‘Twilight Zone’ review: Uneven homage proves Rod Serling was one of a kind

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It’s a good thing, I suppose, that hot filmmakers such as Jordan Peele (“Us” and “Get Out”) acknowledge the influence that artists such as Rod Serling, creator of “The Twilight Zone,” have had on them.

But an homage to Serling doesn’t make you Rod Serling. And that’s a good thing.

Peele’s reboot of “The Twilight Zone,” which premieres Monday on CBS All Access, is the third attempt by Serling admirers to recapture the strikingly eerie quality of the original CBS series (1959-64), but Peele, who gives off the severity of a funeral home director in his host capacity, only partially delivers the goods.

Two episodes air Monday night: The better one is the second, “Nightmare at 30,000 Feet,” an homage to the classic William Shatner outing in which a gremlin appears on the wing of the plane outside his window, precipitating a complete mental breakdown. This time, Adam Scott plays the passenger, listening to a podcast that describes the tragic disappearance of the very flight he has just boarded. Like a game of Clue, the podcast gives a list of troublemakers from the passenger manifest and Scott makes a nuisance of himself trying to prevent disaster only to inadvertently make it happen. Scott, who played Reese Witherspoon’s hapless husband on “Big Little Lies,” ably conveys the bewilderment of the prophet no one believes without doing a total Jack Lemmon-style freakout. A weird nod to Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” seems out-of-place but the overall effect of the episode is satisfyingly strange.

The “Nightmare” episode’s 36 minutes feels just about right. The other episode, a bloated “The Comedian,” clocks in at 54 minutes, a way too long parable about the empty pursuit of fame. Kumail Nanjiani plays Samir Wassan, a completely unfunny comic whose hunger for success gets the better of him. Tracy Morgan has a cool cameo as a legendary comic whose advice leads Samir to alienate his girlfriend and nephew by selling them out in his comic routines.

“I wanted to make people laugh, not make them disappear,” Samir whines to a bemused Morgan. This message-oriented episode feels too pat to kick off the series as well.

Perhaps, like “Black Mirror” on Netflix, true fans will find the best episode (rumor has it that Episode 4, “A Traveler,” is the one to see) of “The Twilight Zone” and obsess about that until the next obsession takes over. For the time being, though, the message we’re taking away is that there’s only one Rod Serling.

Can Hollywood accept that?

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