The Bonkers 'Twilight Zone' Reboot Everyone Forgets About
Rod Serling's original Twilight Zone is inarguably one of the greatest television series of all time, a beloved anthology show usually featuring a twist in which a character is given cosmic comeuppance for, say, having the unmitigated gall to enjoy reading books.
Recently, the show was rebooted for CBS All Access, i.e. Netflix for seniors who only watch NCIS. The second season of the new Zone, produced and hosted by Jordan Peele, premieres tonight. And while we hope for the best, the first season was ... not so great.
But there's another version of The Twilight Zone that almost no one talks about anymore; the 2002 UPN series hosted by Forest Whitaker, which lasted for just one season. You can tell it was made in the early 2000s because the iconic theme song suddenly featured grating power chords performed by the dude from Korn.
Like some kind of sci-fi Hollywood Squares, the show boasted an eclectic roster of mid-level celebrity guest stars, in occasionally great, sometimes awful episodes. The best of which is probably "Cradle of Darkness" featuring Katherine Heigl as a time traveller sent back to murder baby Hitler -- which, you have to admit, is a real roller coaster of a sentence.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, there's the episode "Shades of Guilt" which tackles racism in the cringiest way possible. A wealthy businessman refuses to give a lift to a Black man who's being chased by a gang. The next day his skin begins, um, darkening ...
It turns out he is transforming into the man he refused to help -- which means the show straight-up puts the actor in blackface in scenes such as the one where he angrily seeks the advice of a dermatologist.
The show also revisited some of the classic series' best episodes; there's a sequel to "It's a Good Life" about the creepy superpowered child who is now an adult with a daughter of his own, and a remake of "The Monsters are Due on Maple Street" -- originally an allegory for McCarthyism, in the post-9/11 version, the paranoid suburbanites turn on each other believing there's a "terrorist" living amongst them. In an inadvertently prescient scene, the angry mob parades down the street carrying tiki torches.
Then there are a slew of gloriously bonkers stories starring impressively random actors; Jason Bateman is haunted by the ghosts of children he burned to death, Jeremy Piven gets psychic powers (which seems like a recipe for disaster), and Jessica Simpson is terrorized by a collection of sentient Barbie dolls.
It's frankly hard to imagine anything in the new version topping that.