Having recently discovered time travel, Dan (Adam Pally, “The Mindy Project,” “Happy Endings”), a facilities manager at a small Massachusetts college, has been transporting himself back to the 1700s to spend time with the colonial woman for whom he’s fallen. In the present, Dan is misunderstood by all, and anxious that life is passing him by. But in the 18th century, he’s absolutely hilarious – he gets the girl and makes friends. But Dan’s actions in the past are messing up the present. That woman he’s dating is not just any woman. She’s Paul Revere’s daughter, Deborah (Leighton Meester, “Gossip Girl”), and Dan’s meddling causes her father to delay his famous ride, which may have altered the outcome of the entire American Revolution. To set matters right, Dan enlists the help of Chris (Yassir Lester, “Girls,” “Key and Peele”), a brilliant, polished and popular history professor at the college, who’s now given the incredible opportunity to actually live the history he teaches.
For the fans out there who know that time travel is not a trend but a way of life when it comes to TV and movie consumption, you’re in for a treat with Making History. That said, if 12 Monkeys is the entree, Making History is, not the appetizer but the even more exciting dessert. After all, the main character, Dan uses a large duffle bag as a time machine. A machine that his father made. His father passed away but when it comes to time travel shows, well, we know how that goes…so hopefully the possibility of him still being alive and well will keep this from quickly becoming a stale case of the week show, at least in its first season.
When Dan heads to the past and messes with time innocently enough, he accidentally causes a delay in the beginning of the American Revolution. He goes back to the future to enlist the help of a historian/college professor, on campus, Chris since he knows that history needs to be corrected but he’s also self aware enough to understand that he lacks the knowledge needed to change it back in the safest way possible. Oh, and by the way, the historian is a Black man. I will give any time travel show bonus points for not being afraid to bring minorities and women along for the ride to experience the best and worst of the past. The Pilot handles race delicately and not as head on as it does the inequality of females and males but it’s only the Pilot, so I look forward to seeing how the issue is handled over time. Since after all, racism is alive and well in every decade.
As for equality among the sexes? Soon enough, Dan brings into the fold, Deborah, his girlfriend in colonial Massachusetts. Thus, he changes the course of Deborah’s entire life by bringing her from the 18th century to the 21st century by the time the Pilot reaches its end…. and soon after, to many different eras in between. I’m excited to see what their travels bring but I’m mostly anticipating seeing how her life with Dan and Chris compares to the life that she had before them. And with her “forward thinking” of wanting to be treated, respected like a human being, I would love, love, love for the trio to travel to the height of the women’s rights movement. What a thrill that would be. The Pilot is promising for her character arc. She’s very innocent and positive now and I look forward to seeing, in remaining positive, her naivety (due to her time) disappearing and her wisdom about the world sharpening even more. And for her character to not be a billboard for equality that hits us over the head too much. Sometimes, simplicity gets the message across just fine.
Long story short, Making History is awfully fun. I wouldn’t mind spending a half hour each week watching. The show doesn’t take itself too seriously while also not being afraid to go there when it needs to. Having seen the first four episodes of the series, I really like the pacing in not only its storytelling but its world building (though I’m still not sure how his time machine can take them to different states). The potential here for a quiet hit doesn’t surprise me because the writers behind Fox’s The Last Man on Earth are also behind this gem. So if you like one, you should definitely watch the other.
Anyway, there are plenty of pop culture references here, just enough to be entertained but not feel hit over the head with them. There is plenty to poke fun at when it comes to ourselves and the bigger picture as the show does a great job with its social commentary on equality – feminism and racism (and in later episodes, America’s obsession with guns, etc…) and the way in which our country has progressed (or not).
My concern is that after the first two episodes, the show loses its sense of urgency. Without that tension, without big stakes, the time travel feels like it’s more for fun than achieving anything substantial, more like having fun until they work their way into a conflict that they have to dig themselves out of.
For the first season, this cast of characters is charming enough and will be able to get away with making certain decisions but after that, the ability to suspend disbelief in most situations will be lost. So I’m very interested in where this show sees itself going in the long term. This show has so much potential and it’s holding back big time. The series is lovable and fun, silly and thrilling, but it’s really only a tease when you know what this cast and crew are capable of if they were to really take the gloves off… and if the studio allows it. Which, it’s Fox, so I’m sure they would. Only time will tell. Be sure to watch tonight to decide for yourself.
Toy Story, “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion, FRIDAY, Jerry Maguire
“I’m sorry, I’d love to help you out here, pal, but umm, it’s 5 o’clock.” – Dan
“It’s 3 o’clock.” – Chris
“That clock says it’s 5.” – Dan
“You set that clock forward. It’s not whatever time you say it is.” – Professor Chris Parrish
“History isn’t made by remarkable people. It’s made by unremarkable people doing remarkable things. How are you going to make history, today?” – Chris
“It’s a time machine. I go to the past every weekend. Sometimes, on Tuesdays.” – Dan
“It’s real?!” – Chris
“Yeah, I don’t know why you’re breathing so heavy, it’s not like we ran to the past, we were just lying down. Oh, I forgot to tell you, the past smells like poop because there’s doody everywhere. – “ Dan
“So in 2016, black people and white people are friends?” – Deborah
“Yes, exactly.” – Dan
“Not at all.” – Chris
Watch the series premiere of Making History TONIGHT at 8:30/7:30c only on Fox.