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The New ‘Twilight Zone’ Is a Feast for the Eyes

Weekend streaming recommendations and a roundup of the week’s food pop culture news 

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Tracy Morgan and Kumail Nanjiani
CBS All Access/Twilight Zone

This post originally appeared on April 5, 2019, in “Eat, Drink, Watch” — the weekly newsletter for people who want to order takeout and watch TV. Browse the archives and subscribe now.

Happy Friday. Did you get fooled by an internet prank this week? I thought that, on the whole, the April Fools’ jokes were pretty lame except for Lucas Peterson’s masterful LA Times satire about coastal culinary biases. Monday was also a significant day in the pop culture landscape because it saw the premiere of Jordan Peele’s Twilight Zone reboot, which is one of my recommendations this week. Here are my thoughts on that, plus two other shows to check out before Monday:

An exhilarating return to the Twilight Zone

Kumail Nanjiani
CBS All Access/The Twilight Zone

While it’s hard to beat the clever storytelling of the original black-and-white version of the Twilight Zone, one of the two new episodes of the Jordan Peele reboot comes close: “The Comedian.” This tale, about a club comic who gains an unusual super power after sharing a drink with another comedian, unfolds in a way that is suspenseful and surprising. And like all great Twilight Zone episode, it’s got a clever twist at the end.

Kumail Nanjiani plays the comedian, Samir, in a performance with more depth and detail than his star turn portraying another standup comic in The Big Sick. One of my issues with that movie — which I liked, but didn’t love — was that I couldn’t figure out if Nanjiani’s hero was supposed to be a good or crummy standup in the world of the film. In this Twilight Zone episode, he’s definitely a hack who’s tortured by his lack of success. Of course, he eventually gets what he wants, but his rise to fame comes at a hefty price. Nanjiani really gets inside this character and makes you care about the comic even in the most outrageous moments of his story.

Aside from this performance and a brilliant cameo by Tracy Morgan, I loved the production design of “The Comedian.” No comedy club has ever looked like Eddie’s, where Samir performs — but if it existed in real life, it would certainly land on an Eater Heatmap. The bar is swanky but snug, and the theater is cavernous and full of cafe tables bathed in flattering light. The space is also full of references back to the original Twilight Zone: the back wall of the club features a mural depicting a crowd full of distorted faces like those featured in “Eye of the Beholder” and “The Masks,” and in one scene, Samir’s frenemy drinks a Kanamit Lager, the same fictional beer that’s in the classic episode “To Serve Man.” Win Rosenfeld, the president of Peele’s MonkeyPaw productions recently assured Vanity Fair that these Easter eggs and callbacks to the original show will keep popping up throughout the series.

While the other new episode, a remake of “Nightmare at 30,000 Feet,” doesn’t feel quite as fresh as “The Comedian,” the reboot is still an exciting addition to the TV landscape. Aside from the excellent cast and stellar production design, Peele and Co. are exploring timely themes through these sci-fi stories, and in that sense, keeping the spirit of the original Twilight Zone alive. For the sake of avoiding spoilers, I won’t delve into the specifics of this theory, but I have a hunch “The Comedian” is really a parable about cancel culture and the ills of social media.

Both episodes of the new Twilight Zone are available on the subscription service CBS All Access, and you can currently watch “The Comedian” for free on YouTube. For an extended discussion of this episode — where we will get into spoilers! — swing by the Eat, Drink Watch Facebook group this weekend.

Streaming recommendations du jour

Dominic Lewis and David Constabile on Billions

Billions, “ChickenTown”

Watch it on: Showtime, Amazon Prime, iTunes, Google Play

The gist: It took me a while to get into Billions because, frankly, I got lost in the banker babble. And still, when Bobby Axelrod (played by Dominic Lewis) and his cronies start hatching new financial schemes, I sometimes feel like a member of the Peanuts gang listening to an adult squawk at them incomprehensibly. But the good thing about Showtime’s hit is that it’s still a fun show to watch if you ignore the jargon and instead pay attention to the broad-strokes drama of these dastardly dudes trying to screw over their rivals.

The latest episode involves an attempt to make a bunch of money by exploiting an Arkansas chicken coop. When their investment plan goes amiss, Axelrod’s associate “Dollar” Bill Stearn (Kelly AuCoin) makes a trip down south to inspect the chicken operation, where he finds a big surprise. This cheeky plots also involves a capon in a bowling bag that could ruin the national food supply, and a fried chicken feast aboard a private jet.

If you’re someone who’s unsure about whether Billions is up your alley, this is a good episode to take for a spin since it’s relatively frothy and fun.

The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, “The Queer Eye Guys”

Watch it on: YouTube (Part 1); YouTube (Part 2)

The gist: While the Fab Five’s highlight of the week was probably meeting Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Nancy Pelosi on Capitol Hill, but this appearance on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert must be a close second. In the clips from the show, four of the Queer Eye stars — grooming guru Jonathan Van Ness, food lover Antoni Porowski, style expert Tan France, and design guru Bobby Berk — discuss their on-set coffee drinking regimen and “thirst trap” Instagram accounts, and they play a game of “fab or drab” with Colbert where they weigh in on chocolate hummus, splitting the check on a first date, and sharing your Netflix password (all DRAB).

In other entertainment news…

Have a great weekend everyone, and if you’re looking for a dinner party dish to make this weekend, consider checking out Yasmin Khan’s recipe for fesenjoon, a chicken stew with pomegranate molasses and tomatoes.