Time travel: It’s a subgenre that has proven it’s got some TV staying power. And while NBC’s “Timeless” is the most recent genre fare to hit it big with primetime audiences, with “Time After Time” a hopeful followup for ABC, FOX is unveiling its own comedic take with “Making History” — premiering Sunday (March 5).
Adam Pally (“Happy Endings,” “The Mindy Project”) stars as Dan — a community college employee who nonchalantly discovers the ability to travel through time. And while the mode of transport isn’t fully explained, there’s something wonderfully elementary about watching him stuff himself inside a giant duffel bag full of wires — all for the simple goal of getting away for the weekend.
Pally is a proven comedy staple, and his reactions to the world around him — from aloof to downright spastic — put the dude firmly in his element here. Without him, “Making History” may have ended up falling a bit flat.
For the tale to truly work, though, Dan needs a sounding board to keep him on the straight-and-narrow. This is where Yassir Lester’s Chris comes in: As a well-informed history professor (nerd), his wealth of historical knowledge proves a worthy tool in their time travel adventures.
Of course, what starts as a leisurely trip to Colonial Massachusetts — in hopes of stoking a romance with Paul Revere’s (Brett Gelman) daughter Deborah (Leighton Meester) — quickly turns into a mission to save America: Dan’s previous solo trips have offset the events that led to the American Revolution. Without their current intervention, America may cease to exist. But hey, no pressure!
Sometimes, the high concept of time travel needs a lowbrow lens — and “Making History” deals out laughs in steady succession. Yet, aside from the familiar style of the series — the score feels like a nod to the network’s other Colonial-themed series, “Sleepy Hollow,” while the appearance of Sam Adams (John Gemberling) and John Hancock (Neil Casey) add some historical flair — the tongue-in-cheek manner of conflict belongs more to the knowing world of “Drunk History” — and dare we say, a bit of Mel Brooks’ influence as well.
Through the first four episodes released to the press, it’s become clear that Dan, Chris and Deborah will continue their time-traveling adventures in a hapless manner reminiscent more of Bill & Ted than anything “Timeless” could present. There may be a lack of firm character development between our team of heroes — throwing in a plethora of jokes referencing sexism and America’s love of guns, to fill the void — but we don’t think it’s exactly crucial for Dan, Chris and Deborah to evolve too much here. They’re the set points around which the show revolves, a rare reversal of the usual format that puts the “situation” in sitcom comedy.
While “Making History” would certainly benefit from letting its characters grow, the FOX series is more about giving us a silly lens into America’s past, and offering some actual lessons along the way.
From 1770’s Boston to Al Capone’s Chicago, we know multiple eras in American history will be explored in this nine-episode first season. And for those already familiar with the work of executive producers Phil Lord and Chris Miller — it doesn’t need to be their revolutionary “Lego Movie,” but we’re hoping it exceeds their likeable/forgettable “Son of Zorn” — it’s a safe bet that they’ll at least be aiming for a worthy Sunday night companion to Will Forte’s delightfully odd “Last Man on Earth.” So far, we think that’s a goal they’re hitting — which is saying a lot.
“Making History” airs Sundays at 8:30 p.m. ET/PT on FOX.