Showtime's 'Cinema Toast' Series Will Put A New Narrative Twist On Old Public Domain Film Footage

There are a lot of new movies and TV shows inspired by the coronavirus pandemic coming down the pipeline. Thankfully, there are still plenty of ideas being generated as a result of the pandemic without shining more of a light on COVID-19, and Showtime has picked one of them up in the form of a new anthology series called Cinema Toast.

Created by Jeff Baena (Horse Girl, The Little Hours) and produced by Mark & Jay Duplass (Room 104, The Overnight), Cinema Toast will take footage from old movies in the public domain and re-contextualize them into new stories through editing and voice dubbing, including the voices of Alison Brie, Nick Offerman, Fred Armisen, John Early, Christina Ricci, Megan Mullally, Chloe Fineman and Christopher Meloni.

Showtime sent out a press release announcing that Cinema Toast will debut all 10 episodes on Showtime's on-demand streaming and partner platforms starting on April 20, 2021. Though the series will use old film footage and voice dubbing, don't expect this to be a retread of what Mystery Science Theater 3000 has been doing for decades now. This is something entirely different. Jeff Baena explained:

"When the pandemic first hit and all paths to traditional production seemed unlikely at best, I racked my brain to find a way to still create. That's when the idea hit me to re-dub and re-shape old material into something transcendent that extends beyond just a comedic curio."

So Cinema Toast won't just be delivering comedy with this recut and redubbed footage. Instead, directors Jay Duplass, Mel Eslyn, Alex Ross Perry, Marta Cunningham, Aubrey Plaza, Numa Perrier, Jordan Firstman, Kris Rey, David Lowery, and Jeff Baena himself will deliver a variety of stories that sound rather experimental and compelling.

Aubrey Plaza's episode "Quiet Illness" creates a portrait of an emotionally tortured modern woman using footage of Loretta Young. Marta Cunningham delivers a Night of the Living Dead-inspired story called "Attack of the Karens," which takes clear inspiration from a certain kind of American woman who has become all to prominent in recent years. Mel Eslyn digs into mumblecore laughs and monsters with "Beast From Haunted Cave." And finally, Alex Ross Perry gets weird with Soviet footage in "Report on the Canine Auto-Mechanical Soviet Threat," which will tell the story of a young boy immersed in a new reality inhabited by talking cars and telepathic dogs.

This all sounds like a makeshift Twilight Zone and has the potential to be really interesting. It's great that these filmmakers were able to spend their time during the pandemic doing something experimental and intriguing. As unfortunate as it is that this was forced upon them due to a pandemic, I think that this dire situation may also yield some inspiring creative results. We'll find out when the series arrives later this month.