Reviews Shows

Review: Apple TV+’s Amazing Stories: The Cellar

Way back in 1926, Amazing Stories magazine would bring astonishing sci-fi, fantasy and pulp fiction stories to the masses. As it grew in popularity over the years Amazing Stories inspired the young minds of George Lucas, Robert Zemeckis, Steven Spielberg and others.

The magazine was such an influence on Spielberg that he purchased the rights to launch an Amazing Stories anthology television series in 1985. Although not a ratings blockbuster the series drew critical acclaim as it featured such big name directors, storytellers such as Spielberg himself, Bob Clark, Clint Eastwood, Joe Dante, Martin Scorsese,  Danny DeVito, Timothy Hutton, Robert Zemeckis and Tobe Hooper.

While mostly family fare with a fitting time-slot on Sunday nights, the series told mystery, sci-fi, horror and fantasy stories meant for a mainstream audience. The idea was for families to sit around the tube and enjoy a different story every week together before heading back to school or work on Monday.

Dylan O’Brien and Victoria Pedretti in Amazing Stories (2020). Photo: AppleTV+.

Amazing Stories ran for two seasons on NBC.

Fast forward to 2020 and Steven Spielberg and Apple have joined forces to bring the series back on Apple TV+. Apple has made the first episode available to the press.

Just like the original series, the core of the show seems to be amazing, extraordinary things happening to everyday people.

With a title like The Cellar, one would think the first episode is a harrowing horror story about specters or abominations living in the basement of a decrepit old house but is actually a romantic, time-traveling adventure brought to us by Jessica Sharzer (American Horror Story) and Chris Long (The Americans, The Mentalist and Gilmore Girls).

Dylan O’Brien (who we last saw as Stiles on Teen Wolf) and Micah Stock (Deke Slayton in the Right Stuff and Doug in Bonding) star as brothers who renovate old houses for a living. Stock is the older brother who has settled down and would like O’Brien to become a full partner not just a part-time helper to make the company a family enterprise. Whether it is his career or romantic interests, O’Brien isn’t sure about where life is taking him so he politely declines his brother’s offer.

A horrendous thunderstorm strikes while O’Brien is working in the cellar and he is sent back to the past where he meets Victoria Pedretti, Love Quinn from Netflix’s You, Nell Crain in The Haunting of Hill House and Lulu in Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood.

Pedretti is in a bit of a bind. It is the 1900’s and her destitute family is marrying her off to older, established widower (Gabriel Olds) but Pedretti has dreams of a career in music, longs to be a singer. So begins the twisty time-travelling tale in which love conquers all but maybe not as you might think or expect.

At almost an hour The Cellar plays as a mini movie and although it doesn’t introduce anything new to the time-travelling genre, it is an engaging story mostly because Dylan O’Brien is so earnest and sincere in his portrayal and you cannot help but to feel for Victoria Pedretti who is stuck in a time and a situation that won’t allow her to be her true self. It is hard not to cheer for their happiness.

The Cellar is an odd choice to launch the series though. You would think the producers would want something more flashy or energetic to start things off with a bang. It does, however, leave us wondering what other Amazing Stories are to come in Season One.

The series will premiere this Friday on AppleTV+ with an episode airing every week.

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