Third-episode verdict: Making History (US: Fox)

The BarrometerA Barrometer rating of 3

In the US: Sundays, 8:30/7:30c, Fox

The trouble with Making History is that it’s more of an idea for a show now, rather than an actual TV show. When it started, it had a relatively high concept behind it: Adam Pally has inherited a time machine from his dad and he uses it to go back in time to the War of Independence for the simple, base reason that he wants a girlfriend and is too inept in modern times to impress anyone, let alone the highly talented and beautiful daughter of Paul Revere, Leighton Meester. Armed with centuries of knowledge, he can woo her with Céline Dion lyrics and his tales of having invented the skateboard and headphones. However, he ends up ruining history, so has to recruit uptight history professor Yassir Lester to his cause to put things right.

Since then, the show has struggled to work out what it’s actually about, other than three mismatched people who happen to have a time machine. There’s plenty of culture shock and commentary, with Pally and Lester managing to ignite the revolution again in the second episode by getting the Brits to threaten to take away the ‘Americans’ guns (“Why do they need so many? We didn’t care at first, but now they have so many, they clearly plan on using them, so we need to take them away from them…”), and Making History is almost funny when it’s making these kind of throwaway comments about both modern and past US life.

There’s also some humour to be had from Meester’s trying to adapt to modern times with Pally’s help (“This is a photo of an Asian girl. What do we say when we see an Asian girl?” “Nothing. There is nothing remarkable about an Asian girl and no comments are necessary”) while still being an 18th century girl at heart who kills squirrels and uses their pelts for fur and their bones to make very small pianos. 

But that’s really about all the show has to offer, so it’s really struggling to work out what to do with itself. There’s no chemistry between the leads and no reason for the trio to be together other than the scripts demand it. In fact, by episode three, the show is having to dress up Pally as Cher to find any really new jokes to make, which is something that only makes sense if you saw him in Happy Endings; future episodes look likely to involve sending our heroes back in time to other eras in the hope that fresh eras will provide fresh opportunities for jokes, now every other source has been mined.

Of all the time travel shows we’ve had in the past year, Making History is not only the weakest, it’s the least funny, despite it being the only actual time-travel comedy in the pack. Even Timeless has better jokes. This is despite a decent cast and some obvious intelligence in the writing. Ratings are poor, so I suspect the end is nigh for the show anyway, so you can afford to give this one a miss.