Misjudging an Audience: The Twilight Zone 2002 (TV Showcase #19)

This is the second and final revival of “The Twilight Zone”, and this time for good reason. Because frankly, the show was terrible. It completely distorted what “The Twilight Zone” was meant to be, but we’ll look at how and why I think so poorly of it. This is “The Twilight Zone” 2002.

“The Twilight Zone” 2002 (still TZ for short) was yet another revival of the original 1960s anthology series, but not nearly as successful as its 1980s counterpart. The show ran for 43 half-hour episodes (in 22 hour-long time slots) over one season, ending in 2003. Every episode was an original story save for two remakes of original series episodes, and 41 of the 43 episodes were not enjoyed by me. Why, you may ask? Well, I call it misjudging an audience.

Now, the two episodes of TZ that I really liked from this series were “It’s Still a Good Life”, a sequel to an original series episode featuring the same cast (including Billy Mumy from “Lost in Space”), and “Eye of the Beholder”, a remake of the original series episode of the same name, using the exact same script that Rod Serling wrote, which I very much appreciated. And that was the 44 minutes of the entire show that I actually liked. Now let’s get down to business.

With the advancement of what was acceptable to put on television came a huge misjudge from the showrunners of the TZ 2002. You see, the 1980s revival was able to get away with more graphic descriptions of things, and once in a while, some blood for effect. But these things were only done to enhance the story, not just because they could be done. The TZ 2002 went as far as they could with the rating they had on TV, assuming that since it was acceptable, the audience would want to see it. So, we got language, total absence of any sort of lesson, blood, and lots of sex. And it’s not just that these things were in the show, it was that they were needless and often distracted from the story; plus, it wasn’t very well disguised that this is what the showrunners of the TZ thought that the modern audience was interested in 24/7, on every episode. Although an audience of the 2000s might have wanted to see some of that stuff, they didn’t want so much of it as to create shallow stories and poor-quality writing completely unlike the show that many of them remembered.

Right along with all of this was the generational gap in the audience. The older folks who had seen the 80s revival and quite possibly the original as well definitely wouldn’t have appreciated the near-ruination of this beloved classic for reasons described above; on the flipside, the younger audience who were old enough to watch the show would’ve seen it as either an old grandma show and therefore uninteresting, or they would’ve watched it and seen it as stupid. The younger audience of the 2000s and 2010s have become very well-informed and insightful into pulling things out of TV and film; an audience of 2002 probably would’ve seen right through the show’s shallowness and pulled out. At the very least, the anthology format of the 60s and 80s wouldn’t have been very engaging in 2002. I mean, think about it: aside from this show, when’s the last time you’ve seen a TV anthology air in your lifetime?

While “The Twilight Zone” 2002 was an interesting idea, it didn’t turn out the way the audience had hoped it would. In short, it was a complete misjudge of the audience, and one that other showmakers might bear to learn from. What do you think?

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