This article contains information that could be considered too revealing according to our spoiler policy. Proceed with caution. You can't unsee it!Reason The show doesn't premiere until a few days after this post's publication; we got screeners.
Does Making History Make The Grade?
Or will Fox's time travel comedy get sent to the principal's office?
What Is This Thing?
Dan -- a hapless-loser facilities manager at a small Boston college -- discovers time travel and spends his weekends going to the past. He falls in love with Paul Revere's daughter, Deborah, in 1775 Lexington, indirectly causing the American Revolution not to occur. To correct the past, he enlists the help of Chris, a well-liked but geeky history professor. (Aren't we all?) In the course of setting things right, Dan reveals the truth to Deborah, who decides to join him in 2016.
When Is It On?
Sundays at 8:30 PM ET on Fox, starting Sunday, March 5.
Why Was It Made Now?
Making History is one of three time travel shows in the 2016-2017 TV season. All three had been greenlit long before the election of Donald Trump, but the desire of many Americans to fantasize about returning the pre-Trumpian past certainly ups the appeal to potential viewers. And I wonder how much of the decision to have the first few episodes take place during the American Revolution was influenced by a little-known Broadway musical about a Founding Father that's been getting a little attention recently.
What's Its Pedigree?
Making History boasts more than a few seasoned TV veterans both in front of and behind the camera. Happy Endings alum Adam Pally plays Dan, while Leighton Meester from Gossip Girl fills the role of Deborah. Yassir Lester is the relative newcomer, having had small appearances in Key & Peele and Girls, although he also does stand-up comedy and has several writing credits to his name, including the aforementioned Girls and The Cleveland Show.
The show was created by writer and producer Julian Sharpe, who has done everything from writing for The Late Late Show With Craig Kilborn to producing Family Guy. On board as executive producers are Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, adding another title to a stable that includes The Last Man On Earth, Son Of Zorn, and the Lego Movie and Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs film franchises.
Fox announced last fall that it was cutting the order for this series from thirteen episodes down to nine. Apparently this isn't such a big deal when it happens before a show's premiere, and seems to have little to do with its quality. And Fox has offered as an explanation the need to accommodate premiere dates for other new programs. But I also wouldn't be surprised in the slightest if word snuck out in a few weeks that Fox execs knew the show had a limited appeal and didn't feel like chasing bad money after good.
I'm not saying that the show is bad, exactly. It's just that it works within a particular style of humor that will not appeal to everyone. If Family Guy is your cup of comedic tea, you will probably find something to like here. If, however, you are left scratching your head over jokes about drinking urine from chamber pots, seeing people repeatedly throw up because everything smells like shit in the past (which is not entirely inaccurate BTW), or running gags that turn a ham into a comedic device, then you probably don't want to tune in. A lot of jokes are packed into this half-hour show, but few really hit hard. I found myself slightly amused most of the time, but rarely got pushed to the point of laughing out loud.
There are some bright spots. Leighton Meester makes the most of the average material she is given, although now that she will be spending more time in the present, the potential for a running stream of questionable fish-out-of-water jokes might undermine the good work she has done so far.
The show is billed as both a romantic comedy (between Dan and Deborah) AND a buddy road trip kind of thing between Dan and Chris. Getting the balance correct between these two narrative arcs might be tough but, if successful, would add to the show's appeal and move it away from the heavy reliance on scatological humor in evidence in the first two episodes.
Also, I find it refreshing that the show doesn't give one tiny good goddamn about explaining how time travel works or getting into the details of the hows and whys and implications of Dan's exploits in the past. If Timeless has anything to teach us about using time travel as a plot device, it's that once you commit to it, you either have to completely avoid any real discussion about how it works, or you go full-on Doctor Who with that shit. Half-assing it is only going to get you in trouble with people who like to spend a lot of time on the internet discussing the mechanics of time travel. And, trust me, you don't want those folks on your back.
It seems likely that what you get in the first episode is what you will get in the next eight, and you're either going to get the humor or you won't. Although I do have a prediction that if this show doesn't hit and gets cancelled after one season, it will take on a new life on Netflix -- because if there is anyone who is going to love this show, it's stoner frat bros who will fire up the bong on a Tuesday night and binge-watch the thing in one sitting, all the while complaining that their history professor doesn't tell enough dick jokes in class.