People have been trying to recapture the lightning in a bottle of Rod Serling’s classic Twilight Zone since…well, more or less since the original series wrapped its run back in 1964. Those attempts have varied from somewhat successful — the 1985 version which included the talents of folks like J. Michael Straczynski, Rockne S. O’Bannon, and Harlan Ellison — to the not-so-much — the 2002 UPN incarnation hosted by Forest Whitaker. Now the Zone is back at bat under the guidance of Bryan Singer, who recently revealed his ambitious plans for doing Serling’s creation justice.
Word of this latest Twilight Zone revamp first came around last December, with Singer set to develop, executive produce, and possibly direct the series for CBS TV. Speaking to Total Film, Singer seems quite aware of how the challenge of making a new Twilight Zone work. He seems up for it, however. He tells Total Film:
I’ve taken over The Twilight Zone. I’d love to direct one — at least the pilot. It’s really not easy to jumpstart an anthology show, particularly because it’s hard to pair them with other things. The production is complex too, because you don’t have scanning sets and you have a revolving cast. But I like the challenge.
One of the things that made the original Twilight Zone such an enduring classic was the sheer level of talent it attracted, especially on the writing side. As with the original Star Trek series, The Twilight Zone attracted some of the most talented genre writers of the era, including Charles Beaumont, Richard Matheson, George Clayton Johnson, and, of course, the brilliant Serling himself. From the sound of things, Singer hopes to attract that same level of talent.
If we can get Twilight Zone to a place where A-list talent is participating, then it would emulate the experience of the Rod Serling show which had, you know, William Shatner, Agnes Moorehead, Burgess Meredith… all these terrific actors doing these really serious morality tales. If we achieve that it could be really something.
If it’s possible for a new Twilight Zone to become a genuine phenomenon that attracts A-list talent, Singer’s probably got as good a shot as anybody at making that happen. Of course, that’s hardly the only obstacle along the way. Anthologies are a tricky narrative format, and they aren’t done much these days. Will audiences be willing to follow Singer into The Twilight Zone? Time will tell.
Singer’s Zone isn’t the only update of Serling’s baby that’s in the works these day. There’s also a Twilight Zone film project in the works. The film, however, would tell one single story, rather than several in anthology form. It’s an interesting choice, but it doesn’t seem very Twilight Zone, does it? If only one of these projects succeeds, I’m rooting for Singer’s series.