At least one of the hosts of the Sci Fi Fidelity podcast grew up with the original version of Amazing Stories back in the 80s, but both remember the hopeful tone of the anthology series. So the question is: does the Apple TV+ version, which still has Steven Spielberg’s name attached to it, live up to the more optimistic vision of the stories we’ve come to expect? As we break down the first two episode of the series, “The Cellar” and “The Heat,” the answer becomes clear that the positive messaging is intact even if the intended audience might skew a bit younger.
We say this because both stories have minor narrative flaws that wouldn’t have bothered us in the least back when the original Amazing Stories aired. Remember, this is the show that had a World War II cartoonist draw landing gear on a crippled bomber! The first episode entitled “The Cellar” grabbed us instantly with its time travel plot, and the love story in which a modern man rescues a socially repressed flapper mixed well with the causality loops cleverly placed throughout. The stormy nature of the passage through time provided both conflict and unpredictability even if there were a few instances of convenient timing.
The second episode, “The Heat,” impressed us much more initially with its realistic portrayal of two high school track athletes coming together to try to overcome their downtrodden circumstances, but there were some issues with certain ways in which the ending of the episode undermined the stakes that were raised earlier in the story. However, we admired Amazing Stories’ choice to include a ghost story among their offerings, especially one which portrayed the black experience so well in a medium that often doesn’t spend time in this kind of urban setting without being stereotypical or critical of it.
Overall, we approached Amazing Stories the same way we would any other show that’s outside our normal wheelhouse by judging it by what it intends to be rather than what we want it to be. The episodes we watched were enjoyable from start to finish despite their shortcomings, and they were both fit with the feel of the original series, which should be counted as a success. Plus the great thing about an anthology series is that each episode can be a fresh story with its own merits.
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