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James Franco's Smell-the-Fart School of Acting Continues to Overwhelm Hulu's Pungent '11.22.63'

By Dustin Rowles | TV | March 28, 2016 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | March 28, 2016 |

The penultimate episode of Hulu’s 11.22.63 arrives today, so I thought we’d check back in on the series to see how it’s going.

It’s going OK.

It’s not a bad series. It has not, however, delivered on the promise of the pilot episode. The time travel element is much of what made 11.22.63 so compelling in the beginning (not to mention, the larger presence of Chris Cooper). However, once James Franco’s character settled into Dallas and began investigating the JFK conspiracy, while pursuing his librarian girlfriend, the series settled into a pedestrian groove. The relationship drama between Jake (Franco) and Sadie (Sarah Gadon) has been intermittently interesting, but really only when T. R. Knight showed up as Sadie’s ex-husband, with a kinky sex fetish and a sociopathic streak.

Mostly, however, it feels like the last four episodes have been setting up for a (hopefully) great finale that might redeem the last few episodes. The sci-fi elements have been put on the backburner, and the focus has turned to the series’ least interesting character: Lee Harvey Oswald. Frankly, he’s just not compelling, nor is the supposed conspiracy behind who assassinates JFK or why. It’s a lot of boring dead ends with a lot of boring characters.

What does, however, continue to keep me entertained in the series is James Franco. Not because he’s good — he’s not. But because he’s The Grinder. I don’t mean he’s a fake lawyer played by Rob Lowe in a Fox sitcom; I mean, his acting style in the show is uncannily similar to Rob Lowe’s performance as The Grinder in the show within the show on The Grinder. It’s halting and hysterically ponderous. It’s as though he learned to act from the Joey Tribbiani Smell-the-Fart school of acting. Every Franco scene looks like he’s taking a whiff of his own flatulence. At no point is Franco ever believable as a character; he’s just James Franco uttering lines that I don’t even think he listens to as they come out of his mouth. He is terrible in 11.22.63, but he’s entertaining in his awfulness.

Ultimately, I don’t think that 11.22.63 is a series worth investing eight hours in, but if you’ve come this far, as I have, it does feel like a series worth finishing just to see how they wrap up the central plotline around the JFK assassination.