Yesterday saw the premiere of 11.22.63, the new Hulu show adapting Stephen King’s novel of the same name. It’s an unusual topic for Stephen King, but it’s not one that’s new to television, or executive producer J.J. Abrams. Time travel has been tackled by a number of series, each with varying methods and consequences. Some go the endlessly complicated Primer route, while others keep it zany. So, if you just can’t wait until next week’s week episode for another fill, you’d better get started on your own means of time travel. Or just watch these other shows. It’s a lot easier and causes fewer universe-ending paradoxes.
Some TV shows handle time travel time and time again. Doctor Who is constantly TARDIS-hopping through different periods of time and space. Futurama jumps around in many episodes and movies, even going so far as to make Fry his own grandfather and rig elections. In The Flash, Barry Allen can straight up run back in time and see other potential Earths. And it’s a familiar device for Abrams. The characters of Lost do their best to use time travel to their advantage, but they just end up finding out that you can’t change time.
Other series employ one-off time travel glimpses. The Simpsons sent Homer to kill off the dinosaurs in “Treehouse of Horror V,” while That ’70s Show gave Eric Forman the It’s A Wonderful Life treatment by showing how his life would turn out if he never fell for Donna. The British Misfits even went the way of 11.22.63 and tried to kill Hitler, and Family Guy went back to Nazi Germany for completely unrelated reasons.
Although many shows attempt time travel, it almost always works out. Let’s hope things go better for James Franco.