Jack the Ripper is pursued across centuries in ABC series
Do you have time for another time-travel TV series?
While Fox’s “Frequency” quickly lost its signal, NBC’s “Timeless” wrapped its season last month with some major cliffhangers. CW’s “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow” continues to straddle decades with reckless glee.
Now the biggest trend of the season is going to get even more of a workout in two new shows. The Fox comedy “Making History” (series premiere Sunday at 8:30 p.m. on Fox) stars Adam Pally (“Happy Endings”) as a guy who travels to the 1770s to date Paul Revere’s daughter and discovers he’s screwing with the American Revolution.
That same night, ABC presents “Time After Time,” a TV remake from Kevin Williamson (“Scream,” “Dawson’s Creek”) of the big-screen 1979 romantic thriller of the same name that starred Malcolm McDowell and Mary Steenburgen.
The one-hour pilot follows much of the film.
In 1890s London, young H.G. Wells (Freddie Stroma, “UnREAL”) is a frustrated writer who shows his dinner guests his latest invention — a time machine. (It looks like a giant digital camera and is one of the least impressive props of any sci-fi series ever, alas.)
The device will allow its occupant to travel to any point in time, and the machine has a fail-safe, allowing it to return to its starting point, that can only be disabled with a key, which H.G. shows off.
“I’m genuinely concerned for your sanity,” one pal says.
Scotland Yard’s finest crash the party. Turns out one of the guests, Dr. John Stevenson (Josh Bowman, “Revenge”), is Jack the Ripper, and he makes his escape with the time machine.
The chase across centuries is on.
H.G. finds himself emerging in the American Museum of Space & Science in present-day Manhattan, which is so not the utopia he’d imagined the future would be, what with ISIS, school shootings and idiots taking selfies.
Jack is delighted. “In my time, I was a freak. Here, I am an amateur.”
It’s a great line, cribbed right from the original, if you’re keeping track.
Assistant curator Jane Walker (Genesis Rodriguez, “Entourage”) can’t understand how a second guy could be stepping out from her H.G. Wells exhibit. Curator Vanessa Anders (Nicole Ari Parker, “Rosewood”) is so not amused and wants both men found.
H.G. finally convinces Jane he is for real when he takes her three days into the future — and she spies a newspaper revealing she is going to be killed by Jack.
Like all time-travel shows, paradoxes can emerge like sinkholes. Still, the cast works so much charm, they must be exhausted by the end of the day.
For Bowman and his fans, the series is a time slot reunion. He played nice but clueless Daniel on ABC’s “Revenge” and was so bored he bowed out. He’s obviously enjoying himself playing an irredeemable menace — with his own natural British accent, to boot. Of course, he ends up shirtless. ABC isn’t stupid.
The climax of the pilot diverges significantly from the film and could potentially grant H.G. an unexpected but welcome ally. Is it enough to make this show work?
Time will tell.