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Hulu, the cable-and-streaming network, has available for streaming an ambitious adaptation of 11.22.63, the Stephen King novel about a time traveling English teacher who returns to the early sixties in order to stop the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and put right much of what he sees as wrong with the world.

As in the book, the protagonist is Jake Epping, a recently divorced thirtysomething Maine high school teacher, who discovers a kind of “rabbit hole” that allows him to travel back in time to September 9, 1958, at 11:58 am. He can spend as long as he wants there - a minute, an hour, a year or a decade - and when he returns to the present, it will always be two minutes later than when he left. (Though he will have aged the actual amount of time he was gone.) For Epping to succeed, he will have to live in the early sixties for five years, submersing himself in the time and culture while doing everything he can to stop JFK's murder without changing the timeline in any other ways.

I don't always love King's work, just because it isn't my favorite genre, but I really liked this book - it seemed more rooted in reality, and I'm a big fan of time travel stories. The eight-part TV series version diverges from the book in some ways - compressing some elements and expanding others - but it struck me as faithful to the tone without being slavish to every plot element, which is what all good adaptations from one media to another should be.

Oddly enough, my biggest problem with the TV version is the actor who plays Epping - James Franco, who happens to be someone who I only occasionally like on film. (His 127 Hours was one of my favorite films of 2010, but he's not an actor I'll rush out to see at the multiplex.) He just doesn't occupy the center of the film with the kind of actorly charisma that creates instant identification; he seems to view his character at a slight distance, and therefore so do we.

The major exception to this is in Franco's many scenes with Sarah Gadon as Sadie Dunhill, a woman with whom Jake becomes captivated ... Franco comes alive in those moments, and we feel his passion. (It helps that Gadon, an actress with whom I am unfamiliar, is luminous ... she lights up every scene she's in.) There's also excellent supporting turns by Chris Cooper and Nick Searcy, who brings moments of unexpected pathos to his role as a Texas high school principal. (Watch for his scenes with Tonya Pinkins, which are among the best in the series.)

The production design is gorgeous, and the writing and direction are first-rate, as befits a series produced by the estimable JJ Abrams. 11.22.63 is an excellent piece of work, not without flaws, but diverting, occasionally provocative, and certainly worth your time and consideration.

That's it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I'll see you Monday.

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