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Twilight Zone : Season One, The
Rod Serling's efforts on the original The Twilight Zone is, in a word, legendary and it remains, decades since it debuted, an incredibly influential body of work. The series was revived in the second half of the eighties and then again in the early two thousands an in April of 2019, Jordon Peele, Simon Kinberg and Marco Ramirez brough the popular anthology series back, albeit this time to CBS's streaming platform, CBS All Access. Peele not only serves as one of the show's executive producers, but also as the host and narrator, just as Serling did in the original run.
Paramount has now compiled the ten episodes that make up the first season and brought them to DVD. Here's a quick rundown of the episodes, which we'll keep reasonably vague in order to avoid spoilers.
The Comedian: Samir Wassan (Kumail Nanjiani) is struggling to get his standup comedy career off the ground, and considers it good luck when he meets industry legend J.C. Wheeler (Tracy Morgan). Wheeler's one tip? Include your life in your routine. Samir gives it a shot and, after doing a bit about his dog, comes home to find his dog has gone missing. In fact, the dog doesn't seem to have ever existed in the first place. He then tries out a few gags regarding people he knows, only to find out that they disappear as well. At this point, he figures he should write bits about people who we'd be better off with, but of course, this being The Twilight Zone and all, it doesn't go as planned.
Nightmare At 30,000 Feet: Based on the classic episode of the original series written by Richard Matheson, this one tells the story of Justin Sanderson (Adam Scott), a journalist suffering from PTSD who has to take a flight from Washington D.C. to Tel Aviv, Israel, after accepting a new job in the Middle East. Once boarded, he finds an MP3 player in the seat pocket in front of him and, after playing with it a bit, finds that it's loaded with a podcast about "the mystery of Northern Goldstar Flight 1015," a plane that disappeared shortly after it took off. The more he learns about this, the more he becomes concerned, eventually enough so that he convinces Joe Beaumont (Chris Diamantopoulos), a former pilot with a past, to help him convince the actual pilots to land the plane in Canada. Things get even stranger from that point on.
Replay: Nina Harrison (Sanaa Lathan) is driving her son, Dorian (Damson Idris), off to college when they stop at a diner along the way for a bite to eat. Here she starts fiddling with her old camcorder and realizes that by using the rewind button, she can turn back time. After getting into some hot water with a nasty, and clearly racist, state trooper named Lasky (Glenn Fleshler), she uses this new found ability to 'try again' but it doesn't have the desired effect.
A Traveler: Yuka Mongoyak (Marika Sila) is a police officer in Alaska who sets up her brother, Jack (), to receive a pardon from her boss, Captain Pendleton (Greg Kinnear), at an upcoming Christmas party she really doesn't want to go to. As the party goes on, Yuka finds a heretofore unseen inmate in the station's cell named A. Traveler (Steven Yeun of The Walking Dead), who claims to be a tourist who has arrived to check out the party. Traveler schmoozes a bit, and raises Yuka's suspicions, eventually setting off Pendleton himself when it's revealed that the mysterious guest knows far more about his host than he has any right to know.
The Wunderkind: Raff Hanks (John Cho) wakes up in a hospital room and tells an orderly how he wound up there. We then learn that he was a 'wunderkind,' a very successful campaign manager who worked with his partner Maura McGowan (Allison Tolman) on to get a rather unpopular sitting President named James Stevens (John Larroquette) back in the White House for another four years, a move that destroyed his career. When he found out about a child YouTube star named Oliver Foley (Jacob Tremblay) running for office a few years later, he saw it as an opportunity to get his life back on track. It works, but of course, there are consequences.
Six Degrees Of Freedom: Alexa Brandt (DeWanda Wise) is the captain of The Bradbury, a spaceship on its way to Mars in the wake of a nuclear war decimating the Earth. It isn't long before the members of her crew start to buckle under the understandable stress they're feeling and while she tries to keep the peace, soon enough she loses her temper with Katherine Langford (Lucinda Dryzek) while Jerry Pierson (Jefferson White), another crew members, starts to act increasingly paranoid, convinced that someone or something is watching them.
Not All Men: A reporter named Dylan (Luke Kirby) invites his coworker, Annie Miller (Taissa Farmiga), to watch a meteor shower one night. When he touches a rock he quickly turns violent, causing Annie to leave. The next day, she visits her sister Martha (Rhea Seehorn) who, along with a few other family members, is celebrating her birthday. The party is interrupted when someone nearby screams about water contamination shortly before all of the men in the area become aggressive and violent.
Point Of Origin: Eve Martin (Ginnifer Goodwin) wants for nothing, she's very wealthy and popular too. Her nanny, Anna Fuentes (Zabryna Guevara), asks her to let her grandson use her address on some documents since she has immigrated from Guatamala without papers, and Eve agrees. Things go south fast when I.C.E. grabs Anna and Eve's credit cards are all of a sudden being declined. She and her husband get snatched up by I.C.E. agents themselves, an Agent Allendale (James Frain) bound and determined to find out who she really is and where she really came from.
The Blue Scorpion: Jeff Storck (Chris O'Dowd) is university professor in the midst of an increasingly messy divorce from his wife, Anne (Amy Landecker), who refuses to go to counselling with him. His bad luck gets even worse when he learns that his father has taken his own life. Upon returning to his later father's home, he finds a gun called 'The Blue Scorpion' that literally has a bullet with his name on it. Depressed after the funeral, Jeff considers using the gun on himself but after testing it at a range he starts to instead consider using the weapon to kill his wife's new lover.
Blurryman: Twilight Zone screenwriter Sophie Gelson (Zazie Beetz) rewrites portions of an episode to star starring Seth Rogen and Betty Gabriel for Jordan Peele only to find out that her work has been changed and it's now about her instead. As the production moves forward, she notices a blurry man appearing not just in footage from this latest episode, but in past episodes as well, eventually coming face to face with the blurry man herself (and running into Jason Priestly as well)!
Peele and company have done a very good job updating Serling's vision to work in the modern day. Not that the original stories don't hold up, because they absolutely do, but this new take incorporates modern day technology, current era politics and lots of social commentary (which were absolutely a part of the original's reason for being). It works as both a modernization of the format and a tribute to what Serling set out and very much did accomplish with his earlier work. There are some missteps here and there but overall, this is quite good.
The series benefits from some strong casting choices. There are quite a few celebrity cameos here and they never feel like stunt casting but rather, proper choices to embody the characters as written. Peele's hosting and narration, clearly influenced by Serling's, is definitely in keeping with what came before and a nice nod to the series' history while the production values are strong across the board. The music composed for the show is, again, properly modern but there are nods here and there to the classic and instantly recognizable music used way back when.
It's all very well done, but it isn't quite perfect. Some of the episodes do go on a bit longer than they probably needed to, and some more judicious editing could have helped here. There are also a few stories that don't end with the impact you expect and hope they will (again, avoiding spoilers here), and as such, those episodes aren't as powerful as you might hope. But overall, the series does a pretty solid job of taking regular, normal people and putting them in irregular, abnormal predicaments and allowing us to be both entertained and provoked by how their morality winds up seeing their fates play out.
The Twilight Zone: Season One arrives on DVD in 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen. As you'd expect for such a recent TV series, video quality is very strong. Shot digitally, there are no problems with any noticeable print damage, while color reproduction looks excellent. Detail is as good as the format will allow for, though some mild compression artifacts can be spotted in some of the darker scenes. Overall, however, this DVD set looks very good.
The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound tracks for each episode are quite good. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. Audio clarity is fine, with properly balanced levels throughout each episode. There's some fun surround activity noticeable throughout, and while the dialogue is mostly front-heavy, rear channels are used nicely to spread out the score and effects work. Optional Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo tracks are also provided.
Extra features are spread across the four discs in this set as follows:
The first disc features an audio commentary for the Replay episode that features executive producer Win Rosenfeld and writer Selwyn Seyfu Hinds. In the Opening The Door To... section we're treated to quick episode recaps and examinations from cast and crew members for the following episodes: The Comedian, Nightmare At 30,000 Feet, Replay and A Traveler. These run between one and a half and two and a half minutes and they're not particularly revelatory. We also get a collection of quick, minute-long promo spots for the same four episodes. We also get a minutes' worth of deleted scenes from both The Comedian and Replay episodes as well as an extended scene from Nightmare At 30,000 Feet.
Here we find an audio commentary for the Not All Men featuring Rosenfeld and writer Heather Anne Campbell and again, we find a selection of Opening The Door To... recaps, this time for The Wunderkind, Six Degrees Of Freedom, Not All Me and Point Of Origin as well as promo spots for the same episodes. Extended scenes are provided for The Wunderkind and Six Degrees Of Freedom and we also get a music video for the track used in The Wunderkind.
An audio commentary for Blurryman is included here, with participation from executive producer Audrey Chon and writer Alex Rubens. We are treated to yet more Opening The Door To... and promos are found on this disc, this time for The Blue Scorpion and Blurryman. We also get three-minutes of deleted scenes from The Blue Scorpion.
More interesting extras are found on the fourth disc, starting with the thirty-seven-minute featurette Remembering Rod Serling. This serves as both a biographical detail of the life and times of the man who created the original Twilight Zone series as well as a look at how the series played a big role in where television could and would go in the years to come after its debut.
We also get a three-minute Gag Reel. Fans of the original series will appreciate a two-and-a-half-minute Easter Eggs Revealed featurette that points out some of the playful nods to the original series that are found throughout this revamped take on the material.
The best extra in the set is the two-part Crossing Over: Living In The Twilight Zone documentary. The first part, the twenty-nine-minute A Dimension Of Mind: Development covers how and why the team that brought the series back did so in the first place. The emphasis here is on how they brought the series into the current day, the importance of Serling's original and more. The second part, the thirty-eight-minute Dimension Of Sight and Sound: Production is a more traditional ‘making of' piece that contains cast and crew interviews, details on Peele's involvement, what went into the production, scoring the show, the look of the series, casting the episodes and more. Both of these are quite interesting and substantive.
All four discs include menus and episode selection. A slipcover is included, as far as the packaging is concerned.
The Twilight Zone: Season One is a pretty solid revamp of a classic series. Peele and company have done a good job updating the series without straying too far from the themes and ideas that made the original so good. Paramount's DVD release looks and sounds quite good and it contains some pretty solid extra features as well. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.