11.22.63 – Hulu’s Biggest Original Series Yet, Our Review

11-22-63 teaser trailer

Hulu CEO Mike Hopkins recently said something along the lines of needing a ‘House of Cards type show’ and at first this made complete sense. In order to compete on the biggest streaming stage, it seems to be the trend that all these services are going to need to produce high quality original content in order to survive. But lately, we’ve started to wonder if that’s even true. Hulu has done a great job building up a content library of next day television and as long as that faucet is cranked on, we’ll remain happy subscribers.

But there is a certain appeal to massive media hype surrounding an exclusive series. ‘House of Cards’ made a major splash, as realistically nobody thought Netflix would be capable of such a feat, and we’ve witnessed strong performances at the Golden Globes for series such as ‘Orange is the New Black’ and ‘Transparent’ competing with their network counterparts. These awards certainly drive increases in subscriptions to their respective services as well as get conversation going about the services themselves.

Hulu hasn’t been out in the cold on this completely, and has actually has released a series of somewhat successful original shows, mostly remaining under the massive audience radar, instead picking up smaller followings. They also saved ‘The Mindy Project’ from the pit of cancellation, a big win for Hulu, the show producers and a growing base of digital fans.

But perhaps nothing has been quite as big as their newest foray into original content, the conversion of Stephen King’s novel 11/22/63 into an original miniseries. The show follows high school teacher Jake Epping (James Franco) as he travels back in time at the advice of his close friend to stop the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Right from the start, 11.22.63 does a great job captivating your interest, as the premise alone sounds interesting and the show wastes little time sending Epping back in time, if only for a few brief moments. Using these short trips, the show explains the rules of his time travel.

We couldn’t stop watching once Epping takes his first step into the past.

Once the main plot gets going, Epping’s voyage back in time becomes incredibly twisted as things he works to make better quickly complicate his main objective. From trying to help those in the present with issues they faced in the past as well as remaining as inconspicuous as possible despite being from 50 years in the future, the twists and turns kept us interested in how this would all unravel. Things only get more convoluted, and far more entertaining, as the story progresses. The show quickly becomes less about JFK and instead far more focused on Epping and his life in the future.

One of the major highlights of the series is the setting, an unsung hero of the show. The dedication to keeping things feeling very 1960s throughout Epping’s travels make for beautiful scene after beautiful scene. From the cars to the music, to the ways people interact, it feels like we all get to hop through the same portal alongside Epping.

In full transparency, we haven’t read Stephen King’s novel, so we’re not too sure how true to source material the series kept itself, regardless though, 11.22.63 is a standalone hit, certainly worth giving a chance. We couldn’t stop watching once Epping takes his first step into the past.

Perhaps our only gripe might actually be of Franco’s performance. While the star certainly will bring an audience on name recognition alone, Franco seemed a bit too scripted and out of place himself. Despite this complaint though, the series doesn’t suffer enough from this to warrant pause, and maybe we’re missing a slightly more elaborate plan to keep things cornier in a way that one might expect an old ‘Twilight Zone’ episode to do the same.

This might not be a ‘House of Cards moment’ series, we’re not sure a streaming service can capture that lightning twice as the surprise has somewhat worn off. But 11.22.63 can stand on its own, and will certainly draw plenty of attention. We applaud Hulu for betting big on more original content.

11.22.63 premieres on Hulu this President’s Day, February 15th, 2016, you can watch the brief trailer below: