In this Crossfader series, our intricate and complex rating system will tell you definitively whether new television pilots are worth your valuable time. We call it: HIT OR SH**.

making history

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Time travel would probably suck, right? Seriously, think of one story about time travel you’ve heard that didn’t involve the characters changing the future for the worse by altering history. “Fix the past” stories are not only a thoroughly exhausted genre, but feel to me as though they’re inherently frustrating. Many simply glaze over the fact that most characters, without the innumerable comforts that modern society provides them with, would be completely unable to navigate pretty much any time period more than 100 years ago. Romanticizing the past for the sake of entertainment is one thing, but to completely ignore history’s most glaring downsides often feels dishonest.

MAKING HISTORY impressed me primarily because of how it handles that issue. Most scenes serve as reminders that the past—Revolution-era USA, in the pilot episode—often contained horrible people living in horrible conditions. Most of the jokes base themselves in how starkly depressing the colonies were, both from a human rights aspect and from a quality of life perspective. At times the constant reminders of our nation’s mostly disgusting past can come across as pandering, or at least too vague to really be considered commentary, but it’s a huge step up from the status quo of ignoring these facts outright.

But MAKING HISTORY isn’t good because it highlights historically undiscussed problems. While I can tell that the show has ambition and at some points will indeed try to say something profound, most of their energy is spent on jokes. The humor, to some extent, stems from their unique approach to the “realities” of time travel. The show sticks to historical fact in terms of environment, people, and general social trends: everything reeks of shit, disease is rampant, historical figures appear, and most folks tend to be sexist/racist. But when it comes to their time travel mechanics, they just have a duffel bag filled with wires. They also aren’t afraid of being anachronistic for the sake of a joke; Sam Adams is fully aware that drinking from the river will give him dysentery, and our hero Dan’s (Adam Pally) primary method of social influence is movie quotes.

making history ice

Turns out, American revolutionaries were big fans of FRIDAY

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Dan’s jokes mostly land, but I’m not completely sure I like him as a character. So far he’s a standard Rogan-esque loser: broke, dumb, pop-culture savvy, clumsily romantic, cowardly, smokes weed, etc. We’re given a wisp of depth when he confesses to his coworker Chris (Yassir Lester) about not inventing time travel and living in his father’s shadow, but that’s not the most original direction to take the character either. Chris has remarkably little going character-wise as well, but as with Dan, he gets a hefty helping of funny lines that make this easier to ignore. Deborah has the most potential to be interesting of the three leads as Paul Revere’s daughter, but she’s underused in the pilot.

Most of my complaints about MAKING HISTORY can be completely resolved in the next few episodes, and I strongly suspect that they will. Characters take time to flesh out, and just because the pilot focused on hooking viewers with rapid-fire jokes rather than development doesn’t mean that they’ll remain static. I sincerely hope that MAKING HISTORY lives up to its own lofty aspirations, but for now it’s just a smartish comedy that made me laugh a lot, and that’s perfectly alright by me.

Verdict: Hit

MAKING HISTORY airs on Sundays on FOX

Dan Blomquist is a guest contributor for Crossfader and writes about important things sometimes, but mostly about television. He believes that memes are the future and that free will is an illusion.

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