New Line // 2002 // 900 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Patrick Bromley // October 6th, 2004
Check your reality at the door.
Back in 1959, Rod Serling created a little show called The Twilight Zone, and both film and television were never the same. Though the original series ran for only six years (135 episodes), its impact has lasted far longer, finding its way into even our contemporary pop culture; without it, directors like Stephen Spielberg (who got his start on one of Zone's many imitators and offshoots), Joe Dante, and -- most certainly -- M. Night Shyamalan might not have even found careers.
The series had a short-lived second life in the 1980s, when the CBS network launched an updated version of The Twilight Zone. Though not up to the legendary standard set by the original run (which is available on DVD in its entirety), this second version showed a number of strengths and proved to be a fairly worthy successor. It lasted only three years.
This brings us to the year 2002, as the UPN network decided to launch a third incarnation of The Twilight Zone, with actor Forrest Whitaker (Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai) filling in for Serling as host/guide. Lasting only one year, this latest update on the classic series is by far the weakest of the three.
New Line now releases The Twilight Zone: Season One (2002); the show, originally designed as a one-hour series with two individual installments, has been broken up into forty-three episodes, all of which are included here.
Due to the sheer size and scope of the boxed set of The Twilight Zone: Season One (2002), we're going to dispense with the usual Facts of the Case segment (does anyone really want to read forty-three episode summaries??) and move right into a carefully detailed analysis of the shows strengths and weaknesses, in an attempt to better understand.
Oh, who am I kidding? There's no way in hell I would have been able to assemble my thoughts and reactions to forty-three episodes into anything resembling a cohesive review. Instead, I've opted to simply compile the notes I took as I waded my way through the series. Think of it more as a journey -- a journey into one man's mind as he crosses the line from influential classic television to incompetent rehash -- the line between sanity and...not...sanity -- the line into The Twilight Zone.
* Episode number one: "The Lineman" -- I hate the new theme
* Forest Whitaker's narration is grating and hilarious.
* Episode number two: "Night Route" -- so this is where Ione Skye's (Say Anything) career has been hiding. She plays a woman who is nearly hit by a car (curse you, functional brakes!) and finds herself being plagued by inexplicable events, including one hell of a scary bus. She's not too good, and neither is this show.
* Absolutely nothing is left to interpretation -- everything is spelled out in giant capital letters and underlined. Twice. Then it's read aloud. Very, very, slowly.
* The series is ruined once you hook into its one trick: the protagonist generally loses. It's really just a matter of when and how.
* THIS ISN'T YOUR PARENTS' TWILIGHT ZONE!! It's been remodeled for the MTV crowd; the editing, music, and casting have all received the worst possible overhaul to appeal to a younger demographic.
* I hate the new theme song.
* Episode number four: "Cradle of Darkness" -- Katherine Heigl (Valentine) stars as a girl who travels back in time to prevent the rise of Adolph Hitler. The Austrian accent she adopts is more embarrassing than Gerard Depardieu on water skis. And has James Remar (The Girl Next Door) always been a bad actor, or is this something that's happened recently?
* Are there really forty-three of these?
* Episode number seven: "Shades of Guilt" -- a man turns black! What a nightmare! This episode is about as racially sensitive as a D.W. Griffith film; the nightmare that businessman Vincent Ventresca (The Learning Curve) faces isn't waking up with an unrecognizable new identity, it's waking up and being black. How did this idea ever make it past the script stage?
* The endings to each episode couldn't be more obvious...even if the show was told backwards.
* Episode number eight: "Dead Man's Eyes" -- this episode is directed by Jerry "Stiles" Levine of Teen Wolf fame. Remember when Michael J. Fox went surfing on the roof of that van? And when he went in the closet with his best friend Boof? Remember that he had a friend named Boof?? I'm getting distracted.
* The star of this episode, Portia de Rossi (Arrested Development), is a bad actress.
* The only thing worse than the acting on this new Twilight Zone is the writing.
* Forest Whitaker's narration is ridiculously contrived, in order that he may end every episode with "...in the Twilight Zone."
* I've noticed something: why is it that every time a character in a movie or television show is going to kill someone and changes his or her mind, they always say "It's not worth it"? What does that mean, anyway? They're not worth killing? Does that mean mosquitoes are worth it? Because I kill those things all the time. Why wouldn't they say something like "I'm deathly afraid of going to prison" or "I think blood is eewy"?
* It's obvious that I need to take a break from The Twilight Zone, if only for a little while. It's starting to get to me -- nine episodes in and I keep hoping Forest Whitaker will walk into my living room to intone some ominous narration about the choices I've made, ending with -- what else? -- "...in the Twilight Zone."
* Episode number nine: "Time Lapse" -- Ethan Embry (That Thing You Do!) is a man with a Billy Pilgrim-esque propensity for skipping around in time, who keeps waking up with different guns. He's looking a lot like Vanilla Ice these days. Which reminds me...I wonder if The Surreal Life is on?
* Episode number ten: "Harsh Mistress" -- Ah, yes, the old "haunted guitar" story. I take issue when I'm supposed to accept a character as the "hottest thing in music" when the music is really awful...and do I detect bagpipes? And isn't this whole episode really just Christine?
* Episode number eleven: "Pool Guy" -- No woman that hot would ever come on to Lou Diamond Phillips -- unless she eventually marries Melissa Etheridge.
* I've grown very tired of the "is this reality or isn't it?" game that this new Twilight Zone won't stop playing. And isn't this whole episode really just Total Recall?
* This episode didn't end with Forest Whitaker saying "...in the Twilight Zone." I don't know what to do with myself.
* Episode number twelve: "Azoth the Avenger is a Friend of Mine" -- Forest Whitaker has now shortened that incessant tagline to just "...in the Zone." I'm surprised they didn't just go ahead and call the whole series "The Zone" -- it's a perfect summary of everything that's wrong with this "update."
* Ahh, the old "fantasy figure come to life" story. Isn't this whole episode really just Last Action Hero? Or Cloak and Dagger?
* The special effects consistently rank somewhere between barely competent and painfully amateurish. The direction has the earmarks of hackness, too -- you never get the feeling you're watching some promising young director cut his or her teeth, the way you would on many anthology shows of the past. I'm guessing we won't be hearing much from the folks who helmed this series.
* Two out of six discs down, and The Twilight Zone: Season One (2002) isn't getting any better. The great thing about an anthology series is that each episode gives you a clean slate. This new Twilight Zone fails to take advantage of that.
* Episode number fifteen: "To Protect and Serve" -- I don't buy Usher as a cop; I barely buy him as a singer. And isn't the girl playing the hooker from Saved by the Bell: The New Class? I don't want to see someone from SBtB in such a lascivious role -- that would be like watching the girl who starred as Jessie Spano play a stripper or something.
* This is a bad show.
* Here's another significant change (for the worse, of course) from the old series to the new one: this new Twilight Zone is only about the gimmick -- not about the people trapped within the gimmick.
* Episode number sixteen: "Sensuous Cindy" -- The second "fantasy girl" episode in the set thus far; we're not even halfway through the season and the show is already repeating itself. This particular episode showcases actress Jaime Pressley's (Torque) tremendous range -- she can also play a cyber-slut.
* This episode exists so that two girls can kiss. It might just be the worst one yet.
* Episode number seventeen: "Hunted" -- An invisible monster stalks and kills a platoon one by one in the forest. Isn't this whole episode really just Predator?
* Episode number eighteen: "Mr. Motivation" -- A man receives valuable advice from an office toy. Hiring former Access Hollywood anchor Pat O'Brien for the voice of the dummy is the first speck of creativity the series has shown. That ain't much.
* Episode number twenty: "Found and Lost" -- Washed-up Beverly Hills 90210 star Brian Austin Green has apparently dropped the "Austin," choosing instead to go by Brian A. Green. Instant respectability!
* Ok, three discs down. That means I'm halfway through and have yet to see a decent episode. While they're not all outright awful (some of them are, however), not one of them could be called "good."
* Disc four kicks off with episode number twenty-three: "Gabe's Story," starring Christopher Titus. Really? Christopher Titus? Was Carrot Top busy? Actually, this is the first episode to resemble anything close to cleverness -- it's about a man who confronts the company responsible for writing the script of his life. It's too bad there's absolutely no resolution whatsoever; there's a good concept here, marred by a lifeless ending. You're The Twilight Zone. Endings are supposed to be your thing, man.
* Episode number twenty-four: "Fair Warning" -- Brian Krakow! Brian Krakow!! Dammit, Krakow, what ever became of you and Angela Chase? You were so much better for her than that vapid-but-dreamy Jordan Catalano! Krrraaaaakowwww!!
* It might be time for another break.
* I'm so sick of every wanna-be director for this show falling back on jump cuts simply because they've seen one Truffaut film. It's like stylistic shorthand.
* Episode number twenty-six: "Another Life" -- did they really name a character "Marvin Gardens"? Call Bob Rafelson.
* Here we have another example of a character being incompetent in the field in which the script dictates that him or her be the "best." In this case, it's hip-hop; Marvin Gardens (Wood Harris, Remember the Titans) might even be a worse rapper than Shaquille O'Neill.
* I can't remember if I've hated the new aggro-rock version of The Twilight Zone theme (adapted and performed by Jonathan Davis of Korn) lately. I do. I really do.
* After seeing the series pull the exact same stunt about five times, it's very clear that any time a character finds him or herself alternating between two realities, the one that seems like the fantasy/nightmare is actually the real world. It hasn't failed yet -- which reminds me, the only thing worse than a bad twist ending is a lazy one.
* Episode number twenty-eight: "Into the Light" -- This one's directed by Lou Diamond Phillips. Was the tradeoff for acting in a crappy episode (number eleven, "Pool Guy") that he got to direct a crappy episode?
* Episode number thirty: a remake of the classic "The Monsters are on Maple Street," complete with updated references to Timothy McVeigh and Independence Day. Now it's being told as a post-9/11 allegory; is 9/11 really the new McCarthyism? Speaking of which, this episode actually stars Andrew McCarthy (Fresh Horses), so it's still full of McCarthy-isms.
* Ahh, the trash-can fire -- the surest sign of a city in chaos.
* This has to be the most heavy-handed warning against mob mentality I've ever seen, so over the top it plays like a Saturday Night Live sketch.
* From a remake to a sequel; episode number thirty-one is titled "It's Still a Good Life," a sequel to "It's a Good Life" from the original series. The young boy from that episode, played by Bill Mumy (Lost in Space), is all grown up and has seemingly passed on his powers to his daughter (played by Mumy's real-life daughter, Liliana). This episode is actually not bad. It's unfortunate, though, that no one knows how to write a script that doesn't spell out every little thing: plot detail, twist, emotion, and thought -- there's zero subtlety. At least there's a strong visual style and some good performances at work here. I still miss the Joe Dante version, though.
* Episode number thirty-two: "How Much Do You Love Your Kid?" -- Wayne Knight (Seinfeld) stars as the host of a game show that kidnaps kids for entertainment. Gosh -- has reality TV gone too far? Yeah, I've seen The Running Man. Thanks.
* Episode number thirty-three: Eriq LaSalle (ER) writes, directs, and stars in "Memphis," about a terminally ill man who goes back in time and finds himself with a chance to prevent the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. The episode takes its time to develop real characters and tells a story; it's not just a gimmick. See? If you can make it all the way to disc five, you'll find a few decent installments.
* Finally, on to disc six. Soon I shall be free of Forest Whitaker's grasp. He's been in my life so long I hardly remember what it was like without him. Oh, wait -- yeah I do.
* Episode number thirty-eight: "The Collection" -- pop-star Jessica Simpson plays a babysitter in episode that once again exemplifies this new Twilight Zone's endless pursuit of hipness over acting ability. Simpson's no Julianne Moore, but she's got a presence and personality that manages to transcend her performance. Once again, the ending disappoints.
* Episode number forty: "Eye of the Beholder" -- a remake of an original-series episode (this one's line-by-line, not another lame "update"), starring yet another non-actress, supermodel Molly Sims -- though I'm sure the producers of TV's Las Vegas would beg to differ. I've never seen the original episode, but fifty-five seconds in and I can figure out the ending; the overtly-deliberate obscuring of the characters' faces is a dead giveaway.
* Episode number forty-three: "The Executions of Grady Finch" -- Okay, last one.
* Seeing Jeremy Sisto, here playing a man on death row, just reminds me of all of the things he's been in that I could have been watching during the past fifteen hours: the first season of Six Feet Under, or Clueless seven times, or Clueless three times and May four times.
* Free at last, free at last. The only thing I've learned throughout all of this is how truly easy it is to end up in the Twilight Zone -- just get into a car accident, or bang your head on something, or get on a bus, or eat some pancakes, or get out of bed in the morning, or...
The forty-three episodes included on New Line's release of The Twilight Zone: Season One (2002) are spread out over six discs. With the exception of the pilot episode ("The Lineman"), which runs about forty minutes, each installment runs anywhere from nineteen to twenty-two minutes. They are presented in an anamorphic widescreen transfer, with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The image is serviceable, with my only complaint being that it's a little soft and a bit too dark at times -- otherwise, the picture's not the problem. Neither is the sound -- both a 5.1 and 2.0 track have been included, both in English, and both do a fine job of handling the series' audio requirements. There are no bonus features included, but after sitting through forty-three lackluster episodes, would you really want any?
To be honest, it's difficult to write any more while curled up in a fetal position, sobbing quietly to myself. I will say this -- with the original series still available for purchase, why would you waste your time and money with this disappointing retread?
Forest Whitaker, his goofy narration, and all of The Twilight Zone: Season One (2002) are to be banished to a far away realm...a realm beyond all space and time...a realm known as...The Outer Limits.
Quite a twist, huh? Bet you didn't see that one coming.
Review content copyright © 2004 Patrick Bromley; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: New Line
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 900 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Official Site