11.22.63 Mondays starting February 15, Hulu.
Overlong Stephen King miniseries used to be big business for network TV, but it’s been more than a decade since one of King’s novels was adapted into a multi-night event. The move to a streaming service means that the adaptation of King’s nearly 900-page 2011 novel 11/22/63 has more room to spread out (as well as relaxed standards on profanity), but the result still feels like something ABC might have aired in 1997. At eight episodes, each running about an hour, Hulu’s 11.22.63 takes a lot of detours, and while King’s novels, even the long ones, are usually breakneck page-turners, TV shows can only be watched at a single speed.
As such, 11.22.63 is often slow going, especially in the middle, after small-town English teacher Jake (James Franco) travels through a mysterious portal from 2016 to 1960, resolved to stop the JFK assassination. Since he can only travel back to a fixed point, he has to hang around for three years until the titular date, time he passes by surveilling Lee Harvey Oswald (Daniel Webber), investigating a possible CIA conspiracy and falling in love with small-town librarian Sadie (Sarah Gadon).
That last part forms the real core of the story, but while Gadon is charming, Franco plays his entire role with a smirk, like he can’t believe he’s stuck in this ridiculous show. Although there are moments of suspense when Jake gets close to major historical events, nothing (including the obligatory twist ending) is quite enough to shake the feeling that the series is just a really, really long Twilight Zone episode.