The idea of time travel has left a firm imprint on Hollywood. With films such as “Looper” and “Back to the Future” achieving immense success featuring time travel, television producers have begun to take note, leading to recent hits like “Outlander” and “12 Monkeys.” The latest show to take on this topic is FOX’s “Making History.” While not the most well-written or compelling, “Making History” manages to entertain and provide a few cheap laughs at the expense of its less-than-air-tight storyline.
Undeniably, the strongest aspect of “Making History” is its cast: The actors excel at delivering the series’ low-brow humor and hitting the occasional dramatic note. As the lead, Adam Pally (“Happy Endings”) relies on his dumbed-down persona as the source of many of the show’s better jokes. With his charisma and ability to constantly mock himself, Pally’s character wins over viewers. Starring alongside Pally is Leighton Meester (“The Roommate”), who is captivating as Deborah Revere, an American Revolutionary that gives the series much of its weight as she grapples with her lack of rights in 18th century America. Accompanying Meester and Pally on their time-traveling is Yassir Lester (“Girls”), who works passably as a foil to Pally.
A classic brand of juvenile humor is featured throughout “Making History.” Many of the series’ jokes arise through the contrast between Pally’s dimwitted character and Lester’s intellectualism in his role as a college history professor. It’s a tried and true concept that, despite its lack of originality, can still generate laughs. The opening scene of “Making History” is one of the series’ funniest, with Pally and Lester disagreeing over the time of day and Lester eventually noticing Pally’s scheme: “You set that clock forward. It’s not whatever time you say it is.” While this scene doesn’t possess the most complex or entertaining style of humor, it’s one audiences can enjoy.
Although the series is entertaining, its disregard for much of a coherent narrative could ultimately be its downfall. “Making History” offers almost nothing about its characters’ backgrounds or motivation for electing to time travel outside of Lester’s obvious interest in the subject due to his position as a college history professor. Rather, the show seems content to leave its plot-building to colonial America, where the series attempts to sell Pally and Meester’s relationship drama as a compelling storyline. These creative decisions prevent the show’s cast from forming deep, intriguing characters and, to last, the show will need to self-correct and further develop its plot throughout this season.
Along with its uninteresting storyline, “Making History” suffers from its generic set and costume design. Whether by choice or by design, the college campus intended to serve as the series’ modern backdrop is presented as dull and lacking any distinctive elements, with the college shown to be nothing beyond a perpetually-empty quad and virtually colorless classrooms. This quality extends to the show’s time-travel sequences in colonial America, which is depicted as a host of dilapidated homes and generic taverns. The characters’ costumes are not immune to this issue, with many of them donning either unappealing suits in the present, or badly-colored outfits in the past in colonial America.
Overall, the series works at offering solid humor delivered by an engaging cast, and it’s nothing if not pure entertainment. To achieve real, sustained success, however, “Making History” will need to overcome its bland production design and improve its weak, unexciting story.