New 'Twilight Zone' Just One Of Streaming Options
'Cobra Kai' and 'What We Do In The Shadows' also worth checking out
Streaming television has a lot to offer and three top choices are Jordan Peele's reboot of Rod Serling's "The Twilight Zone" on CBS All Access, season two of the YouTube original series "Cobra Kai," and the debut of FX's "What We Do in the Shadows."
With a multitude of streaming networks, audiences now have a huge list of offerings to tempt them. The thing with series is that if you get hooked it can be a huge time suck so you don't want to waste time on shows that just aren't worth it. Here are three that are worth your time.
'The Twilight Zone'
Peele’s reboot of the groundbreaking 1960s TV show is out of the gate with two episodes. Anticipation was high with the talented Peele overseeing what he’s calling a reimagining of the original "Twilight Zone" series. But as an anthology show with a different director, each week consistency may be an issue. The production values and acting are top-notch so far but the writing is more erratic.
The first episode, "The Comedian," offered a rather uninspired riff on the old Cliff Robertson episode "The Dummy." However, the second episode, "Nightmare at 30,000 Feet," delivered a more provocative reimagining of the famous Wiliam Shatner starrer "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" with the update cleverly acknowledging how new technology and new fears generated by terrorism can affect us.
"The Twilight Zone" reboot has yet to dazzle me but it shows a respect and affection for the original that’s encouraging along with a willingness to reinvent that’s promising. CBS All Access also has "The Twilight Zone" Classic, which is a definite perk. And Peele is encouraging people to revisit those old shows, which is great. A half-century later, Serling's smart series is still provocative and relevant.
I have to admit, I didn't rush to watch the first season of "Cobra Kai." It was hard to imagine that a YouTube Original show revisiting an '80s teen flick could possibly be as good as people were saying. With so many movies to watch, it sometimes takes a lot to make me devote time to a series. But the first two episodes were being offered free and there was a WonderCon panel over the weekend and all things converged to finally hook me on the show.
It finds some perfect intersection of '80s sitcom nostalgia and telenovela melodrama. On one level it is cheesy and predictable and on another level wonderfully original and sincere. But the main reason it succeeds is that all involved had a vision for why they wanted to revisit "The Karate Kid" more than three decades later.
All the key actors are back. Ralph Macchio and William Zabka return as the teen rivals Danny Larusso and Johnny Lawrence. Larusso now owns a luxury car dealership and Lawrence has a failed marriage, an estranged kid and no job. To make matter worse, Larrusso's grinning face looks down on him from billboards everywhere he seems to turn. All this eventually leads Lawrence to re-open his old coach's dojo, Cobra Kai. This irks Larusso to no end. The first season reinstated the rivalry and introduced a new generation of kids into the mix. The first season ended with the ominous return of John Kreese (once again played by Martin Kove).
Here are the things the show gets right. It is true to the original film by using the same cast and even locations; it uses footage not used in the original film for flashbacks so you see something new; and it gives the familiar characters a new story arc to engage us. And perhaps the most interesting thing it does is to suggest that the black and white morality of the first film needs to be re-examined in shades of gray. The show is often goofy yet it also managed to create some real emotions.
"Cobra Kai" is better than it has a right to be and I urge you to catch up on season one and then enjoy season two.
Check out the music video "Sweep the Leg," which Zabka starred in and directed, for a glimpse at where the series inspiration might have come from and then for fun watch this explanation of who the real bully was in "The Karate Kid."
"What We Do In The Shadows"
Another series taken from a film is FX's new "What We Do in the Shadows," spun off from the Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi 2014 mockumentary of the same name. The feature film looked to a group of vampires living in modern-day Wellington, New Zealand and dealing with issues of chore duties over the centuries and trying to dress stylishly when you have no reflection. The film was hilarious but had a hard time getting U.S. distribution. In fact Clement launched a Kickstarter to try and get the film a U.S. release.
But with Waititi having directed the wildly successful "Thor Ragnarock" and the film gaining critical success, Hollywood was more embracing of the eccentric talents of the two Kiwis. Happily, the series arrives and is just as funny as the film that spawned it.
The series takes us to American and a trio of vampires trying to make it in contemporary Staten Island. And while I miss Clement and Waititi as actors the new cast is easy to warm up to. The humor is still very dry and character-driven, and the show is simply delightful.
There are probably hundreds more streaming options and more in the works but I am committed to following these for at least their current seasons. And then there is also "Mindhunter" season two to look forward to on Netflix.