10th Mar2020

‘Amazing Stories 1×01: The Cellar’ Review (Apple TV)

by Phil Wheat


I have been a huge fan of Steven Spielberg’s 1980s series Amazing Stories for years… In fact since 1990/1, when our house got its first VCR – a huge, heavy Philips front loader that was second-hand from my Uncle-in-Law. He’d got it in a trade at a local pub and sold it to us for a cheap price; well cheaper than the going rate of a VCR back in those days! I was in heaven.

I rented each and every video tape I could from the local video library (this was in the pre-Blockbuster days) and among them was an old CIC Video rental release of Amazing Stories, which featured The Mission, Mummy Daddy and Go to the Head of the Class. After watching that tape I was hooked. I tracked down not only the ogther rental releases but also then bought the retail versions as well. And when the BBC broadcast the show in 1995 – originally in a late-night slot on BBC 1, but also later on weekends – I recorded each and every episode, even if some were cut for the timeslot(s).

Which is a very long-winded way of saying I was a) a huge fan of the show, and b) I was eagerly awaiting the debut of this new iteration after it was announced for Apple TV’s new streaming service. So how does this new version’s first episode fare? Very well. Very well indeed. New showrunners/producers Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis have successfully managed to recapture everything I loved about the original series but given the show a more modern sensibility. The first episode, The Cellar, is actually very reminiscent of two episodes – Vanessa in the Garden and You Gotta Believe Me – from the shows original run; capturing the same mix of the fantastical and emotional.


The Cellar tells the story of Sam (Dylan O’Brien) and Jake Taylor (Micah Stock), two brothers who are renovating an old Iowa farmstead. When a storm hits Sam finds himself in the storm cellar when a drop in air pressure transports him from 2019 to 1919; where he meets the houses former occupier Evelyn Porter (Victoria Pedretti), a young woman who’s betrothed to a man with money, a man whom she doesn’t love but must marry on the insistence of her mother. Trying to find out how to get back home, Sam also finds himself falling in love with Evelyn. And when Sam does figure out what took him back in time he also realizes that Evelyn’s fated to live her life in 2019 where she can be herself – even if he, ultimately, can’t be with her.

Essentially a love story told through time, you could say this is a riff on the 1980 Jane Seymour and Christopher Reeve starring classic Somewhere in Time. However, like (I at least remember) a lot of stories told in the original iteration of Amazing Stories, there’s an aspect of self-sacrifice to this story; sacrifice that comes from personal growth and comes from a very “human” place. It the kind of story Spielberg told in the Kevin Costner starring episode The Mission in the 80s – making this iteration of Amazing Stories a PERFECT continuation of one of my favourite anthology shows.

With brilliant central performances from Dylan O’Brien as Sam and Victoria Pedretti as Evelyn – who both have fantastic chemistry with each other – The Cellar is an auspicious debut episode for the new season of Amazing Stories and I sincerely do look forward to seeing where the show takes us next.


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