Distributor: Warner Home Video
Duration: 50 min (per episode)
11.22.63 (Blu-ray) – Series Review
While for a younger audience the name of this series might not hold that much meaning, we reckon older readers will immediately recognize this dark day in history. The 22th of November 1963 is the day that Lee Harvey Oswald shot president John F. Kennedy, who was loved by many, and even now people still wonder what kind of good things he could have done. Stephen King and J. J. Abrams put their heads together to create a series that revolves all around preventing the murder on the beloved iconic character.
Jake Epping (James Franco) is a regular everyday high school teacher, who also tutors adults who never had the chance to get their high school diploma. While he leads a fairly normal, and boring, life, he sees the best in everyone and is genuinely a good soul. Like many people, he likes to grab a bit of greasy food on the side as well, which he often does at the diner of Al (Chris Cooper), who he has known for over a decade now. After a less than pleasant encounter with his ex, Jake is about to call it a day, when Al suddenly appears out of the backroom sick, which contrasts his healthy presence only moments earlier. When escorting Al home, he asks Jake to come by the next day, as he wants to show him something. The next day Jake pops by, and Al makes the sudden request that Jake has to walk inside Al’s closet, and look around ‘for as long as he’d like’ and then come back to discuss what Al has on his mind. Jake reluctantly abides, and after taking a few steps, he finds himself in a totally different location, or era for that matter. It seems that Al’s closet is akin to a time travel machine that allows people to go back to the 11th of November 1960. While this date may be rather insignificant, it’s only three years before the assassination of JFK, and a time traveler can stay as long as he’d like, as in our present world only two minutes will pass, even if he would decide to stay years in the past.
When Al asks Jake to go back in time, wait three years and prevent JFK’s death, and finally do something useful with his life, Jake decides to hear him out. After hearing many items, such as the past fighting back when Al wanted to take action, resulting in making him sick, and foiling his own attempts of ‘saving’ the United States of America, Jake is hesitant to follow in Al’s footsteps. Al, disappointed as he is, curses Jake, who comes back the very next day to find Al dead. Nonetheless, Jake decides to plunge into the unknown and go back in time to leave his print on history as we know it.
The flow of this series is actually rather pleasant, even though everything has to be wrapped up over the course of only eight episodes. While the story tends to diverge with a love plot, friendships and bonds, and other daily activities of Jake, you’ll get enough information for the main story, as well as the persona of Jake, to make him more human. Stephen King is known for his original storylines, as well as the many ups and downs the characters go through, and some hit close to home, making this a very emotional and heavy series at times. There are a few differences between the source material and its translation to the little screen, but some of them actually add to the atmosphere of it being a series, rather than a book.
Each passing series we review, it becomes clear that we have long passed the point where there was a clear difference between the cast of a series and those who starred in Hollywood movies. Of course, with a star actor such as James Franco in the lead, there is not that much that can go wrong. Even though the actor might be made fun of from time to time, such as in the Comedy Central roast that was created surrounding his deeds, he knows how to pull his own weight and provide a very qualitative experience. Of course, the supporting cast, and the other leading characters all did a superb job, often making it feel as if you were watching a movie worthy of a theatre airing, which was sadly impossible due to the length of the series.
Sadly the extras of the Blu-ray rendition of 11.22.63 only contains fifteen minutes of bonus material. Luckily this small snippet is rather interesting as Stephen King provides his own view on the series, or at least the events revolving around the assassination of JFK, and the ‘what if’ scenario this short series brings to the table. There’s a clear emphasis on the emotions of the people who lived through this dark event in history, and what it unfolded throughout the years.
11.22.63 is one of those cases where a great transition from a book to a short series transpires, without having to milk it dry. Even with some differences between the written piece and the series, 11.22.63 is certainly worth the watch, whether if you’re a ‘what if’ viewer, a fan of Stephen King’s work, or simply adore time travel stories with a well-built storyline and appealing characters. A date so far away, never felt this close again.