Jordan Peele recommends watching these three Twilight Zone episodes from the original series.
We spoke to the Get Out and Us director in advance of his upcoming reboot of the anthology sci-fi series for CBS All Access and asked which of the show’s 156 classic episodes (which are currently streaming on Netflix and CBS All Access) he’d most recommend.
Not surprisingly, Peele made some great choices. In no particular order…
“To Serve Man”: An advanced alien species invades Earth and proceeds to… make everything better?
“‘To Serve Man’ is the one that, I think, is the quintessential Twilight Zone,” Peele says. “It’s perfect. It has everything.” (Including one of the best twists in the whole series.)
“Living Doll,” a.k.a. “Talky Tina”: A girl with an abusive stepfather (Kojack’s Telly Savalas) gets the toy she always wanted, but Tina has a mind of her own.
“It’s one of my favorites,” Peele says. “Just scared the sh— out of me as a kid. And you could make the argument that underneath that is a story about consumerism, the one-upsmanship of toys. But in its essence, it’s a great horror story.”
Indeed there’s a lot going on in this episode, which functions as a compelling family melodrama in which Savalas’ stepdad is arguably scarier than the haunted doll. Note that the mother’s name is familiar to fans of this genre: Annabelle.
“Mirror Image”: A woman (Psycho’s Vera Miles) at a bus stop is haunted by the appearance of a mysterious doppelgänger. This is a good warm-up — or come-down — to watching Peele’s new doppelgänger-filled horror hit Us.
Here’s one particularly clever recurring shot from the episode. Note the way the director cuts off the “LADIES” room sign for an ominous angle:
“Those are my top three,” Peele says. “They’re very scary and very dark ones.”
Peele’s fellow Twilight Zone executive producer Simon Kinberg has a few recommendations too: The original “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” starring William Shatner, “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street” is another, and then there’s the fan favorite “Time Enough at Last,” starring Burgess Meredith as book-obsessed bank teller.
“Meredith’s performance is so extraordinary, and the twist at the end of that one is as good a twist as you can come up with,” Kinberg says. “What’s interesting about that one is that’s a good example of an episode that was just really about character. It wasn’t really about society or social justice. There are plenty of episodes that we have, even in our first season, that are very much like that — just an exploration of a character’s struggle in the world or struggle with his or herself, with a discovery and an ironic twist toward the end.”
The Twilight Zone debuts April 1 on CBS All Access.