Not our PIN, but the show based on the Stephen King book.

Stephen King takes aim at JFK

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Contents - Jayne Nel­son

UK Broad­cast Fox, Sun­days un­til 29 May US Broad­cast Hulu, fin­ished Episodes Re­viewed 1.01-1.08

In 1992 Quan­tum Leap took a rare turn into se­ri­ous ter­ri­tory when it fea­tured a two-part episode that had time-trav­eller Sam Beck­ett leap­ing into the body of Lee Har­vey Oswald. It was “wor­thy”, yes, but out of the show’s en­tire run it was also, para­dox­i­cally, one of its least in­ter­est­ing con­cepts. We knew JFK would still die at the end, so what was the point? And Oswald, for all the end­less con­spir­acy the­o­ries about him, isn’t a his­tor­i­cal fig­ure you ac­tu­ally em­pathise with – by all ac­counts, he was a right grumpy bas­tard, and hardly some­one you’d want to hang out with... par­tic­u­larly when there can never be any con­crete an­swers about what he re­ally did do on that sunny day in Dal­las.

With this in mind, you’d think that if you were Stephen King and you came up with the idea of writ­ing a sim­i­lar tale – send­ing some­one back in time to shadow Oswald and learn the truth about the so-called Day That Shook The World (and maybe save Pres­i­dent Kennedy to boot) – you’d try to make Oswald a lit­tle more... watch­able. Em­pa­thetic, per­haps. In­no­cent. Di­a­bol­i­cal. Any­thing. You’ve al­ready got a time-trav­eller hero, af­ter all; more re­al­ity-tin­ker­ing surely wouldn’t go amiss?

Well, phooey to that. This eight-part adap­ta­tion of King’s US-dated 11.22.63 spends an ex­tra­or­di­nary amount of time fo­cus­ing on some­one we gen­uinely don’t like, as we see our lead char­ac­ter, Jake, bug­ging Oswald’s apart­ment, fol­low­ing him around, track­ing peo­ple who meet with him and gen­er­ally bor­ing the tits off us. Watch­ing Lee Har­vey Oswald is, at times, al­most un­for­giv­ably dull, de­spite a de­cent

Spends an ex­tra­or­di­nary time fo­cus­ing on some­one we dis­like

per­for­mance from Daniel Web­ber as the pos­si­ble patsy.

Thank­fully, ev­ery­thing that isn’t Oswald in this minis­eries is far more watch­able. At first you’re not sure if you’re go­ing to like James Franco’s Jake: sure, he seems ami­able enough, but time­trav­el­ling alone in a TV show rather than in the pages of a book means that we don’t know what he’s think­ing. For a cou­ple of episodes, he’s noth­ing more than a cypher who moves from place to place with­out a word; the au­di­ence has no idea how he’s feel­ing, whether he’s freaked out or happy or sad – he’s just there. And so when Jake teams up with a young guy named Bill – a char­ac­ter who wasn’t in the book – and bounces his ideas off him, things mas­sively im­prove. Just hear­ing Jake an­nounce, “Let’s save JFK, pard­ner!” in episode three sends ev­ery­thing click­ing into gear.

There are other changes from the novel, too. For ex­am­ple, we’re told that try­ing to change things in the past re­sults in Time “fuck­ing you up”, but Jake seems able to save lives with­out so much as a mur­mur, yet is al­most killed – twice – while try­ing to over­hear a con­ver­sa­tion about Oswald. Why isn’t this dis­par­ity fully ex­plained? And who are the peo­ple who pop up and tell Jake he’s not sup­posed to be there? We get a vague ex­pla­na­tion in the novel, but here they could be any­thing.

Still, the cen­tral love story be­tween Jake and Sadie (Sarah Gadon) is pleas­ing, as is the fact the JFK as­sas­si­na­tion scenes are shot in the real Dealey Plaza. It’s just a shame that, for so much of this, Jake’s ad­ven­tures are lim­ited to sit­ting around in a house and lis­ten­ing to Oswald speak­ing Rus­sian in the flat down­stairs. Just try to stay awake.

James Franco’s Jake: smart but not the Pres­i­dent.

Early iPhones: cum­ber­some.

Sadie and Jake love be­ing in book­stores!

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