Stories about time travel are as popular as they are logistically convoluted—typically they center around one person’s journey back (or forward) and the dramatic, unanticipated consequence their interference makes: the soulmate is never born, the elevator is never invented (a bigger problem than you’d think). But would one person’s untimely appearance really change the course of history all that much? And if it did, wouldn’t there be other other, smaller side effects, too? These are just some of the questions that arise in Making History, a show centered around the premise that a university facilities manager named Daniel could singlehandedly throw off the American Revolution by seducing Paul Revere’s daughter.
Adam Pally plays Daniel, a schlubby stoner-type who spends his weekends in colonial Massachusetts, where he relies heavily on pop culture references to seem intellectual and progressive among his peers. When the show begins, Daniel’s courtship with tough-but-earnest Deborah (Leighton Meester) is well underway—they’ve just left a ball where Daniel impressed the crowd with the Bartman when they’re ambushed by two British soldiers, whom Deborah mollifies with a hock of ham. (“In the 1700s, ham was pretty much like diamond-covered heroin,” Daniel later explains.) It’s the appearance of these soldiers that prompts Daniel to realize, hey, wasn’t somebody around here supposed to warn everyone before the British got here?
Daniel rushes back to the present, where he spots what he perceives to be warning signs—a young man is eating fish and chips in the cafeteria, and a Starbucks barista puts out a big sandwich board advertising not coffee, but tea. He tracks down the delightfully dorky Chris Parish (Yassir Lester), a history professor who is easily convinced to travel back to the time period he teaches. Chris’ academic arrogance leads him to believe that he, personally, can set off the American Revolution, which results in a very funny sequence in which he tries out a handful of famous historic (and pop culture) monologues on a gathering of drunken patriots and founding fathers before finally winning them over with Cuba Gooding Jr.’s “Show me the money!”
The pilot relies heavily on this exact kind of joke—the pop culture reference that incites nostalgia in us, and either confusion or amazement in the colonial listener. (See Daniel singing, in pseudo-Creed voice, “My Heart Will Go On” to a besotted Deborah.) It’s pretty much always funny, but, when combined with some of the colonial Americans’ weird, semi-knowing references to their ways of life (like Sam Adams’ plan to go drink creek water and get dysentery after), it can feel a little too winky-winky; chamber pots are only really hilarious in retrospect.
As with most installments in the time travel genre, there are certain things we have to accept here if we want to have as much fun watching as possible. Here, one of the main ones is the idea that Paul Revere didn’t kick off the American Revolution because his daughter Deborah is dating a scoundrel (he doesn’t yet know who) instead of the local blacksmith he prefers. Is that all it takes for you to give up your principles, Paul Revere? It’s questionable, and a little alarming, to think one person could have made all that difference, but that seems to be the point.
And where one man (or, as Daniel would want to point out, one woman) falls short, there may yet be another ready to take his place: Chris volunteers to stay back in time and start the revolution, leaving Deborah and Daniel to continue their love story in the present. But as the statue Deborah and Daniel find upon returning to the modern-day college campus suggests, Chris probably isn’t the man for the job after all—he’s set to die in battle the very next day.
- Chris’ baffled puking upon first seeing and smelling the colonial Lexington is delightful, as is his ”I’m being kidnapped” shrieking.
- “I have questions about colonial Massachusetts—it’s urgent.”
- Are Chris’ modern-day glasses a question for any of these people?
- Taking a selfie with the back of Paul Revere’s head is a very good gag.
- The reveal of Chris and Daniel in their colonial period PJs—also very good
- Best moment goes to Chris and Daniel’s contradictory responses to “So in 2016, black people and white people are friends?”