11.22.63 is an American science fiction thriller limited series based on the book 11/22/63 by Stephen King, and consisting of eight episodes. The series is executive-produced by J. J. Abrams, King, Bridget Carpenter and Bryan Burk, and produced by James Franco, who also has the main role. It premiered on February 15, 2016 on Hulu, and was received positively by critics.
Jake Epping (James Franco), a recently divorced English teacher from Maine, is presented with the chance to travel back in time to Dallas, Texas in 1960 by his longtime friend Al Templeton (Chris Cooper). He is convinced into going and attempts to prevent the assassination of JFK in November 1963. However, he becomes attached to the life he makes in the past and this could be his mission's undoing.
On August 12, 2011, before the novel's release, it was announced that Jonathan Demme had attached himself to write, produce, and direct a film adaptation of 11/22/63 with King serving as executive producer. However, on December 6, 2012, Demme announced that he had withdrawn from the project, after disagreeing with King over what to include in the script.
On April 26, 2013, it was reported that Warner Bros. Television and J. J. Abrams' Bad Robot Productions were in negotiations for the rights to adapt the novel as a TV series or miniseries. On September 22, 2014, it was announced that a TV series based on the novel was picked up by Hulu. Carol Spier would be a production designer. The first trailer for the series was released on November 19, 2015.
King has expressed interest in developing a sequel series.
James Franco was chosen to star as the character of Jake Epping. After reading the novel, Franco contacted King about the rights to adapt it to film only to be told that Abrams had already acquired them. Franco wrote an essay about the book for Vice, which was noticed by Abrams, and tweeted about his disappointment at not getting the film rights, which was noticed by Bridget Carpenter. Soon after, they offered him the lead role. Sarah Gadon was cast for the role of Sadie Dunhill. She was interested in the role in part because it gave her the opportunity to work with Abrams.
Filming began on June 9, 2015, in Hespeler, Ontario. Filming during June 2015 also took place in Guelph, Ontario, as well as in Ayr, Ontario, at the Queen's Tavern, and in Hamilton, Ontario during September 2015. In early October, the production moved to Dallas to film exterior locations at Dealey Plaza. During this time, the filming of various scenes during rush hour caused bumper to bumper traffic in the surrounding streets.
The show has garnered positive reviews from most critics. Based on 46 reviews, the show carries an 79% "certified fresh" rating on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes where the consensus states: "Though the execution feels almost as dated as the period it represents, 11.22.63 gradually reveals a compelling, well-performed series of events." On Metacritic, the show has a rating of 69 out of 100, based on 35 reviews, signifying "generally positive reviews".
Jack Moore of GQ commented that "the show is moody and supernatural, while somehow also remaining grounded and full of heart", and lauded Franco as the show's standout, saying "what Franco gives is a vanity-free, indulgence-free performance that feels like the work of an Old Hollywood legend. It's earnest and full-hearted." Alan Sepinwall also acclaimed Franco, stating "Franco's a revelation as Jake. He's an immensely talented actor and he's got the star quality you need to carry something this crazy, and this long." Vicki Hyman of the Newark Star-Ledger praised the performances of Franco and Gadon, writing: "Their stirring romance carries with it the same whiff of doom as Epping's visits to Dealey Plaza, and gives what could be merely an interesting and handsomely-made take on the conspiracy thriller genre more texture and depth, resonating across the ages." Hank Stuever of The Washington Post wrote that "King’s work doesn’t always happily travel through the portal connecting the page to the TV screen, but Hulu scores with an impressively stout-hearted, eight-part adaptation of 11/22/63."
On the other hand, Jeff Jensen of Entertainment Weekly had a more mixed reaction and criticized Franco's performance, calling it "low-watt" and "disinterested". He wrote "11.22.63 reaches some thoughtful, moving conclusions, but oh, what could have been with a more engaged star. If only there were a time machine to fix that mistake."
11.22.63 was released on DVD and Blu-ray on August 9, 2016 in Region 1. The release includes all eight episodes, as well as a special feature titled "When the Future Fights Back", where King, Abrams, Carpenter and Franco talk about elements of the production that turned King's novel into an event series.