October 3, 2016

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “Timeless”


TIMELESS:  Monday 10PM on NBC – If Nothing Else Is On…

NBC’s TIMELESS is strictly B-movie escapism.  That’s a bit of a surprise considering that its creators are Eric Kripke of the densely mythologized (if not altogether workable) Revolution and The Shield‘s Shawn Ryan, but undemanding genre storytelling seems to be the preferred space for network television these days.

The basic premise isn’t all that different from CW’s Legends of Tomorrow.  Once again, a presumed baddie (Goran Visnjic, as the colorfully named Garcia Flynn) has possession of a time travel device, and as he repeatedly goes on journeys through history to change the past, a plucky band of heroes is one step behind him, fighting to catch up before he can do too much damage to the timeline, and hoping to stop him before he achieves his nefarious ultimate goal.  The group consists of historian Lucy Preston (Abigail Spencer), soldier Wyatt Logan (Matt Lanter), and tech wizard Rufus Carlin (Malcolm Barrett), the latter of whom is black, so he also serves the function of reminding everyone that history wasn’t always a theme park for those who were living through it.  None of them have DC-type super powers, but the serialized bit of story suggests that Lucy is in some way a Chosen One, whose part in the larger story has yet to be told, although industrialist Connor Mason (Paterson Joseph), who invented the time-travel vehicle, has something to do with it.

The pilot brought everyone to the crash of the Hindenberg in 1937, and what appears to have been a very generous pilot budget allowed director Neil Marshall (whose credits include several celebrated Game of Thrones episodes) to stage versions of the disaster three times with fairly high-level CG.  The plotting, however, was strictly by the numbers (how many dumb local cops have imprisoned innocent time travelers over the years?), and the wit was at the level of Lucy introducing herself and Wyatt to a citizen of the past as Dr. Dre and Nurse Jackie.  The only note of interest in the context of the genre is that Timeless will apparently embrace changes in the time-space continuum, as Lucy arrived back in the present to find that her critically ill mother had regained her health and her sister had been wiped from history.

Kripke and Ryan are pros, and even though Timeless is familiar, it’s well-paced and dotted with action.  Spencer is a real asset, believably intelligent and adopting an old-movie style of performance that fits Lucy’s needs, although the other leads are fairly nondescript for now.

NBC has given Timeless a plum post-The Voice slot, which has already worked this fall for This Is Us, and the show will certainly get a healthy sampling.  The question is whether it can develop enough audience excitement to eventually thrive elsewhere, unlike Revolution, Blindspot and The Blacklist, which are gone or struggling without The Voice.  On its own unambitious terms, the series delivers some entertainment value, but not enough so far to suggest a lasting future on its own.

NETWORK FINAL:  Back To The Time-Travel Sci-Fi Past

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."