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Hulu's James Franco Series '11.22.63': Was It Worth It?

By Dustin Rowles | TV | April 7, 2016 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | April 7, 2016 |

Spoilers for the entire series, which is to say, this is more of a discussion than a review

Having read about a few of the changes between Hulu’s series, 11.22.63 and Stephen King’s source material, I’m disappointed to realize that the series didn’t include a number of resets — as the book did — and that the characters from It were cut from the show. I understand why in both cases, but especially in the case of the resets, I think a lot was lost in translating the story to screen.

The reset — or Jake’s ability to jump back into the time portal and start all over again in 1960 — would seem to be the hook in the premise. Without the ability to Groundhog Day his mistakes and learn from them (only to learn that changing the past is a bad idea), it becomes a more straightforward story about a man trying to stop an assassination, and one that could’ve been told in 4 or 6 episodes, instead of eight.

When last I wrote about the series — after episode 6 — I suggested that it wasn’t a series worth getting into, but that it was probably worth sticking around to see what happens in the final two episodes. Of even that, I’m not so sure anymore. The ending didn’t really work.

Part of the reason is that Jake, predictably, returned to his own timeline after preventing Lee Harvey Oswald from assassinating JFK only to discover a nuclear winter-scarred landscape, which apparently came about as a result of JFK continuing on as President. I would’ve appreciated it if they’d filled in the blanks a lot more, and if Harry had better connected the dots between JFK and the nuclear hell. I wanted more of the alternate timeline history.

Ultimately, and predictably, Jake reset the past to save the future, which essentially means that he changed nothing. After eight episodes, many of which dragged, nothing changed, except Jake’s knowledge that changing the past was dangerous, a lesson that could’ve benefited from the reinforcing effects of multiple resets, rather than have the Yellow Card man attempt to sum it up in a 90-second exchange. Moreover, there was never any real sense of tension or suspense, nothing to propel us forward through the series but inertia and James Franco’s fart-sniffing performance.

It wasn’t a total waste. Chris Cooper was great in his limited appearance, and it’s always nice to see a Nick Searcy character (even if Searcy himself is a jackass). I would have liked to have seen more of Deke and Mimi’s story, and I wish Sadie had been a more interesting, dynamic character instead of a 60’s stereotype. Overall, however, the series makes for decent passive television, something that can be consumed while simultaneously preoccupied with another passive activity.

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.