Monday, January 16, 2017

Making History Is Exactly What You Would Expect It To Be [Contributor: Jenn]

You know, I'm one of those people who really loved Adam Pally's character on The Mindy Project — after, of course, he became less cartoonish and offensive just for the sake of being "that character." On Happy Endings, Adam Pally played Max, who was a hilarious, wonderful, eccentric character. But I'm not ashamed to admit that I groaned when I began to see the trailers for Making History air on FOX. For one thing, television executives: when you greenlight shows, make sure that your show isn't one of a million of its kind on current television. 

With the new crop of 2017 shows airing, Making History will now be just one of a handful of time travel shows. In fact, nearly every network has one! ABC has Time After Time, NBC has Timeless, FOX now has Making History, and The CW has Legends of Tomorrow. In order to be one of a handful of genre shows on television, you have to set yourself apart from the rest somehow. In its attempt to be the only time-travel comedy on television, though Making History sorely missed the mark.

If you predicted, by the pilot, that this show would be all about a slacker-turned-time-traveler who uses modern pop culture to woo a young woman during the American Revolution... you'd be exactly right. The issue I had with the Making History pilot was that it was groan-inducing in its humor. I didn't laugh at all during the pilot, which is problematic in and of itself. But generally, if a comedy doesn't make me laugh from the pilot, it's not a make-or-break. Sometimes it takes a few episodes for a comedy to find its stride. (Although I doubt this show will, since it seems to be sticking to the "toilet humor" wheelhouse, including literal pee jokes. I'm not kidding. I seriously wish I was.) 

When the comedy in a pilot fails, I turn to one of two things to convince me to continue giving the show a chance: 1) a twist ending, or 2) character development or unusual circumstances. In the Making History pilot, Adam Pally plays a guy named Dan who is literally the textbook definition of "slacker." He works at a college as a facilities manager and travels into the past each weekend to woo Paul Revere's daughter (played by Leighton Meester, who does her very best with the writing she's given). And then there's Chris, the history professor who Dan recruits to help him after he realizes that he messed some things up while time-traveling. Both characters are archetypes, and the jokes surrounding them are tried and stale. Maybe it's because I've already watched Timeless for so long, but Chris' role is essentially the same one that Lucy has in Timeless (and she does it way better). Nothing about the characters themselves gripped me, even when Dan reveals who really created the time machine. 

And that leaves us with the final category to woo me: a twist ending. While the end of the Making History pilot did throw a minor curveball, it was too little too late. The episode spent far too much time making tired pop culture jokes, and relaying tidbits about time travel that we've already discovered from other shows on television (if you time travel, you'll probably get violently ill — Legends of Tomorrow taught me that; slavery was a thing and so it'll be weird for people to see an African-American man accompanying a group of white people around — Timeless taught me that, etc.).

I had hoped that this show would be successful, for Adam Pally and Leighton Messter's sake (I miss her, and she's mega-talented), but it just wasn't. The show relied on dumbed-down humor in order to incite laughter and it spectacularly flopped. There weren't enough compelling motivations for the characters, and the twist at the end of the episode was decent, but not original.

The bottom line is that if you're looking for something really interesting about the Founding Fathers and the American Revolution, go listen to Hamilton. It'll be time much more well-spent than the time I wasted on this pilot.

Pilot Grade: D-


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