildly miscast Forest Whitaker). However, I approach this show not as a cockeyed purist or one of the many pseudo-intellectuals who insists that entertainment was better back in the day. 'The Twilight Zone', and it's unforgettable formula, is exactly the type of series that can be resurrected and re-invented for future generations in response to the needs and fears of the current political and social climate of that generation. As it has already been tried once before in 1985 with lukewarm results.
This show doesn't even come close to rising to the challenge or exploring the entirely free universe that the premise provides its writers. This is a sell-out, bargain basement 'Twilight Zone'-lite. Aside from great writing, creepy premises and patented ending twists, the biggest asset Serling brought to 'Twilight' was incalculable passion. It was his baby. All of which this show lacks in spades. It's unclear if the writers are lazily coasting on the show's namesake or working under Serling's shadow constantly in fear of doing anything bold and screwing up. The ironic thing is that, like the original, this remake could have probably gotten by with phony special effects and campy acting if it had something to say. But the stories are tedious. Pure sci-fi movie-of-the-week trash. When they couldn't make original episodes work, they resorted to guest stars and glamorous babes to titillate the audience with cheap soft-core stories (such as fictitious sex-pot women created via writing or holograms who soon start acting human) . When that didn't work, the show resorted to simply re-creating classic 'Zone' episodes. Something this series does have to it's name is an eye-catching roster of talented guest stars. See Amber Tamblyn before her breakout series and Dylan Walsh before hi. See veteran actors like Jason Alexander, Lou Diamond Phillips, Christopher McDonald, Cloris Leachman. More appealing is the chance to see character actors that have caught my eye over the years and I so can't get enough of I'd even watch this show to see what they can bring to it. That list includes such criminally ignored versatility as Linda Cardellini ('Freaks and Geeks'), Christopher Titus ('Titus'), Jeremy Piven ('Cupid'), Jason Bateman & Portia De Rossi (pre-'Arrested Development'), Vivica A. Fox ('Getting Personal'), Patrick Warburton & Wayne Night ('Seinfeld'), Xander Berkley ('24'), Robin Tunney, Alicia Witt ('Cybill'), Paul Rodriguez and even Jessica Simpson. But in the end, the guest star on the title draws us in like a fly to the bug zapper. That's what makes this all the tougher to watch. To see these people working with material so far below their means is almost sad. 'The Twilight Zone' could have been so much more then just letting us see what 'The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street' would look like with a new cast and the social climate it was pertinent in now 40 years in the past. I'm harsh on this show because I do not believe that there are no new ideas or that this hackery is a fraction of what the creative minds of this generation can come up with. You're better off with the 'Futurama' homage 'The Scary Door' over this.