- Robert Falconer/CBS
- “The Twilight Zone” reboot currently boasts a 79% on Rotten Tomatoes.
- Critics lauded comedian-turned-director Jordan Peele as a great host and showrunner.
- Some critics thought the episodes were contrived but others said they offered thoughtful social commentary.
Rebooting a show as revered as “The Twilight Zone” is no small feat but that didn’t stop Jordan Peele, the comedian-turned-director behind “Get Out,” and, most recently, “Us,” to take it on.
The original “Twilight Zone” was hosted by Rod Serling and is a classic anthology series known for its terrifying twists and social commentary. The show blended moral fables and high-concept sci-fi by working with a variety of TV writers, but the constant in every episode was Serling’s iconic intro, which Peele replicated in the reboot.
Peele’s take on “Twilight Zone,” the first two episodes of which air on CBS All Access on April 1, is being revered by some, but other critics are not huge fans – the series currently has 78% on Rotten Tomatoes. TV critics have seen the first four episodes of the series and have given their impressions, which run the gamut from modern masterpiece to predictable television.
Peele is great as a host and showrunner.
“He’s as skilled a comic actor as he is a suspense filmmaker – a baroque chameleon in Peter Sellers mode – and he understands how to channel Serling while inscribing the host-guide role with his own artistic and political signatures.”
– Matt Zoller Seitz, Vulture
“Serling could bypass the limitations of typical television, like censorship and self-parroting, by moving to a new topic and temperament each week, allowing him to explore whatever mattered most as he was writing. Peele latches onto a similar mentality while shifting between moral lessons on the cost of fame, to being black in America, to a world imprisoned by its borders.”
– Ben Travers, Indiewire
“My favorite part of the new series is Peele’s take on The Narrator. There’s something magical about Peele’s performance. There’s a twinkle in his eye, a gentleness to his telling of these warning-stories, and an otherworldly knowledge perfect for the series.”
– Joelle Monique, Pajiba
Some critics found it too straightforward and contrived.
“These episodes have precious little to say about investigative podcasts or about contemporary comedy beyond acknowledging they exist: These facts of life are simple jumping-off points for macabre and laboriously built stories that end with a tidy, cruel joke.”
– Daniel D’addario, Variety
“The first four episodes are all bad, a mess of sleepy conceits grasping toward topicality with on-the-nose dialogue spoken by boring characters. A couple sharp performances can’t triumph against nonstop plot contrivance.”
– David Franich, EW
Others loved the tone and social commentary.
“The tone and pace immediately place the show in the’ Twilight Zone,’ even as the visual style, which uses wide lenses to emphasize a sense of distorted reality and to isolate the primary characters, establishes a distinct identity for Peele’s incarnation of the show.”
– Russ Fisher, Birth.Movies.Death
“The new ‘Zone’ looks at paranoia, class disparity, artistic anxiety, xenophobia, racism, and other hot-button topics from the perspective of an outsider who had to fight for his piece of American pie, in contrast to the more abstract, theoretical diagnoses and warnings of Serling, who was as woke as a rich white guy could be in the middle of the 20th century but was nevertheless incapable of taking a ground-level view of the problems his series identified.”
– Matt Zoller Seitz, Vulture
“What happens when the myth you sold out to becomes the lie that will condemn you? Don’t be too surprised at an answer that is both inevitable and unforgiving. But with these two, Peele locates that Serlingesque disconnect of the world as we’d like it to be and the world as it really is. The latter is scary enough.”
-Verne Gay, Newsday
“Replay” is considered the best of the four episodes.
“‘Twilight Zone’ is at its best when it’s speaking to greater issues like ‘Replay,’ but also when it keeps it simple, throwing one life-changing, otherworldly abnormality in what should be an average day.”
– Hazel Cills, Jezebel
“‘Replay’ becomes less about the sci-fi element and more a sobering reality… Classic peak ‘Twilight Zone,’ a head-trip that doubles as a truth.”
– Vinnie Mancuso, Collider
“‘Replay’ has a fresh, visceral horror, thanks to Lathan’s anguished performance.”
– James Poniewozik, The New York Times
The episodes, overall, can be too long.
“The hour-long format makes these two episodes feel more safe than they should – there’s extra time to second-guess, and to normalize the twisting concepts.”
– Russ Fischer, Birth.Movies.Death
“The ‘Nightmare’ episode’s 36 minutes feels just about right. The other episode, a bloated ‘The Comedian,’ clocks in at 54 minutes, a way too long parable about the empty pursuit of fame.”
– Robert Rorke, The New York Post
“This version lacks the original’s storytelling economy and, in the process, loses the direct impact of whatever themes it means to convey.”
– Steven Scaife, Slant Magazine