In the 1980s, Steven Spielberg created a beloved cult hit that fans have been obsessing over for decades. Now it’s back.
In the 1980s, Steven Spielberg created a beloved cult hit that fans have been obsessing over for decades. Now it’s back.

TV show returns after 33-year absence

Thirty-five years ago, Steven Spielberg dipped his toe into TV as a producer and creator for the first time.

While it wasn't a ratings phenomenon and was cancelled two years later, his anthology series Amazing Stories became a cult hit for a dedicated fan base that hasn't stopped talking about it since.

Across 45 episodes, there were stories of ghost trains, mentalists coming up against serial killers, enchanted Santa suits and Guilt falling for Love.

It was not unlike The Twilight Zone, except without the consistent creep-outs, and with a John Williams composed theme song you might recognise even if you've never seen the show.

Apple, with bucketloads of money to throw around, aimed one of those lucrative pails managed at Spielberg, who agreed to revive his anthology series for the tech giant's fledgling streaming service.

Kerry Bishe stars in one of the episode of Amazing Stories on Apple TV+
Kerry Bishe stars in one of the episode of Amazing Stories on Apple TV+

Amazing Stories returns to our screens this weekend with five new episodes, releasing one instalment each week instead of a full season dump at once. The new generation series feature actors such as Dylan O'Brien, Victoria Pedretti, Edward Burns, Sasha Lane, Kerry Bishe, Josh Holloway and Sasha Alexander.

Amazing Stories has the final performance of Robert Forster who died in 2019, in an episode about a grandfather and grandson who finds a superhero ring ordered from a comic book decades earlier.

Only one episode was made available in advance to critics, a time-travelling tale starring O'Brien and Pedretti.

In "The Cellar", Sam (O'Brien) is an average Gen Y guy in 2019, helping out his brother with some construction jobs while he figures out what he wants to do with his life.

During a particularly fearsome storm, a derecho, while in the basement of a grand old house they've been hired to restore, the barometer drops suddenly and Sam finds himself in the same basement, but 100 years in the past.

A time-travelling love story
A time-travelling love story

He meets Evelyn (Pedretti), a music-loving young woman about be to married off to a wealthy widower to save her family from a penury existence.

It wouldn't be a stretch to suggest sparks fly between them - and Evelyn starts to believe Sam's wild claim that he's from the future.

"The Cellar" is a gentle, engaging episode with a sweet love story between likeable characters you can invest in. The writing is a little spare beyond the two leads - the supporting characters were indistinct archetypes - but the episode is, on balance, a solid effort.

It is interesting that the first episode of the 21st revival of a 20th century TV show spends a large chunk of its time in the former epoch, but we're not sure there's really more to that choice other than a little wink to nostalgia.

Of course, that's not necessarily a reliable indicator of the other four instalments, especially in an anthology series, though the production values are above decent. It certainly looks better than its 1985 counterpart.

 

Amazing Stories is Robert Forster’s final role
Amazing Stories is Robert Forster’s final role

If you're after more of a The Twilight Zone or Black Mirror vibe, Amazing Stories may be not be enough with its family-friendly focus - this is an Amblin production after all.

The production had a rocky landing after changing showrunners twice over, first Bryan Fuller and then Hart Hanson, before recruiting Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, who are best known for Once Upon a Time.

But the series did hire steady hands to direct each episode, including experienced directors Chris Long (The Americans) and Susanna Fogel (The Spy Who Dumped Me).

One of the most appealing aspects of anthology shows is its low barrier to entry, allowing you to dip in and out without laying out a 12-hour commitment to one arc. So it's worth checking out Amazing Stories to find out if it's your vibe.

Amazing Stories is streaming now on Apple TV+

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