By Hector Arrieta, Editor in Chief
The original Twilight Zone, created and narrated by Rod Serling, first aired in 1958 and ran until 1964. The show was an episodic series that tackled the dimensions of morality through the lens of science fiction and psychological horror. The series’ structure typically followed one of two main paths. On one hand, one of the main characters of the episode committed a sin and the forces of the “twilight zone” punish the character for his or her sins. On the other hand, an episode can revolve around one premise, but then a twist at the end reveals the irony of a situation.
While the original series ended in 1964, The Twilight Zone has been revived two other times, once in the 1980s and again in the 2000s. Also, the series spawned a movie in 1983 by the name Twilight Zone: The Movie. Yet most recently, the 2019 Super Bowl brought hope to fans of the series. A commercial advertised the revival of The Twilight Zone with Jordan Peele as the new narrator. Although the series will air on CBS All Access – meaning all of the access for those who make monthly payments – the first episode, “The Comedian,” was posted in its entirety on YouTube.
The entire premise of “The Comedian” is basically a Faustian Legend. The episode revolves around the actions of Samir Wassan, a failing comedian, whose moral code in comedy is to provide insight. After another poor stand up comedy set, Wassan alights at the bar and meets JC Wheeler, a famous comedian who embodies the devil. Wassan asks Wheeler for notes. Wheeler tells him to put himself out there, but that “once you put it out there, the audience will take it in and will connect, and once they connect to it, it’s theirs, and once it’s theirs, that sh*t is gone forever.”
The two clink their glasses, a symbolic sealing of the deal. After the encounter, Wassan realizes that when he mentions a person’s name in his routine, that person ceases to exist, and all evidence of his or her existence is erased. Wassan uses this power to erase people he dislikes until he eventually erased his girlfriend’s law mentor. This results in the destruction of his girlfriend’s life, the end of their relationship, and the beginning of Wassan’s downfall. After his girlfriend finds his notebook filled with names of people he dislikes, she confronts him during his set. As a result, Wassan caves under the pressure and begins joking about himself, causing him to cease to exist.
How does the first original episode of the revival compare to episodes of the original series? “The Comedian” performs well in terms of the story structure of a Twilight Zone episode. The structure revolves around a person (Wassan) committing a sin (basically selling his soul to the devil and erasing people) and paying the price (falling to insanity and erasing himself). In terms of camera work, the revival Twilight Zone stands in stark contrast to the original. The new series features a lot more close up shots and the camera switches to different shots more often. Also, unlike the original that was in black and white, the revival is in color. As a whole, the new Twilight Zone gives off more of a Black Mirror feel and aesthetic. Lastly, the revival episode features interesting stylistic choices. At the start of the episode, there is a shot of a wall with a large picture of people in an audience. After Wassan disappears, at the final moments of the episode, he can be seen sitting in the audience. Also, throughout the episode, with each of Wassan’s sets, his clothing becomes darker which marks the corruption of his morality.
Overall, the new Twilight Zone has a lot of potential. While the premise of “The Comedian” is rather unoriginal and the dialogue is pretty weak, the aesthetic and stylistic choices make it worth watching. As a whole, “The Comedian” earns a B+ grade.