It’s “What have you been watching?”, your chance to recommend anything you’ve been watching this week
It’s the last WHYBW of 2017, since TMINE is taking its traditional end-of-year break next week. But never fear – it’ll be back in January to play catch up with all the Christmas TV.
It’s been quiet-ish for new tele this past week, so for the most part, we’re going to be looking at the regulars, with Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, Mr Robot and Travelers winding up their latest seasons and even series in one case. But I also watched the Christmas episode of Will and Grace, as well as the latest episodes of Happy! and Marvel’s Runaways, so I’ll be discussing all of those, too, after the jump.
I did try to watch episode two of Knightfall as well, but after 15 minutes of reasonably lifeless runarounds and the arrival of Pope Boniface, I found myself too bored to carry on with its bargain basement Vikings intrigues, so I’ve dropped that from the schedule.
All of which still left me a little time on my hands, so I went out! Out the house! Out out!
At the theatre, I saw The Twilight Zoneand at the cinema, I saw Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Then I got bored of out, so although I’d already reviewed the pilot, making it ineligible for Boxset Monday, I watched the whole of the first season of Jean Claude Van Johnson at the weekend. All of that after the jump as well.
The Twilight Zone is one of the most famous shows in US TV history. Although not quite the original US ‘anthology show’ – indeed, it started off as an episode of precursor CBS anthology show The Desilu Playhouse – it is the best known.
A science-fiction, fantasy, psychological-supernatural horror anthology show created by Rod Serling, it ran for five seasons from 1959 to 1964. Each standalone episode depicted characters dealing with paranormal, futuristic, Kafka-esque, or otherwise disturbing or unusual events that are said to have taken place in ‘The Twilight Zone’.
Famously, of course, each story typically featured a moral or surprise ending. I say famously, but there are few people who could probably tell you even one of those endings without prompting, since it’s one of those shows that’s famous without many people actually having seen any episodes of it – or of its numerousremakes, of which a new one is being developed even as I type.
At a push, people might remember its later theme tune and title sequence:
They’ll have forgotten the original one completely, mind.
They might also remember creator Rod Serling’s frequent on-screen introductions and conclusions to episodes.
But individual episodes? Not so much.
For the most part, The Twilight Zone has entered the realm of the meme – a shorthand for the weird and unexplainable, and stories with weird aliens and stings in their tails. Although, to be honest, that’s more The Outer Limits people are thinking of. Indeed, you can reduce the ‘stings’ of all 156 episodes down to just 10 minutes if you try really hard.
Adapting The Twilight Zone for the stage
Which makes adapting it for the stage, as The Almeida Theatre in North London has done, potentially both easy and hard. Easy, because if no one can remember the episodes, no one’s going to be fussed if you either simply stage one as written or divert from it and change it in some way; hard, because you’ve little to latch onto.
So the TV show was like a kind of theatre, and in turn the theatre show is based on TV. It’s a strange transference of forms. There are certainly many questions that arise when thinking about the legacy of the show and its new manifestation on stage.
How do you do a pre-commercial break cliff-hanger onstage?
How do you create a high-concept perspective twist with no camera?
What is the best form for building tension?
What is the best form for creating a sense of the paranoid, the mysterious, the genuinely strange?
But at a more basic level, even if you think of each episode as a play, it’s still a play that’s only 50 minutes long and that relies on filmic rather than theatrical techniques for the most part. And which can be pastiched as a mere twist.
John Landis and others showed us one way of doing it back in 1983 with The Twilight Zone: The Movie. That simply took three classic episodes of the show, added in a new one, and then created ‘bookend’ scenes around them.
What does writer Anne Washburn do at The Almeida? Well, let’s just say not only is a bit different to that, it’s also a bit more North London.