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Two Very Different Time Trips Premiere Same Night
March 5, 2017  | By David Hinckley  | 1 comment

Fans of time-travel television have their choice of two very different trips Sunday.

If you’re up for a goofy sitcom take on time-travel, where you’re transported by crawling into a gym bag, you want Fox’s Making History (top), which premieres at 8:30 p.m. ET.

If you want time-travel with a more serious tone, the kind you adopt when you’re trying to stop Jack the Ripper, you want ABC’s Time After Time, with a pair of episodes running back-to-back at 9 p.m. ET.

The strongest asset of both shows, as it happens, is a love story. But almost no time-travel show, with the possible exception of Outlander, can survive on romance alone. So both shows also fill their time with other stuff.

That’s where they become very different.

Making History revolves around Dan (Adam Pally), a geeky computer science professor who can’t connect with women.

One day he discovers a time machine among his late father’s personal effects. You climb into the gym bag, zip it shut, set a timer for some point in the past and poof! You’re there.

Dan went to 1775, where he discovered that knowing everything he knows in 2017, including Celine Dion songs, really impresses Deborah Revere (Leighton Meester), oldest daughter of Paul Revere.

With all due respect to Pally and the other characters, Meester steals the show. She’s a feminist before her time, chafing at all the restrictions on women and thus blown away when this new guy shows up full of accommodating 2017 attitudes.

She’s upbeat, a little oblivious in some areas yet sharp and perceptive in others. Think Kimmy Schmidt with better firearms skills. She’s a delight.

The dilemma for Dan is the nagging issue that so often plagues time travelers: When you fix or alter things in the past, you can inadvertently change history.

In this case, Deborah (Meester, right) has been promised in marriage by her father Paul to a young fellow who can apprentice in his silversmith business.

The problem, as Deborah explains, is that he’s “a dunce” and she wants nothing to do with him, particularly now that she’s met Dan.

Paul becomes so annoyed with the mysterious other man in his daughter’s life that he neglects to take his famous ride and warn the colonists the British are coming.

So American never throws a revolution, which explains why, in 2017, Starbucks serves tea instead of coffee.

Realizing the problem but reluctant to lose his shot with a pretty girl, Dan confides in a nerdy history professor, Chris (Yassir Lester). They team up with Deborah to do some commuting between eras and see if they can find a solution that doesn’t change history, but still gets Dan a date.

Being a sitcom, it gets kind of silly from there, like inserting Sam Adams (Neil Casey) and John Hancock (John Gemberling) as zany comic relief.

Exactly where it all can go isn’t clear, though Meester and Pally keep that part of the ride enjoyable.

Time After Time also features trans-era romance, though it’s billed more as a time-travel crime adventure.

It starts in the late 19th century with H.G. Wells (Freddie Stroma, top) unveiling his much-ridiculed time machine.

Among the skeptics is his marginal friend Dr. John Stephenson (Josh Bowman), who moonlights as Jack the Ripper. When the bobbies are about to arrest Dr. Stephenson, he hops in the time machine anyway and zips up to 2017.

Wells, who realizes that explaining the time machine to the constabulary might not be fruitful, climbs into the machine himself and follows Stephenson.

Wells finds Stephenson, who is already reveling in an era when weapons like guns are readily available and an apathetic populace doesn’t really care what happens to other people.

Equally important, Wells finds Jane (Genesis Rodriguez above, with Stroma), who’s in charge of a Wells exhibit at a New York museum.

Jane isn’t exactly all-in on his time-travel tale, but she likes the guy and opens up to him about her fear of having an ordinary, unimportant, unadventurous life.

That is about to change, if this show has anything to say about it.

Time After Time includes some serious convolutions and it asks viewers to take long leaps of faith, particularly regarding the ability of 19th century Londoners to adjust to 2017 New York.

It also shares the problem of many single-mission shows. If H.G. catches Stephenson, is it over? If H.G. doesn’t, will the show become an endless string of multi-century murders?

Perhaps that’s why H.G. and Jane, like Dan and Deborah, provide the best argument for tuning in.


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"Time After Time" was originally a 1979 movie, with Malcolm McDowell as Wells, and David Warner as Stevenson. I doubt that many people who saw the series saw, or remember, the movie.
Mar 8, 2017   |  Reply
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