LAST WORD: Reboot of “Twilight Zone” will have to go some to beat original

Kerry Hubartt

There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone.

– Rod Serling

I just found out that a reprise of “The Twilight Zone” TV series is coming in April. I’m excited.

“The Twilight Zone” was created by Rod Serling, who wrote or co-wrote 92 of the show’s 156 episodes, which ran for five seasons on CBS from 1959-1964. He was also the show’s weekly host. He was cool.

My brother and I grew up in the original “Golden Age of Television,” and “The Twilight Zone” was one of our favorite programs. We were both drawn to science fiction and the surreal, and Sterling’s stories fit the bill. They were stories about people dealing with unusual situations, disturbing events, surprise endings.

CBS announced that a reboot of the series will premiere on its streaming All-Access service with two episodes on April 1, then continue weekly on Thursdays beginning April 11. It will be produced and hosted by Jordan Peele, an actor, writer, director and producer whose first directorial effort was the horror film, “Get Out.”

While I am eager to see the new series, I have learned to keep my expectations low when modern-day producers try to rekindle the magic of iconic successes such as Sterling’s “Twilight Zone.” This won’t be the first attempt to revive the series. Serling eventually sold his shares back to CBS after the original ended, and a new series ran from 1984-1989. A third revival was staged by UPN in 2002-2003.

Anticipating the newest reprisal of the series has caused me to reflect on some of Serling’s best. Certainly not every episode was a home run, and many fans have their own lists of the best. Here are a few of my top selections:

NIGHTMARE AT 20,000 FEET (5th season, 1963): This story was featured in “Twilight Zone, the Movie” (1983). Bob Wilson (William Shatner) is on a flight with his wife after being institutionalized following a nervous breakdown while on another plane. Looking out the plane window, he sees a gremlin on the wing, which disappears whenever he wants his wife or the flight attendants to take a look. He sees the creature trying to damage one of the engines, and Bob is in a panic. He eventually steals a sleeping police officer’s gun, straps himself in while opening the plane’s door and shoots the gremlin. The plane lands safely, Bob is taken away in a straitjacket, but the episode ends with a closeup of the plane’s seriously damaged engine.

WHERE IS EVERYBODY? (1st season, 1959): This was the pilot that launched the TV series. A young man with amnesia dressed in a ’50s military jumpsuit wanders into an open cafe. He finds there isn’t a single person in the fully functional town. He feels as though he’s being watched, and he finds a book rack that only features copies of the same book: “The Last Man on Earth,” dated 1959.

THE BEWITCHIN’ POOL (5th season, 1964): Considered one of Serling’s best-written, this episode (the last season’s finale) finds a young girl and her little brother, who have cruel parents, sitting beside the family swimming pool when a boy appears from under the water and invites them to someplace better. They dive in and emerge from a swimming hole in the woods where they are told unloved children come. They have a choice: remain there to live or go back to their miserable mom and dad.

TIME ENOUGH AT LAST (1st season, 1959): This may be my favorite. Henry (Burgess Meredith) is a bookworm who would much rather read the great authors than deal with temperamental bank customers or his hen-pecking wife. While hiding out in his bank’s vault to read during a lunch break, an H-bomb wipes out every other human being on earth, leaving him alone in a decimated city with, he finds, the entire public library at his disposal. But he can’t see a thing without his glasses, so guess what happens to make his possible paradise a hell on earth?

Kerry Hubartt is former editor of The News-Sentinel.

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