"Let's take a journey into this strange dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind." The opening to The Twilight Zone haunted me as kid, but perplexed me as a young adult. Each episode feels so implausible, so imaginary, yet so real. Rod Serling gave viewers the privilege of taking a one-way trip into his mind back in 1959 when The Twilight Zone aired on CBS network television.
Truthfully, the show was light years ahead of its time, contrary to its trivial life on television. Serling's enduring fame lasted until his death in 1975, even though The Twilight Zone had ended in '64. In my honest opinion, the show needs to be brought back from the dead. I believe that The Twilight Zone should remain in its antiquated form for modern-day television. It's possible, but also risky as all hell.
Bring Back The Old And Add Something New
Have you ever watched a movie with so many computer generated effects that it becomes overwhelming? CGI is pretty lifelike today. Anything is possible with today's technology, leaving a fresh, creative idea as the only challenge. The advancement of cinema and filmmaking technology is incredible, but why do we go back to the shows of our past? Why do we attempt to reboot, remake and sequel/prequel-ize older movies and TV shows?
The classics are classics for a damn reason. This isn't to say we haven't abused our powers. Remember what Uncle Ben said, "With great power comes great responsibility." I've seen a countless number of TV shows, movies and even video games going full-on Night Of The Living Dead with little care and patience.
Here's where it gets crazy, folks. Revive The Twilight Zone without modernizing it. Bring back the black and white, the opening and closing monologues, the overacting and the cheesy-looking prosthetic and practical effects. The most important aspects of the show are our fears. The show lived through some of the most tumultuous and revolutionary times in human history, where we feared the war in Vietnam and the Red Scare, while also blasting men to the moon and discovering a crashed alien spaceship in 1947 Roswell.
If we modernize our current fears while keeping to the original's overall retro aesthetic, the show becomes relatable. Maybe our mistakes with remakes and reboots fall onto our inability to retain what made the classics, well, classics. Easier said than done, of course, but what do networks and studios love the most? Ratings. Better ratings means more money.
Times Have Changed
Serling found his fame with The Twilight Zone during the show's initial rise to popularity. The Twilight Zone premiered the night of October 2, 1959 to rave reviews. Terry Turner of the Chicago Daily news said:
"Twilight Zone is about the only show on the air that I actually look forward to seeing. It's the one series that I will let interfere with other plans,"
Daily Variety ranked it with "the best that has ever been accomplished in half-hour filmed television," and the New York Herald Tribune found the show to be "certainly the best and most original anthology series of the year."
Unfortunately, reviews don't always bring in the viewers, resulting in the series ending too soon. The owner of RodSerling.com brought up Rod's opinion of the rise and fall of his beloved sci-fi anthology:
"On the other hand I am grateful. We had some great moments of vast excitement, and on occasion achieved some real status. But now it is time to move on."
And move on he did. Lower ratings meant Serling had to change up the formula a bit. Season 4 introduced the hour-long episodes, which would grant Serling and the other writers a chance to expand character development. Ultimately, the show met its demise in 1964. In 1985, the show was rebooted for a lackluster three seasons without Serling.
Is it even worth investing time and money into something that could be an immediate failure? It's risky business reviving a TV classic based on the short-lived success of the original, but I believe that by bringing back the original formula without tampering with it too much will not only grab the attention of fans of the series, but also newcomers.
The OG Twilight Zone featured several big-time stars at the time. William Shatner took on the role as an unhinged airline passenger trying to convince everyone else that a monster is destroying the plane. Alongside Shatner, the series had brought in "the dame of drama" Cloris Leachman, George Takei, Robert Redford and more. Nothing gives a show more buzz than some of Hollywood's hottest stars.
Rod Serling 2.0
Not only do we need star power, but we also need someone as memorable as Rod Serling to take his place. Of course, it's impossible to replace the mad genius behind it all, but the options are limitless. People who haven't even seen the show have somehow, somewhere managed to memorize the iconic lines of the opening monologue.
A Reboot Already In The Works?
Not exactly, but it's something to be excited about for sure. Ken Levine, the creative mind behind the Bioshock video game series, recently told The Wrap that he will be writing and directing the pilot episode of a rebooted Twilight Zone series that will be an "interactive" live-action version of the classic:
The new 'Twilight Zone' will honor the original series’ approach but will add the twist of letting the viewer "change and adapt the story based on what he or she feels." As with all other Interlude videos, viewers can return repeatedly and have a different viewing experience each time.
Levine has created one of the most iconic worlds in video game history, taking place in an alternate '50s/'60s world free of government control. If anyone has the skill to do it, it sure is Levine.