A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that 11.22.63 is rooted in actual events but doesn't spend a lot of time recounting history; rather, it uses historical facts -- in this case, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy -- as a springboard for an intriguing adventure. Characters use strong, unbleeped language (including "f--k" and "s--t). You'll also see sudden moments of violence (including car crashes and shootings with some blood and gruesome imagery, including the massacre of a family with young children) and multiple characters drinking and smoking cigarettes, thanks to the 1960s setting. There's occasional sexy stuff, too, such as kissing and simulated sex, but no nudity.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
When a local diner owner (Chris Cooper) reveals a strange porthole in his kitchen pantry that magically transports travelers to October 1960, recently divorced high school English teacher Jake Epping (James Franco) reluctantly accepts a mission to prevent the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. But waiting for the fateful events of 11-22-63 to occur will require Jake to spend three long years in the past, where he gains an accomplice (George MacKay) and a new love interest (Sarah Gadon).
Is it any good?
This ambitious adaptation of Stephen King's novel sets out to achieve a lot in only eight episodes. And in the end it does, thanks to solid acting and some incredibly convenient plot points. The story’s semi-preposterous rules for time travel aren’t big selling points (among them, the portal takes you to the exact same spot at the exact same time -- Oct. 21, 1960, at precisely 11:58 a.m. – every single time you enter it). But Franco's convincing performance somehow makes it all seem strangely plausible, and clever touches from director J.J. Abrams (such as a Nixon campaign sign that reads, “They can’t lick our Dick!”) help add some much-needed comic relief to the story's dark, weighty themes.
Hulu has produced original series before but never on this scale, and, at least thematically, the result feels a lot like the love child of Back to the Future, Quantum Leap, and Groundhog Day. It's too bad then that 11.22.63 never quite reaches their level of collective excellence. But it's entertaining enough to keep you watching and see what happens next.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about 11.22.63's premise and the plausibility of time travel. If time travel were possible, where -- and when -- would you want to go? What are the pros and cons of revisiting the past, particularly if you want to change it?
How does 11.22.63 compare to the Stephen King novel on which it's based? If you haven't read the book, would the TV series inspire you to start reading?
Why adapt 11.22.63 into an eight-episode "event" rather than a full season of episodes or a feature film? Does an event series allow the writers and actors to do anything differently in terms of plot, pacing, and character? In terms of this story, was a miniseries the best way to tell it?
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