Blu-ray Review: The Twilight Zone (Season One)



The Twilight Zone is one of the key cult shows in television history. From it’s debut in 1959, the anthology series set the high mark for a tales that grabbed and audience’s attention and didn’t let go until the breath-taking final twist. Rod Serling was the perfect host for the show. He’d pop up on the set and give us a little introduction as to why a character had ventured in The Twilight Zone. Even after the show went out of production in 1964, the series never left the airwaves. The reruns were gold and pulled in the same level of ratings as the local news in certain markets. The marathon of episodes on SyFy on New Year’s Eve is still a major event even with the complete series out on Blu-ray. Whenever a new twisting anthology series would show up on the dial, the first thing a reviewer did was compare it to The Twilight Zone. Black Mirror had to measure up against Serling’s masterpiece. Twice already the series name and attitude has been revived. First in the mid-80s as an hour version on CBS with the Grateful Dead doing the theme song. Back in 2002, the UPN (remember that network) brought on Forest Whitaker (Ghost Dog) as the new host for the shocking tales. So it wasn’t a shock when the announcement came that The Twilight Zone was coming back with Jordan Peele (Get Out as the new host. It was a twist when instead of being on CBS, the new episodes would be streaming on CBS All Access. If you live in an place with limited internet action or high price for streaming data, you can finally enjoy this latest version when The Twilight Zone: Season One arrives on Blu-ray.

“The Comedian” has a comic (The Big Sick‘s Kumail Nanjiani) who bombs on stage with a routine about the Second Amendment which doesn’t split the audience’s side. As he fears his career is in a talespin, he encounters a legendary performer (30 Rock‘s Tracy Morgan) that gives him a bit of advice. He needs to be more personal in his act. But the comic does tell jokes about things close to him and finds that his new approach to comedy has a major consequence. “Nightmare at 30,000 Feet” is a play on the classic episode “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.” The original was about William Shatner getting a fright on red eye shuttle. On this new flight, Adam Scott (Parks and Recreation) boards an airplane that seems a bit off. When doesn’t boarding a plane seem right anymore? Instead of a beast on the wing, Scott gets a jolt when the podcast he’s listening to on his tablet turns out to be about his flight. Is this a big prank? Or is he being tipped off to a terrorist attack so that he can stop it? This episode really does a fine job of adapting the classic story to these new times. “Replay” has a mother and son on a trip to his new college. The mom discovers that not only does her old camcorder still work so she can document the journey, but the rewind function is extra powerful. She has to rely on this feature since they seem doomed to be tracked by a bigoted police office no matter what choices they make. “A Traveler” has a mysterious man (The Walking Dead‘s Steven Yeun) turn up in a jail cell on Christmas Eve. He’s there to meet the police Captain (Autofocus‘s Greg Kinnear) and enjoy the world famous parties from this tiny place in remote Alaska.

“The Wunderkind” has John Cho (Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle) get a small boy elected to the White House. But this proves to be a nightmare when the kid turns out to be a brat that doesn’t care about doing the job. Can Cho fix his mistake? This might be a fun episode to show for your parents that watch a certain news channel all day long. “Six Degrees of Freedom” has a spaceship launching from Earth to Mars as nuclear war breaks out. They might be the last humans alive on the long journey. But can the six astronauts deal with each other to save mankind from vanishing? “Not All Men” has a storm of tiny meteors land on a city. This causes men in the area to lose control of themselves in rage fits. But did the meteors cause this outbreak of violence? “Point of Origin” is an immigration nightmare for a wealthy woman. “The Blue Scorpion” has Chris O’Dowd (The IT Crowd) inherits a unique gun after his father dies. He’s not sure what to do with the pistol and the bullet with his name engraved on it. O’Dowd plays the role with a serious tone that works. “Blurryman” is a meta episode where an episode starring Seth Rogen (The Green Hornet) has to get a last minute rewrite when things don’t click for host Jordan Peele. The writer (Atlanta‘s Zazie Beetz) digs into the nature of what makes The Twilight Zone special while she’s being pursed by a strange figure.

This third revamping of The Twilight Zone is willing address many of the issues that Rod Serling held close to his heart. Serling marched with Martin Luther King Jr. so he was not just about entertaining. He was political and topical. Jordan Peele and his crew aren’t going to back off either with episodes about race relations, guns and men without manners. There were more to the original episodes than a cute twist. It’s good that this version isn’t going to backdown and end up with tepid tales. Perhaps this is part of the freedom of being on streaming is they don’t have to worry about appealing and not offending the masses? Another advantage of the new Twilight Zone being on streaming is that the episode running times can vary. The 10 episodes run between 30 and 45 minutes. This allows the creative team to not either cram a story or stretch it out. The stories don’t have to be timed to commercial breaks. This is a fine start for the latest edition of The Twilight Zone.

The video is 1.78:1 anamorphic. The episodes look great with stylized camera angles. You’ll want the Blu-ray to take in the image. The audio is DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround. You’ll get drawn into this unreal world when you crank up the speakers. The episodes are subtitled in English.

Episodic Promo (0:57) are teasers for each episode. Unlike so much streaming stuff that’s dumped all at once on a service, The Twilight Zone was uploaded one episode per week so there needed to be teasers promising the next stop is The Twilight Zone.

Opening the Door To … are two minute long pieces that take viewers behind the scenes on each episode.

Deleted and Extended Scenes are provided on many of the episodes.

Audio Commentary on “Blurryman” features Alex Rubens and Audrey Chon. “Not All Men” has Win Rosenfeld and Heather Anne Campbell discuss the episode. “Replay” has Win Rosenfeld and Selwayn Seyfu Hinds talking about the supernatural camcorder.

Music Video to “The Wunderkind” (1:48) is how you bust a move to be president.

Season 1 Promo (1:25) gives clips from the 10 episodes.

Remembering Rod Serling (36:51) goes into the life and times of the man who created The Twilight Zone. They show that he wasn’t just out to entertain people. He wanted his show to mean something deeper.

Gag Reel (2:45) has goofy moments when the camera was running. There’s a fine moment when dogs meet a kid in the Oval Office.

Crossing Over: Living In the Twilight Zone includes Part One – a Dimension of Mind: Development (28:32) and Part Two – A Dimension of Sight and Sound: Production (38:03) Jordan Peele discussions how the original show helped us get a grasp on so many of the changes happening in the early ’60s including Civil Rights, the Cold War and changes in the perception of what’s a normal life. There’s talk of various ways to approach bringing the show back. They want to the new show to reflect what’s going on today when people feel like they’re living in a Twilight Zone. There’s talk of Jordan Peele’s role on the revival. The second half is how excited the production team is that each week, they create a whole new world since nothing is the same from episodes to episode outside of Jordan Peele’s suit.

Black and White Versions of each episode is included. You can watch the new episodes in the same monochromatic tones as the original series with Rod Sterling.

CBS DVD presents The Twilight Zone. Starring: Jordan Peele, Seth Rogen, Adam Scott, Taissa Farmiga, Rhea Seehorn and Tracy Morgan. Rated: Unrated. Boxset Contents: 10 episodes on 5 Blu-ray discs. Released: February 18, 2020.

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