Submitted for our approval: the first two episodes of The Twilight Zone, revived (again) for the twenty-first century, with high production values, “adult” language, and Jordan Peele.

Title: “The Comedian”

Cast and Crew
Director: Owen Harris
Writer: Alex Rubins

Kumail Nanjiani as Samir Wassan
Tracy Morgan as J.C. Wheeler
Amara Karan as Rena
Diarra Kilpatrick as DiDi Scott
Toby Hargrave as Joe Donner
Jordan Peele as our host

Premise

An ambitious, political, and unsuccessful comedian meets an enigmatic comic legend who tells him how to succeed.

And his success really does change the world.

High Points

The episode has production values beyond anything known to 1960s television, and uses them effectively. It’s a simple story based around a few characters, but we have remarkable camerawork and lighting that bring us into a world gone terrifically awry.

The original series’ trademark social/political commentary remains. We can read the story many ways, but its connections to the morass into which social media and contemporary politics has become mired would be difficult to miss.

Low Points

The original Twilight Zone episodes ran half an hour each. They expanded to one-hour in 1963, and quickly reverted to the original length for the final season. This episode suggests the current version of the show should ponder why the parent-show decided not to continue with longer episodes.

They could have told this story in far less than an hour, and what we see suffers from padding and repetition. The titular comedian bombs with the same Second Amendment joke, I think, five times. We get it. Nobody finds Samir funny when he does political humour.

The Scores:

Originality: 3/6 We have here an interesting twist on the Faustian Bargain, with its eye on, among other things, social media and our changing social and political climate. It remains, of course, a tale about a Faustian Bargain.

Spoiler: The Devil is in the Details.

Effects: 3/6 The episode has few, but the credit sequence updates the original in fair fashion.

Acting: 5/6 Kumail Nanjiani stands out as a man who will do anything for a laugh, and descends into his own personal hell.

Story: 5/6

Emotional Response: 4/6 The episode works, but it’s too long for the story and not all that surprising. As a friend of mine said, “I was expecting a surprise ending.”

On another note, Jordan Peele does well as a version of himself, without merely imitating Serling.

Production: 6/6

Overall: 4/6 We already have a new Twilight Zone in the form of Black Mirror, and a few people took notice of Electric Dreams, which had its moments. This take on the iconic series shows potential, but it has yet to live up to its legacy.

In total, “The Comedian” receives 30/42

Title: “Nightmare at 30 000 Feet”

Cast and Crew
Director: Greg Yaitanes
Writers: Marco Ramirez, Simon Kinberg, and Jordan Peele
Loosely based on a teleplay by Richard Matheson

Adam Scott as Justin Sanderson
Nabil Ayoub as Fawwaz Khalidi
J. Cameron Barnett as Flight Attendant Nick
Nicholas Lea as Captain Donner
Chris Diamantopoulos as Pilot
Alex Bogomolov as Borya
Katie Findlay as Air Hostess
Arkie Kandola as Omesh Singh
Tarun Keram as Tanveera
Hana Kinani as Sadeen Khalidi
Keith MacKechnie as Howard Clark
Jaymee Mak as Mia
Alexander Mandra as Igor Orlov
China Shavers as Air Marshal
Jordan Peele as host/narrator

Premise

A man disrupts a flight after hearing a podcast from the future.

High Points

The episode creates a strong sense of suspense and impending menace….

Low Points

…which gets dragged out too long, despite this episode running shorter than the first. The story leads to a false first ending that’s arguably better than the final one that follows.

The Scores:

Originality: 2/6 Although inspired by an original series episode, this one owes as much to Stephen King’s “Ur” for its central gimmick. It manages to chart its own flight path from these inspirations, although you should see the first twist coming.

I found the second one merely annoying.

Effects: 5/6 We see some credible visual effects in this episode.

Acting: 5/6

Story: 4/6

Emotional Response: 4/6

Production: 5/6

Overall: 4/6 For the second time, the show emphasizes its contemporary setting, with a central role for an e-device, gestures to contemporary issues, and rougher language than would have been permitted in 1960s television.

“Nightmare…” features an Easter Egg reference to “The Comedian” (check the magazine stand) and (I suspect) a reference to a future episode (see the prominent Mars ad). It’s also the second episode to feature a character named Donner— Richard Donner directed a few memorable episodes of the original series, including “Nightmare at 20 000 Feet.”

In total, “Nightmare at 30 000 Feet” receives 29/42