CBS All Access’ ‘The Twilight Zone’ Reboot Takes Another Step Back In Its Second Season

Courtesy: CBS All Access/PAramount

Remembering the past is critical to the present.  If one does not know one’s past, then how can one appreciate the present. This is noted as one takes into consideration the forthcoming home release of The Twilight Zone: Season 2.  The second season of CBS All Access’ latest iteration of the classic series is scheduled for release Tuesday exclusively on DVD.  For those who have not yet seen this season of the timeless series’ latest reboot, it sadly does little to improve from the first season of the series’ latest take.  That is proven in part through its stories.  The overt explicit content within the episodes is just as prevalent as in the first season.  It detracts even more from this season.  The general lack of bonus content is the final nail in the coffin of this season in its home release.  When it is considered with all of the set’s primary content, the collection in whole proves worth watching at most once, but sadly no more.

The second season of CBS All Access’ latest reboot of The Twilight Zone does little if anything to improve on the series from its debut season.  In other words, it does little if anything to make this reboot of Rod Serling’s timeless original series worth watching.  That is proven in part through this season’s featured stories.  Ten more episodes are featured in this season.  The stories themselves are new in comparison to the stories in the original series (and even its 1980s reboot).  The problem is that while the stories are new, they are not necessarily original in content.  Audiences can link at least nine of the season’s stories to those in the original series.  Right from the season’s outset, “Meet in the Middle,” longtime audiences will recognize that all the show’s writers have done is re-imagine the classic episode “Penny For Your Thoughts.”  The difference between the two stories is their execution.  In the original story, Hector Poole (played by Bewitched star Dick York) develops telepathic ability and uses them for what he thinks is good, though things don’t go exactly as planned.  It is a warning about knowing whether what we are doing is really for the betterment of others.  On another level, it takes on the equally timeless topic of whether the “super power” of telepathy is really a good thing.

In the case of “Meet in the Middle,” what audiences get is lonely bachelor Phil (Jimmi Simpson – Date Night, Westworld, Psych 2: Lassie Come Home) developing a telepathic link with a woman in another town hundreds of miles away.  Yes, he gets ahead of himself in his own way, but in this case, the result is far worse, and the topic is more centered on the dangers of social media.  How the story ends will be left for audiences to discover for themselves.  The comparison between the two episodes is important in that where the message in the original episode is timeless, that of the latter episode is more timely.  Yes, being aware of the dangers of social media is important, but people should still be just as aware of simply getting ahead of themselves in any aspect in life.  That is where the original episode wins and this one falls short.  Simply put, this episode lifted liberally from a classic episode and basically just re-imagined it for the 21st century.  It, again, is an example of how this season’s stories are new but not necessarily original.

“Ovation,” which comes almost halfway through Season 2, is yet another story that while new is itself not original.  This episode is a direct lifting of the classic episode “A Nice Place to Visit.”  “A Nice Place to Visit” starred Larry Blyden (Cain’s Hundred, The Witness, On a Clear Day You Can See Forever) as “Rocky,” a career criminal who ends up in what he thinks of a paradise of sorts after he is killed by police in an effort to flee the scene of a crime.  As things progress, he realizes that his paradise is anything but.

“Ovation,” which spoofs all of the karaoke singing competitions on television today, stars (Jurnee Smolllett – Underground, The Great Debaters, Lovecraft Country) as struggling singer-songwriter Jasmine.  Jasmine is given a coin one day by another famous young starlet (who then proceeds to commit suicide – happy thought, eh?) only to gain all the fame and fortune that she wanted and more.  That nonstop fame and fortune eventually leads jasmine to realize her heaven had in fact become her own hell.  Again here is that similarity.  What happens from there will be left for viewers to find out for themselves, but that personal hell becomes even more shocking as star Mynx’s fame increases while her own fades.  The ultimate outcome is Jasmine’s final punishment.  It will also be left for viewers to learn for themselves.  The overarching story here is one that is a direct lifting of the noted classic episode.  Yes the matter is timeless, in that desire that people have for fame and fortune, but it still is not necessarily original, once again.  Just as “Rocky” got all that he wanted in the original story, but ended up despising it, so did the same thing happen with Jasmine in the latter episode.  So again, this is yet another example of how the primary content featured in the second season of CBS All Access’ The Twilight Zone reboot comes up short.

“A Small Town,” the eighth of Season 2’s 10 total episodes is just one more example of how the reboot of The Twilight Zone continues to fall short o expectations in its primary content.  The very title “A Small Town” is a blatant rip-off of the title of the classic TZ episode “Stopover in a Quiet Town.”  That is just the tip of the iceberg here.  The story finds Jason (Damon Wayans, Jr. – The Other Guys, Big Hero 6, Let’s Be Cops) discovering the model of his town, Littleton, in the attic of the church that he attends.  He soon discovers that the changes he makes to the model also happen to the town itself.  This is a direct lifting of the little girl in the earlier episode as she played with the couple in her own model town.  The little girl was, of course an alien and the couple humans that were kidnapped by the girl and kept as pets.  That aside, Jason is still kind of the same way as he tries to improve the town. 

“Stopover in a Quiet Town” is not the only classic TZ episode that is featured in this episode.  The writers also incorporated an element of the equally classic episode “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street” as mayor Conley (David Krumholtz – The Santa Claus 1-3, Numb3rs, The Deuce) accuses Emilio (Andrew Alvarez) of causing the unexplained events to happen.  This is a direct mirror image of the Maple Street residents accusing each other of being aliens and communists.  Keeping that in mind along with the direct lifting of the story’s primary story line, yet again here is another example of how the story might be new but still not necessarily original.  It is hardly the last example of how this season directly lifts from the original series, too, making for even more disappointment.

Even the one “original” story “8” is not entirely original.  In the case of this story, it focuses on a team of scientists in the Antarctic who face off against a killer octopus with the sentience of a human.  The very concept of a killer octopus feels like a direct lifting not of anything from The Twilight Zone, but the 1955 creature feature It Came From Beneath The Sea.  That movie centered on efforts to stop a giant mutant octopus that rises from the depths to try and take over the city of San Francisco.  What does throw back to the original Twilight Zone run is the discussion between two of the team members (one American and one Chinese) about using knowledge gained for good or for military use (I.E. democracy versus communism).  This was a classic theme from the original series.  Even while this episode is maybe slightly original at best in comparison to the original series, it also leads to another problem posed by this season, its overtly explicit general content.

The general content featured within Season 2 of CBS All Access’ reboot of The Twilight Zone is just as concerning as the general lack of originality in the episodes.  Once again, the episodes are rife with excessive foul language and violence.  One of the lowest moments when this happens comes halfway through the season in “Among the Untrodden.”  This episode, which itself can be likened somewhat to the classic episode “Mute,” and to a slightly lesser degree to “The Lonely,” features f-bombs and s-bombs in almost every line.  What’s more, hearing one of the characters talking about one of her friends performing oral sex on a 30-year old man, and another girl watching her own father pleasure himself is just disturbing to say the very least.  There is also the explicit drug and alcohol use by the teens.  This just is collectively not necessary.  On another note, “8” features one character’s eyeball popped out by the killer octopus.  Yeah, that really was not necessary.  “Ovation” features a scene in which a man undergoing open heart surgery starts clapping as he lays on the operating table.  Audiences can see all the blood and gore there.  This was just as unnecessary.  As if all of that is not enough, the way in which the girl commits suicide in the story’s opening is pretty harsh to say the least, as if the very act of suicide itself was not explicit enough.  Going all the way back to the season premiere “Meet in the Middle,” the final act features its own share of blatant explicit content.  It won’t be fully revealed, but it involves lots of blood and a very unsettling scene.  Along the way there are plenty of f-bombs and general cuss words to boot.  It’s just one more way in which the general content featured in these episodes hurts the season even more.  The rest of the season’s content is problematic in this aspect, too.  Yes, art is said to be a reflection of the times, but audiences who are familiar with the original run of The Twilight Zone will agree that said series remains timeless today more than 60 years after its premiere in part because it did not rely on that content in order to be so memorable.  It just relied on good writing, originality and accessibility.  To that end, why the writers behind the series’ latest reboot think that so much explicit content continues to be necessary (they used just as much explicit content in the reboot’s debut season) remains a mystery.  This aspect paired with the general lack of originality in the season’s stories weakens this season’s presentation even more.  The final nail in the coffin for this season’s presentation is its lack of bonus content.

The first season of CBS All Access’ reboot of The Twilight Zone offered audiences at least something to appreciate in its home release thanks to its bonus content.  This season is the polar opposite.  All audiences get in this season is a very small handful of deleted/extended scenes and a “gag reel” as bonus content.  The extra footage is not companion to every episode.  It is at the most, featured along with about three episodes.  One of those episodes is the blatant re-imagining of “The After Hours,” “Downtime.”  The scene that is featured is all of maybe three seconds at best.  Yes, it is that short.  It features star Morena Baccarin – Deadpool, Deadpool 2, Serenity – running to the rooftop of the hotel that she manages.  That is it.  There is nothing else.  When audiences watch the episode in whole, the overall scene is long that the shortness of the extra footage is largely forgotten.  To that end, that “bonus” footage proves more inconsequential than any bonus.  The other notable “bonus footage” comes with “Ovation.”  It shows Jasmine losing her cool so to speak when she discovers that Mynx had taken her fame.  Watching the episode in whole, it is understood that the story could have kept the footage or left it out.  It did not really matter.  Other than those two episodes, audiences really will not find much more bonus footage.  The only other extra content is the noted gag reel, which is short in its own right.  Keeping this in mind, this general lack of any redeeming bonus content works with the concerning general content and unoriginal stories to make the second season of The Twilight Zone’s latest reboot another disappointing offering from CBS All Access.  It is more proof that some things are just better left as they were.  It proves not everything needs to be rebooted.

The second season of CBS All Access’ latest reboot of The Twilight Zone is a step backward for this series.  Where the reboot’s debut season offered at least some positives, this season fails to provide audiences much if anything to appreciate.  The stories that are featured in this season are new, but not necessarily original.  Like the episodes featured in Season 1, the stories in these episodes  once again lift liberally from the original, timeless series launched more than six decades ago by Rod Serling and CBS.  They just re-imagine so many of the original series’ episodes for their own presentations, rather than offering audiences anything truly original.  The general content featured within the stories is problematic, too.  The original series continues to be timeless today in part because it relied on good writing and acting, rather than a bunch of explicit foul language, blood and gore.  The lack of any worthwhile bonus content in the season’s forthcoming home release puts the final nail in this season’s coffin.  All things considered, this season falls even shorter than the rebooted season’s debut season.  It is worth at the most one watch if only for its stories, but sadly little more if at all.  The Twilight Zone: Season 2 is scheduled for release Tuesday on DVD.

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