Quickie Review of THE TWILIGHT ZONE (2019) S01 E05: “The Wunderkind”

Art imitates life imitating a reality TV show imitating life… uh… “Twilight Zone.”

I hoped for a follow-through on the OMEN-esque vibe I got seeing the trailer. Some kind of new update of “It’s a Good Life.” Of course, the last episode that brought this to my mind didn’t seem so good to me. “The Wunderkind” had a promising premise, a compelling character, and the clever throwback touches I’ve come to expect from the new series. Trouble is, it couldn’t get off the note of “Look, look, it’s about how we’ve normalized the weird shit going on in Washington DC, get it?” The other impressions I came away with…

  • Five episodes and I have to be imagining the continual references to “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?” That jukebox could be referencing a bunch of episodes. Right…?
  • You’re blatantly mixing your o.g. TZ references with John Cho strapped to hospital bed, there — part “To Serve Man,” part “Eye of the Beholder.”
  • But only in the modern TZ could you have the Asian character say, “I want Justin Timberlake to play me in the HBO movie!”
  • The polls being “high tech baloney.” A child who “tells it like it is.” Hm, seems familiar…
  • Only in the modern TZ can Asian guys be selfish a-holes proposing ridiculous candidates/ideas, blinded by the privilege that lets him think, “Everybody wins, nobody gets hurt.” Yeah, right.
  • Nope, the episode took my suspension of disbelief a step too far. Why would parents let Raff near them again. I could believe they could go for it once, but twice? Obviously, because the plot needs it.
  • Look, little Bobby Flay jumping up on the cutting board.
  • Ah, here it is — “That was a good thing you did, Oliver. A good thing.”

I’m reminded of the interview James Gunn (the sci-fi writer, not the director) did with Rod Serling where Serling mused about the consistency of the original TZ: “It wasn’t a good show every week. It wasn’t a good show, sometimes, three weeks running.” “A” for effort here, but…

The Jack Elam Score for “Wunderkind” (out of 5):

1: “And this lemon-sucker here…”
2: “Ain’t nobody been exonerated yet, that’s for sure!”
3: “Sharp boys, real sharp boys!”
4: “A regular Ray Bradbury!”

#Weeknotes S01 E09

This may be the very first time in over 10 years when I didn’t face a Thanksgiving holiday feeling so exhausted that the thought of the holidays would fill me with dread and the indignation of, “More shit to do when I really need a fucking break.” I guess that’s what happens when I actually get the help I need. Not that I don’t need a break, though.

IRON IN THE FIRE. Still waiting on the one remaining prospect. Signs are positive but we all know we can’t count our chickens, &c. And then you know what, I’m going to ride out 2019 on a relatively high note compared to this time last year.

FEEDING MY HEAD. I mentioned last week starting another Iowa Writing Program MOOC, “Hidden Meanings: Creative Fiction, Non-fiction, and Facts.” I’m already behind, but that’s pretty par for the course. But already in the first module, I came away with a tool I know I can use in the future, which led me to the Vivian Gornick book I got…

FEEDING MY EYES. Yes, I know I have a backlog, but Comixology was having a sale on Humanoids books, so I picked up a Metal Hurlant Collection AND I REGRET NOTHING!

I’m glad I didn’t completely miss the party on another Humanoids book, The Twilight Man, a graphic biography of Rod Serling. And we all know how I loves me some Serling! Again, I regret nothing.

The purchase of the week though is Gornick’s THE SITUATION AND THE STORY: THE ART OF PERSONAL NARRATIVE.

IN THE WILD. “Good… goooooood!”


Serling Awards

I missed the livestream of the 2016 Rod Serling Award for Advancing Social Justice Through Popular Media honoring BLACK-ISH creator Kenya Barris a couple of weeks ago. The presentation included remarks by writer, producer, and director Bill Froehlich, Diane Gayeski, the Dean of Ithaca College’s Roy H. Park School of Communication (where Serling taught),  and actor Marcus Scribner who plays Andre, Jr. on BLACK-ISH.

I miss the old Rod Serling Conferences they used to hold. Full disclosure: I presented at two of them, and was looking forward to more. I’ve no clue why TPTB decided to make the transition, but it’s understandable. Mining the past has its benefits but so does looking forward, which is what this award does.

I will say this year’s award seems an improvement over last year’s with respect to diversity and representation. I didn’t read about (or, look for to be honest) any criticism about the award then, but I have to give it props that it turned things around 180 degrees in a year. Barris was definitely an inspired pick, with his work on BLACK-ISH being the most recent best example of fulfilling what Rod Serling thought as the writer’s role…

The writer’s role is to menace the public’s conscience. He must have a position, a point of view. He must see the arts as a vehicle of social criticism. And he must focus on the issues of his time.

–Rod Serling

A New Old Writing Manifesto

I was reading the latest issue of Warren Ellis’s ORBITAL OPERATIONS newsletter this morning and while I myself didn’t expect a Spider Jerusalem rant, this shouldn’t have surprised me:

I’m sure some of you tuned in today expecting a Spider Jerusalem-scale political rant. Some of you may even have been wincing in expectation of it. But I’m not Spider Jerusalem. He was my Id from twenty years ago. Going off here would be empty virtue-signalling from someone with no serious skin in this particular game. Whatever I say next, it’ll be through the work.

And so it immediately brings to mind how I resolve that conflict as I write. How do I make whatever I say come through the work? As always, I’ve had the answer all along…

What are you dealing with now in terms of plot points, themes, concerns now? The world and everything in it: Hunger, poverty, the anguish of the human race, the desperate sense of self destruction that we entertain all the time, the deep pervading gloom that comes with our inability to cope. Of course, you’re going to over-concern yourself with issues. It’s right that you should do so, and it’s expected… this year. Next year. But not three years from now.

Leave that soapbox behind. Carry with you, at all times, your sense of caring and your concern. But put it into the mouths of flesh and blood people. If not, write tracts.

Now, not to be critical, but I think it’s fair to say there’s a certain privilege in being allowed three years before transforming your soapbox feelings to good fiction writing. But that part of the prescription isn’t important, really. And I don’t want to dismiss tract and pamphlet writing, either; lots of folks do both. But the principle is sound.

As for me and my writing though, I have the motive, and now I have the means. And now I have some writing to get back to.


Today’s soundtrack: BLACKLISTED by Neko Case