Four episodes were provided prior to broadcast.
Time travel is all the rage on television. Between Legends of Tomorrow, Timeless, Frequency, Time after Time, 12 Monkeys and last year’s 11.22.63, which I’m currently watching, forget about the butterfly effect; this is deja vu. Yet, Fox decided to add another time traveler to the schedule: the ultra-goofy buddy comedy Making History. I gotta say though, it’s not exactly living up to its title…
Created by Julius Sharpe (Family Guy), Making History is decidedly more Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure than Primer. It centers on Dan (Adam Pally), a lowly, average guy who spends his work days in a janitorial position in a local college and his weekends (and occasional Tuesdays) traveling back to 1775, via a duffel bag time-traveler, to meet his Colonel girlfriend, Deborah (Leighton Meester). Inherited from his late father, Dan is unambitious but certainly not malicious with his gift. He doesn’t aspire to, say, kill Lee Harvey Oswald or stop the Nazi party from rising to power. He simply wants to go back in time to chill with the Founding Fathers and Paul Revere’s daughter.
At first, all is well and good during his roundabout time traveling adventures, but Dan soon realizes that his frequent visits are creating an alternative history, one where the American revolution doesn’t come into place and the Brits hold power over the United States. Frightened, over his head and unsure what to do, Dan enlists the help of Chris (Yassir Lester), a tight-lipped, uncool history professor who knows what it takes to set history back on track. But of course, time traveling is never easy, and historical figures aren’t what history books lead you to believe.
There are two types of time traveling adventures: ones that care about every particular detail, like Timecrimes, Source Code and The Butterfly Effect, and those that don’t give a damn about all specifics, like Looper, Midnight in Paris and Army of Darkness. Making History is firmly in the latter category. It captures the loose, affable charm of Hot Tub Time Machine, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me and the Back to the Future films — with the latter (obviously) called upon — without mimicking them completely. All things considered, 2009’s Frequently Asked Questions about Time Travel and Comedy Central’s miniseries Time Traveling Bong are perhaps the best comparisons to make. If you get caught up in the minutiae details, you’ll want to find yourself another time traveling series.
Making History‘s sporadic, free-flow vibe fits well into Fox’s usual Sunday night line-up, but it’s not necessarily enough to make a lasting impression. There are chuckles earned throughout, but genuine laughs are harder to find. Pally and Lester’s frenemy chemistry is decent, but it doesn’t really spark like gigawatts. They slowly find their groove as the show continues, but it’s still a little too prickly for its own good by episode four. Thankfully, Pally’s surprisingly lovely on-screen relationship with the delightful Meester works wonders whenever Pally’s time with Lester falls flat.
As per usual, Meester is utterly adorable with her mousy charm. Even when the dainty material fails to live up to her bubbly enthusiasm and sincere, squeaky-clean sweetness, the Gossip Girl alum steals the freshman series with wit, warmth and heart. Her third-wheel supporting turn, which starts out as a service to the plot more than anything else, soon becomes the most engaging and persistently appealing character by far, with a pointed feminist angle to boot. If Making History succeeds, you can bet your teleported colonial bottom dollar that it’ll be thanks to her.
Additionally, Pally deserves his own series. While Making History isn’t necessarily his greatest role, it’s certainly benefited by his good-hearted graces. The role is catered to his specialties, and he’s always quick to make a good, heartfelt impression. Even during its meddling pilot, which is directed by Napeleon Dynamite‘s Jared Hess, Pally’s winning screen presence keeps you watching, even when joke after joke hits with a disparaging dud. As the episodes continue, in true sitcom fashion, Making History grows stronger, more confident and more topical with its satire, with the silliness of the first episode paving the way to jokes centered around gun control and women’s rights in the second.
With that, Making History is one of those fortunate shows that actually improves with each continued installment, as it thankfully develops the characters better and raises the historical stakes without sacrificing the punchlines in the process. Without delving into spoilers, Detroiters‘ Tim Robinson makes a damn good impression in his guest turn as notorious mobster Al Capone, which benefits the proceedings exceptionally. It’s unclear how long or far this comedy series can carry itself, but it’s apparent that Making History is more nimble on its feet than it initially appears.
Making History is yet another time-traveling show you want to write off completely, yet its rejuvenating, replenishing energy — not to mention its developing cleverness — make that harder than you’d think. Bouncy, wholehearted and totally flighty, in ways both good and bad, it might just have the stamina to keeping this past-traveling series continuing for the foreseeable future.
Fox's Making History doesn't quite live up to its bold title, but the enthusiastic leads and the progressively stronger episodes make it a blast from the past, present, infinity and beyond.