Like many longtime fans of The Twilight Zone, I was thrilled when CBS announced the show's return. I am, admittedly, unfamiliar with most of Jordan' Peele's work, but that doesn't stop me from cheering the decision to bring the series back, especially at a time when much of our public life seems to bring it to mind.
The importance of The Twilight Zone when it comes to science fiction stories like Sorrow's Echo can't be overstated. It opened the door for smart, creepy, and weird sci-fi that has inspired countless authors, moviemakers, and fans throughout the decades. It also introduced the idea that science fiction and fantasy could be used to address current events and life problems in ways that normal television couldn't. It was, in essence, political and philosophical debate disguised as entertainment. Brilliant!
The show and its many revivals have spawned dozens of amazing episodes. Who can forget "The Eye of the Beholder," "Nightmare at 20,000 feet" and "I Am the Night—Color Me Black"? Each of those episodes were appropriately dramatic and frightening, but more important, they left people thinking for years and decades to come. Even more, they gave people a way to discuss controversial topics of the time without broaching the forbidden paths of politics.
We can only hope Jordan Peele's Twilight Zone will do the same. It is, perhaps, the one thing that would persuade me to pay for CBS All Access.
What are your favorite Twilight Zone episodes and why? Include a picture below!
September 22, 1998, was a special day. It was the day Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island was released. It was the movie that rekindled my childhood love of Scooby-Doo. From the iconic opening numbers to Scooby and Shaggy's passion for food to the monsters that always turn out to be men in masks, Scooby-Doo inspired my love of creepy stories and mysteries.
Next year, Scooby and the gang turn 50. In celebration, let's revisit the top 3 TV show versions of the beloved franchise.
Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?
You can’t do a list of the best Scooby-Doo shows without including the original. Everything we love about Scooby started with Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?: an epic theme song, incomprehensibly silly villain plots, masks, traps, the gang, constant eating, and more. Sure, a laugh-track for a cartoon is silly, but it still takes me right back to watching it as a child. And let's not overlook the gorgeous, extremely creepy backgrounds.
As a kid growing up in a mostly TV-deprived household (we only had 2 channels when we had TV at all!), one of the things I loved most about going to my grandparent's home was that we got to watch reruns of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? If I run across this classic, today, I will definitely kick back and watch.
What's New, Scooby-Doo?
What's New, Scooby-Doo? is one of the most reverent takes on what made Scooby-Doo Where Are You? such a classic. The theme song is just as epic and gets stuck in your head just as easily. All the old tropes are there, as are many of the original voices. Even the animation style is similar. But the show also has a few things that set it apart in the best possible way.
First, it has been modernized just enough for current children to enjoy. Fred has ditched his notorious ascot and both Velma and the villains frequently use computers and other high-tech gadgetry that weren't even thought of in the original show. But, best of all, the show recognizes how silly many of its own tropes are. Most of the fun of What's New, Scooby-Doo? is watching the characters play off their own tropes, like Fred always wanting to split up or set a trap, and so on. Almost every episode has a solid, laugh-out-loud moment, often when its poking fun at itself.
A marathon of What's New, Scooby-Doo? was running on cable when I was laid up with a broken leg. The laughter and constant winking at the audience was just what I needed to get through the pain and boredom. It is a gem of a series.
Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated
Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated is both the weirdest and most controversial addition to this list. The show is a strange update to the Scooby Gang, adding a continuing storyline, forgoing the epic, lyric-filled theme song, and going full-on crazy by the end, not to mention the relationship drama between the characters (I'm sorry, but Velma is a terrible girlfriend) and how each character is turned into a bit of an exaggerated caricature of themselves. Also, for most of the series, it hard to tell exactly where it fits in with the rest of the Scooby stories. It feels like a weird, duck-out-of-water mismatch with all the other things we've seen from the gang over the years.
So what makes it one of the best? The end! The beautiful, glorious, end! There are some great episodes before they get there ("Stand and Deliver," which includes voice work from the incredible James Marsters as the Dandy Highwayman, one of the best Scooby villains with quite possibly the best payoff joke at the end) comes to mind, along with too many others to count, and there are some brilliant nods to Scooby-Doo of yore and other Hanna Barbara shows (the sidekick episode is one of the best as is the cameo appearance of Scrappy-Doo), but it is the very end of the show--the last five minutes of season two, in fact--that change this weird one-off into a masterpiece and elevate it above so many others. I won't spoil it, but for any Scooby fan, it will bring actual tears to your eyes. I've seen it 3 times, and it sill makes me a bit emotional
Do you agree with my picks? What is your favorite Scooby-Doo show? Comment below!
Predator isn't a great film. I'm not talking about the newest film that released last week to extremely mixed reviews or the one before that or Predator 2 or either of the Alien vs. Predator movies (though each of those have their own issues), I'm talking about the original, 1987 John McTiernan film complete with its badass future governors bursting with testosterone, its "get to da choppa," and its creepy alien. In fact, the movie is more than a bit cheesy and more than a little over-the-top. So why do we love it anyway?
While Predator may not be a great film, it is a very good one. In fact, it may be one of the best B-movies ever made.
One ugly mother...
First, hands down, the Predator is one of the most badass aliens around. With its dreadlocks, high tech armor and gadgets, cloaking technology, and, of course, its distinctive mandibles, it is perfectly designed.
Apparently, an offhand comment by legendary filmmaker James Cameron led to the addition of the mandibles in the Predator design. If that's true, then we owe him a debt. The mandible make the creature distinct and purely alien. The addition of cloaking technology and "Predator-vision" add to that uniqueness and make the creature damned near impossible to find, much less kill.
The end result is that the Predator is as scary as they come, and definitely not something you'd want to meet in a dark alley or the jungle.
The Most Dangerous Game
But perhaps the coolest thing about Predator is the fact that, at its core, it is a loose adaptation of Richard Connell's famous short story, "The Most Dangerous Game." In both stories, the hunters become the hunted for no other reason than sport. The Predator isn't scary just because it's a creepy-looking alien with cool gadgetry, it's terrifying because it has no sympathy for a species it considers less than itself. In fact, it revels in the kill as much as any human hunter revels in taking down big game.
This lack of regard for humanity elevates what probably should be a forgotten B-movie to something more frightening and make it linger with you after the final explosion and credits roll.
What is your favorite part of the Predator series? Remember not everyone (including me) has seen the new movie, so no spoilers!
Happy International Read an eBook Day! To celebrate, I'm releasing the first four chapters (and the Prelude) of my latest sci-fi thriller, SORROW'S ECHO absolutely FREE!
A beta test of a prototype, exploratory robot in the heart of the Arizona desert turns into terror when the engineering team discovers they are being hunted by an impossible creature that stalks them from the shadows of the rock. Intense and gripping, SORROW'S ECHO will keep you at the edge of your seat until its thrilling conclusion.
If you love Dean Koontz, Michael Crichton, or Predator, you'll love SORROW'S ECHO.
"Unique antagonist. One type of entity I have never encountered in a book before." - Grumpy (Amazon customer)
My wife never calls me at work unless it is important, so my heart beat a little faster as I picked up my ringing cellphone and answered.
“Airplanes crashed into the Twin Towers,” my wife said, her voice strained and terrified. “They think it was terrorists.”
It was September 11, 2001, a day that would forever alter the world.
I hope my children will never know how that moment feels. I hope they will never experience that gut-wrenching pit in the stomach, that terrible feeling that your world has somehow been ripped apart, that sure knowledge that everything you thought was safe isn’t, and that desperate scramble for news—any news—just so you knew something.
That day, my boss set up a radio tuned to an all-day news channel in the break room. We huddled around it as new words entered our vocabulary: Al-Quaida, Bin Laden, jihad. None of us got any work done. Later that night, during every break at school, I gathered with other students in the lobby, all of us staring numbly at a TV tuned to CNN. Few of us knew each other that night, fewer of us spoke, all of us were united.
It was a day I will never forget.
It was a day that changed us forever.
The long shadow of 9/11
Every year, on the anniversary, I think back on that day and the weeks that followed immediately after. For days, I walked around feeling sick and haunted. My dreams were filled with screams and fire and buildings crashing to the ground. I cried often.
Later, a simple analysis of how the 9/11 terrorist attacks helped propel the first Spider-Man film to record-breaking heights would launch me on an unexpected journey to document how that terrible day changed the way we look at and talk about superheroes. I spent four years researching comics and superhero stories, talking with fans and experts, and writing down my thoughts. I became an expert on the topic. The resulting book, The Superhero Response, even landed me a place on Robert Kirkman’s Secret History of Comics on AMC (2017), which aired right after The Walking Dead.
Looking back, today, on the 17 years since the attacks, I can still see the long shadow of 9/11 and how it influences our culture, our popular media, our politics, and our every day life.
We must remember that 9/11 changed everything. EVERYTHING. The fact that it had such a profound impact on comic book superheroes is a direct reflection of the impact it had on us as a people.
On that day, a new enemy entered our worldview. It was an enemy that had always existed, the nameless, faceless terrorist who strikes out at the honest, upstanding people, but until that day, he had been an abstraction, a line from a news item in a country far away. On 9/11, he became real, tangible, and frightening. He found his way into the way we think and see the world. He was the Joker in The Dark Knight, an agent of chaos who struck out without rhyme or reason.
The truth of the terrorists was, in fact, much murkier than this terrifying vision suggested, but actions are governed much more by what we perceive than reality. So it was this shadow that drove our discourse and our politics. Whether we like it or not, it is this same shadow that drives much of what we do today.
Last week, in a stunning, unprecedented move, the New York Times published an anonymous op-ed by a “senior Trump administration official” claiming to be part of an inside “resistance” working to “thwart parts of [Donald Trump’s] agenda and his worst inclinations.” Whether you believe the op-ed writer is a hero or a hack or a fictitious creation, President Trump’s Twitter calls of “TREASON!!!” and of a Deep State conspiracy owe much to 9/11. After all, what is the difference between a terrorist who crashes buildings and one who thwarts governments from the inside. In fact, Kellyanne Conway, senior counselor to President Donald Trump, even said that she thought “the motivation [of the op-ed] was to sow discord and create chaos,” echoing the Joker’s call to "Introduce a little anarchy. Upset the established order, and everything becomes chaos.”
The real reaction to 9/11
In the wake of 9/11, Ruth Serge, the creator of the Voices of 9/11 project, said that “The real reaction of 9/11 was to make everyone more human.” To some degree, I believe that was true. It bound us together in our human frailty. All of a sudden, we were not the invincible, unconquerable people we once believed. We were exposed and vulnerable to a hidden shadow, an agent of chaos. And worst of all, that shadow could be anyone.
The real reaction of 9/11 was to make everyone more human.
In the years that have followed, few would deny that we have become more and more divided as a nation. We once thought the attacks would bring us together, much the way Pearl Harbor brought together the Greatest Generation. The opposite has happened. We are more distrustful, more isolated, and more fearful than ever before.
Today, I saw a Twitter argument where the differing sides posted statistics about the other, some claiming that more than 50% of all Democrats believe Russians actively changed the voting numbers of the 2016 election to ensure Donald Trump’s victory while others claimed that more than 50% of all Republicans believed that millions of illegal votes were cast. The truth is that neither side has evidence that either occurred, but the mistrust and fear that someone else who believes something different is out to steal the country away and destroy our way of life runs so deep that we’ll believe just about everything.
It is so sad.
Toward the end of the first Spider-Man film (2002), the superhero finds himself in a precarious situation. Dangling from a bridge, holding onto a line attached to a cable-car filled with kids as well as his beloved Mary Jane, he can go nowhere as the Green Goblin races in for the kill. But then a miraculous thing happens: New Yorkers on the bridge above attack the Goblin with brick, rocks, and trash.
“You mess with Spidy, you mess with New York,” one of them yells.
“You mess with one of us, you mess with all of us."
It is the one scene that was added to the film in the wake of 9/11, a visual reminder of our initial reaction to the terrorist attacks. In the wake of danger, we pulled together, we comforted and lifted one another. The gut-punch feeling of those first few days faded as we came together as a country and vowed to work together to be better. Cracks quickly appeared, it is true, but for a moment, for one glorious moment, we were united. We were invincible. We were superheroes.
I believe we can be that again. I believe that, in spite of all the vitriol and partisanship, in spite of the wedges that have been driven between us by our fears and prejudices, what binds us together is far greater than what pulls us apart. It won’t be easy, and I do not have all the answers. I just know that it will be worth it.