Time Bandits series from Taika Waititi (Apple TV+)


Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement tease their Time Bandits TV show in exclusive first look

Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement are going back in time.

As part of Entertainment Weekly’s Summer TV Preview, we have an exclusive first look at Time Bandits, the upcoming Apple TV+ adaptation of Terry Gilliam’s 1981 fantasy classic. Waititi and Clement created the series with Iain Morris, and when it debuts July 24, it will follow an 11-year-old history geek named Kevin (Kal-El Tuck) as he journeys through the centuries with a ragtag group of thieves.

Waititi and Clement tell EW that they’re both major fans of the original film, which starred Gilliam’s Monty Python costars John Cleese and Michael Palin, as well as Sean Connery, Shelley Duvall, and Ian Holm. The longtime friends and collaborators remember seeing the original Time Bandits as young kids and getting hooked on its chaotic and darkly comedic tone.

“It was just nothing I’d really ever seen before,” Waititi explains. “I remember being freaked out by a lot of it. A lot of the kids’ films back then were not as inventive and imaginative.”

“I was pretty young, so it would have been one of the bigger introductions to Terry Gilliam and British comedy,” Clement adds. “Seeing John Cleese as Robin Hood is still one of the funniest scenes in any movie, I think.”

The new Time Bandits reimagines the classic story over 10 episodes, following Kevin as he falls in with a group of marauders led by Lisa Kudrow’s Penelope. Waititi specifically says he’s wanted to work with Kudrow for years, and he and Clement have long admired her work from afar, particularly in HBO’s The Comeback.

“I just love Lisa Kudrow and thought it’d be awesome to see her leading a band of idiots through time,” Waititi explains.

“When Lisa turned up, Taika was wearing a ‘Smelly Cat’ T-shirt,” Clement adds.

“That wasn’t on purpose!” Waititi insists with a laugh. “I forgot that I was wearing it.”

British actor Tuck also headlines as 11-year-old Kevin, and both Waititi and Clement praise their young star for embracing the show’s quirky comedy, quickly learning how to improvise with seasoned costars like Kudrow. The cast also includes Tadhg Murphy, Roger Jean Nsengiyumva, Rune Temte, Kiera Thompson, Rachel House, Matt King, George Houvardas, Zoe Ventoura, and Charlyne Yi. (EW spoke to Waititi and Clement before Yi posted on social media last week alleging that they were “physically assaulted multiple times by an actor” and “psychologically abused” on the Time Bandits set. In a statement provided to EW, a Paramount TV spokesperson said, “The safety of our cast and crew is very important to us, and we take all concerns that are raised to us very seriously. At the time of the complaint, Paramount Television Studios conducted a full investigation regarding allegations that were brought to our attention. While all investigations are confidential and we cannot comment on specifics, additional steps were taken to address concerns.")

Waititi also teases that a few familiar faces might pop up throughout the series. “I loved working with the cast and all the actors that we got in,” the filmmaker explains. “We have repeat actors who change roles throughout the different episodes. They have that in the film as well. It’s kind of the Monty Python thing, where people come back and play a different character.”

It's also the latest in a long line of collaborations for Waititi and Clement, who’ve been friends for decades and worked together on past projects like What We Do in the Shadows and Flight of the Conchords. But Time Bandits is easily their biggest joint endeavor yet, and they jumped at the chance to marry off-kilter comedy with sweeping, decade-hopping adventure.

“Most of the things that Taika and I have done have been very cheap,” Clement admits. “He’s done lots of big-budget things, but I haven’t been on this side of the big budget. So it was great to have a bigger box of paint to work with. But I always enjoy working with Taika. We’ve got a real shorthand with each other. I forget when I work with other writers or directors, there’s a bit more explanation that has to take place.”

That bigger budget also means that the show gets to travel throughout space and time — with a story stretching literally thousands of years. “There’s some you’d expect and some you wouldn’t perhaps,” Clement teases. “We go from prehistoric dinosaur times to the ‘90s. There are some medieval places like medieval England and medieval Africa. And we go the Ice Age. That’s a fun one.”

Time Bandits will premiere Wednesday, July 24, on Apple TV+.

While I have deeply enjoyed a lot of Waititi's stuff, I am less excited for it over time. It's possible this could be the style itself wearing thin, or it could be that he's just overextended himself and this has caused a dip in quality. Not sure. But the net result is that I'm tempering my expectations on his shows and films going forward.

That said, this does seem like the right kind of property for his whole deal. When he's at his funniest it often involves big personalities and clear archetypes bouncing off each other, so this could be pretty good.

I find Taika to be very hit-or-miss, but even his "misses" are a lot more interesting than the average corporate product.

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I never could get the hang of Thursdays.
Thor: Love and Thunder and Next Goal Wins were both atrocious, but if Clement is involved I'm more interested in giving this a shot.

I actually enjoyed both of those - quite a bit. Jojo Rabbit, on the other hand, feels like something that he didn't quite know how to pull off. It's not easy being funny while addressing the horrors of Nazi Germany, I think only Mel Brooks has been able to pull that one off.