Saturday 21 April 2018

We go Back to the future in two new series

James Franco in 11.22.63.
James Franco in 11.22.63.

John Boland

The eight-episode 11.22.63, which Fox began with a double-bill this week, is reminiscent of such other time-travelling escapades as Back to the Future, Quantum Leap and, indeed, Outlander, which began a second season on RTÉ2 last Tuesday night.

Adapted from a Stephen King novel, and with JJ Abrams as executive producer, it should have been more fun than it turned out to be as mild-mannered Jake (James Franco, pictured) passed through a time portal in a diner and sought to stop the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

Unfortunately, there was far too much anguished talk at the outset from diner-owner Al (played by a scenery-chewing Chris Cooper) as he explained to Jake how the world would be a far better place if JFK survived - probably no escalation of the Vietnam war, for starters.

Back in early-1960s Dallas, there was a bit of fun to be had as Jake acquainted himself with the sights and customs of the time, but the plot depended far too much on far-fetched coincidences and melodramatic mini-climaxes to really engage the viewer.

The series will certainly need to up its game if it's to merit the praise bestowed on it by some US reviewers.

And the same is true of Outlander, which lost me early on in the first series, despite the commanding presence of Dubliner Caitriona Balfe as heroine Claire, who found herself mysteriously transported from 1940s England to the rebellious 18th-century Scottish highlands. Now she's back in the 20th century, though for how long remained unclear in the opening episode.

New Yorker critic Emily Nussbaum has been raving about this series and has detected feminist and other themes in it that I must say eluded me last time around, so perhaps I'll keep faith with it for at least a few more episodes.

Meanwhile, in Hidden Britain by Drone (Channel 4), presenter Tony Robinson went "swooping and snooping" around private areas while never really addressing the question of how these pryingly invasive machines can be so inimical to human rights.

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