Spoilers below for those who haven't yet watched the series premiere for CBS All Access' The Twilight Zone reboot.
As offbeat as The Twilight Zone just naturally is, the weirdest thing that Jordan Peele's TV reboot could have done was completely ignore Rod Serling's seminal original series. Luckily, the 2019 update is full of both figurative and literal nods. One of the biggest coming in the debut episode, "The Comedian," where eagle-eyed viewers could catch a glimpse at the iconic titular prop made famous by the classic Twilight Zone episode "The Dummy."
As seen in the image below, the ventriloquist puppet can be seen in the back room of the comedy club Eddies – No Apostrophes! – when Kumail Nanjiani's stand-up comic Samir is talking to Tracy Morgan's mysterious J.C. Wheeler. It turns out the reboot was given permission to use the prop by its current owner, world-renowned illusionist David Copperfield.
That prop is no mere lookalike or replication, and is the actual dummy that was used in the 1962 Twilight Zone episode and in the 1964 episode "Caesar and Me." As such, David Copperfield had a few stipulations to put in place before allowing Jordan Peele's anthology reboot to take it to the set. Here's how Kumail Nanjiani put it to Vanity Fair.
He didn’t charge any money. He let us use the puppet, [although] there were obviously rules: you can’t touch the puppet, and all this stuff, which I understand. It’s a piece of history.
Yeah, there was definitely a reason why Samir never ran over to the puppet in order to throw it on the ground or drop a boozy drink on it. That dummy is likely in the "priceless" range, at least as far as its collector value is concerned. It's one of the most famous TV ventriloquist dummies out there that isn't either a Muppet, a Mister Rogers character or Mr. Howdy Doody himself.
David Copperfield had another request from the Twilight Zone producers in order to aallow the prop to get used on screen. He wanted to get namechecked within the show in some way.
The writers did just that, slotting a line into the very scene where the dummy is first seen. As Samir is complaining to J.C. about how his comedy act is making parts of his life disappear, he says this:
I wanted to be the next Chris Rock, not evil David Copperfield.
As easter eggs go, that was quite an understated one. The dummy isn't given a big close-up or anything, so it would have been quite easy for even the biggest Twilight Zone fanatics to miss it. And it's likely that only the most fanatical of Twilight Zone enthusiasts would have been able to connect the David Copperfield reference to the dummy. Unless Willie himself was spreading spoilers around.
David Copperfield currently houses the Twilight Zone puppet at his International Museum and Library of the Conjuring Arts in Las Vegas. What's more, the magician also own the larger Cliff Robertson prop that was used at the end of "The Dummy," though that one did not end up getting used in The Twilight Zone's premiere. Maybe a later episode...
Jordan Peele is turning genre entertainment on its head, with his feature horror Us gaining mass critical acclaim and big box office numbers. It's not yet clear if his Twilight Zone will stand up to the original, or if it will even pull attention away from Charlie Brooker's dystopian-esque anthology Black Mirror.
Whichever way it goes, fans can find new episodes streaming every Thursday on CBS All Access.