Monday, April 1, 2019

REVIEW: 'The Twilight Zone' - Samir's Jokes Kill After He Makes a Deal with a Mysterious Comic in 'The Comedian'

CBS All Access' The Twilight Zone - Episode 1.01 "The Comedian"

Comedian Samir Wassan wants to be famous... but at what cost?

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of CBS All Access' The Twilight Zone.

"The Comedian" was written by Alex Rubens and directed by Owen Harris

The Twilight Zone is an iconic show from the early days of television. Created by Rod Serling, it transported viewers to the fifth dimension each week with tales about the human condition in many surprising ways that reinvented several genres. It's a property that has been rebooted a couple of times since its original run. Jordan Peele is the latest producer to take on the project. He has received most of the coverage ahead of the series launch about being the person at the helm. And yet, he may not be as hands-on here as he is with his film career. He is the narrator and producer. But he isn't the writer or director in the first several episodes. Moreover, this episode is titled "The Comedian" and stars successful stand-up comedians Kumail Nanjiani and Tracy Morgan but isn't all that funny. It's not really aspiring to be. But it is also a noticeable problem in some instances. Nanjiani knows how to perform on stage. As such, he is a great choice for the lead role of Samir because he has to be comfortable as a stand-up performing while also balancing the drama of everything else that is going on in his life. It's just questionable because the moment he becomes successful the jokes don't really land in a way that makes the audience just as invested in the choices that Samir is making. He starts off this story as a struggling comic who still has a pretty good life overall. He makes a deal with Morgan's mysterious stranger. The story then turns into a tale of how Samir's jokes actually kill. When he talks about people in his personal life, the audience will laugh no matter what. But those people will immediately be wiped away from all existence afterwards. No one will have any recognition that they were alive and had an influence on reality. That makes all of this a cautionary tale about how Samir at first delights in this power in order to hurt the despicable people who have wronged him or others in the past. He keeps a journal of all the people who have done horrible things in his life. All he really has to do is mention their names on stage and what they did. He doesn't even have to form that in the style of a joke either. The words come out of his mouth and the audience starts laughing. They aren't earned laughs. That's the point of this story. Samir isn't a good comic at all. He only succeeds because he is given this power. He just comes to immediately regret it. He never makes jokes about his serious girlfriend. She never disappears from his life. And yet, he talks about enough people that it dramatically changes the career trajectory she has always been on. That may prove how people are shaped by their experiences no matter how horrifying and traumatizing they can be. Otherwise, relationships would fail and people would be stuck working at diners. That's a depressing overall message though. Samir has to learn that this power soon destroys everything for him. He wanted to be famous. He wanted these laughs. He wanted to be taken seriously by the world. It just costs him everything in the end. The only way he can reset all of reality is to remove himself completely from existence. That doesn't stop all of this from probably happening again. Other comics will seek out this power. It just proves to be far more dangerous than anyone realizes in their quest for fame and success. It's a solid story idea overall. However, the execution of the concept is severely lacking when it comes to the writing as well as the pacing of the overall episode. This story really didn't need to be extended beyond 30 minutes. But instead, it's a 55 minute premiere for the new reboot of The Twilight Zone.