Friday, March 4, 2016

Pilot Review: 11.22.63

11.22.63 (Hulu)
Premiered February 15

I’m a huge fan of time travel, and the notion of someone going back in time to try to prevent JFK’s assassination is immensely appealing. I’m also a fan of James Franco, mainly from the dramatic work in “127 Hours” that I think should have won him an Oscar and his entertaining performance on the opposite spectrum of thespian talent in “Pineapple Express.” What we get here is a more muted, less enthralling character, but one who is appropriately not as exciting as the story that he is living. The setup of how Franco’s Jake Epping is able to travel back to 1960 is relatively hokey, and it also comes with some important preordained rules that make things more complicated. This extended episode didn’t waste much time in getting Jake back to the past, with the apparent decision that his first trip back to 1960 would be his only one, instead of trying a few months at a time out and then bouncing back to the future to reflect on his decisions. I suppose it’s possible that he could go back, but then we’d have to start things all over again, and he’d be out the important documents and other such things that Chris Cooper’s Al gave him. Al contracting cancer in a manner of minutes was a powerful explanation of how time works in the past, and unfortunately Jake didn’t take too much to heart when he bet way too big and lost his winning ticket to be able to make money for the foreseeable future. The notion of time fighting back to ensure not much is changed seems like it will prevent Jake from accomplishing his mission, but as long as episode two is involving and a bit more solid, I’m interesting in seeing how it plays out.

How will it work as a series? There are eight episodes in this adaptation of Stephen King’s book, and that’s actually a lot of time to cover a story that feels like it could either be really simple or, alternatively, play itself out quite leisurely since it will probably take three years for Jake to accomplish his mission if he sticks around to verify that JFK survives. It should be fun but it could also drag.
How long will it last? I think this is planned as an event series of sorts, so I wouldn’t expect it to be renewed past its initial eight-episode order. That said, Hulu has been enjoying some success recently with its original programming, so it is feasible that the story could be continued in some way, even if it focuses on a different person or mission, if it proves a hit.

Pilot grade: B

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