Timeless Preview

NBC's Timeless Adventure Won't 'Fall Down Serialized Rabbit Hole,' Says EP

Timeless is determined not to break viewers’ brains with confusing time travel.

“It’s important to [co-creator] Eric [Kripke] and I, and NBC as well, that this not be the kind of show that falls down some serialized rabbit hole and loses itself and turns on itself,” co-creator Shawn Ryan said at the Television Critics Association summer press tour on Tuesday. “This show is much more like Back to the Future and Quantum Leap than it is like 12 Monkeys.”

To that end, the series will “be about 80 percent story-of-the-week,” with its time-hopping leads — played by Suits‘ Abigail Spencer, 90210′s Matt Lanter and Better Off Ted‘s Malcolm Barrett — being sent to a different period in every episode for “an epic adventure.”

Among the historic landmarks they will visit in the first half of Season 1, following the Hindenburg-centric pilot: Watergate, World War II Germany, Rat Pack-era Las Vegas, the Alamo and Abraham Lincoln’s assassination (in Episode 2). However, the trio won’t travel too far back and encounter, like, dinosaurs. “I don’t think we’re going to see the building of the pyramids,” Ryan said. “Right now, the farthest we go back to is the 1750s, during the French-Indian War. I don’t think we want to end up in medieval castles [or] the Colosseum – yet.”

To keep all the action simplified, the producers have set a few hard and fast rules. “You cannot go to any point that you exist,” Kripke shared. The characters also can’t revisit a previous time trip and redo their actions. “It forces you to keep moving forward,” the EP explained, adding that the decree results in the kind of “fun and self-enclosed storytelling of something like Quantum Leap.”

But there will be serious notes, as well. In addition to suffering meaningful repercussions of their setting foot in the past, as evidenced at the close of the pilot, Barrett and Spencer’s characters encounter racism and sexism, respectively.

“It’s a really visceral, grounded attack on history, and we don’t sugarcoat it,” Kripke said. “The reality is [Barrett’s alter ego is] going to face all sorts of racism in the different periods.”

The show will also look for avenues to explore “untold history from a minority perspective, from a female perspective,” rather than just retreading the well-known story of rich, white men, he added.

“We’re really looking for a door into not just the iconic history that everyone’s heard before, but to tell a really exciting and fresh history that isn’t dusty and isn’t a school lesson,” Kripke previewed, “but is violent and exciting and very current and allows us to make commentary on issues that are really happening today.”

NBC’s Timeless premieres Monday, Oct. 3 at 10/9c (with Blindspot now airing Wednesdays at 8 pm).

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34 Comments
  1. Antoinette says:

    So in other word 12 Monkeys!

  2. This had zero appeal for me, but the commercials are winning me over.

  3. Stacy says:

    I tune out anything that has to do with time travel, but after reading this article I think I might enjoy it. The premise reminds me of Stargate – a portal that can take you anywhere – or in this case to any time.

  4. Et al. says:

    ‘Don’t worry! We’re not going to make our viewers think!’ What a sad marketing pitch.

  5. Kevin K says:

    Really looking forward to this series. The cast is amazing as does the creative duo of Eric Kripke and Shawn Ryan. This is like a time traveling roller coaster ride and it should get a big boost for a Voice lead-in like it did for Blacklist and Blindspot.

  6. dan says:

    What kills me every time in this kind of show is that they always go back to “significant places and times”. I mean, why couldn’t they go back to Watergate times… in Bolivia? Or World War II South Africa? What the heck was happening there at the time? Or Rat Pack-era middle of Wisconsin? Or the Alamo times in Maine? And so on, and so forth. No, somehow the machines are especially prepared for “interesting” times and places. And, of course, it’s always US-centric, unless it’s bigger than that and it’s Egyptian pyramids all of a sudden, or, I don’t know, the French Revolution — just because those are big events that somehow “justify” the escape. This is seriously an offense to the spectators intelligence.

    • John NYC says:

      It’s a show set for broadcast on American television. Looking over the shoulders of an intense discussion on how far apart to space the wickets in cricket would make for simply riveting Brit Telly, this side of the pond? Notsomuch.

  7. KLS says:

    Ths time of year, everyone is so optimstc about their new shows, it’s like Spring Trainng (MLB) or Traning Camp (NFL). Hard to figure out the contenders from the pretenders. Only time(less) will tell.

  8. Steveo says:

    He’s probably lying, but no serialization = no interest from me.

    • ScottJ says:

      Same for me. The concept might get me to watch initially but its the serial aspects that keep me coming back week after week. It sounds like 80% story of the week means 20% serial . We’ll have to see.

    • Rob Watkins says:

      Not what he said. There will be serial stories, but it won’t just be one long story. There will be one and done episodes, like Buffy, X-Files, and Supernatural. Some of the best episodes in those series were the stand alones, just as some serial shows buckle under the weight of too much serialization.

  9. Maria Foss says:

    Way to go, Shawn Ryan! Before we see one frame of “Timeless” you try to introduce us to the concept behind your time travel series by not so subtly putting down a potentially competing one (“12 Monkeys”). Good to know you’re trying to keep things nice and simple and wrapped up in a bow by the end of every episode too. Those pesky story arcs may be great for storytelling, but are probably a hard sell to the ratings demographic you seem to be aiming for: 18 to 49 year olds who want to watch tv while also playing “Candy Crush” on their cell phones! I’ll keep my serialized rabbit hole, thanks and I’m pretty sure my brain will survive. You folks go ahead and do whatever it is you’re trying to do. I don’t think I’ll be watching.

  10. Lynn says:

    The show will also look for avenues to explore “untold history from a minority perspective, from a female perspective,” rather than just retreading the well-known story of rich, white men – said the rich white man. So this minority and female perspective will probably be written by a mostly white male writers room.

  11. Wow… Relative of philosopher Kripke (I liked *his* work) is scared to make its viewers think too much. Boring. Don’t forget to make Matt lanter jump into bed with all kinds of women for the ratings then!

    • Kevin K says:

      Who knows if Timeless is going to be a breakout hit for NBC much like what Revolution did when it debut four years ago and a lead-in with The Voice on Monday nights. BTW, Revolution was the series that is created and produced by Eric Kripke.

  12. Sharron Hather says:

    Much as I love Eric Kripke’s other show, Supernatural, his “serialized rabbit hole” – i.e. Story arc – episodes were always much better on that show than his “monster of the week” episodes precisely because they had more heart and made you more invested in the show. It strikes me that the “rules” for Timeless are there to help the writers make it up as they go along without having to think about and plan what they’re writing in case of contradicting themselves. (Also something Kripke sometimes did on Supernatural!) Time travel shows *should* be complicated and make the viewer think – which is why 12 Monkeys is such a very, very good show. I actually think reading this article has made me even less likely to watch Timeless because I actually prefer to use my brain while watching television.

    • Rob Watkins says:

      Untrue, some of the best episodes were monster of the week. 24 was super serialized and it collapsed under its own weight very often.

      Time travel neccessarily contradicts itself.

  13. This looks like a crap show to me. Why would I want a dumbed down time travel show? I want to think and to puzzle out what is going to happen. Plus, it’s on NBC and I haven’t forgiven you for cancelling Hannibal yet, so no way!

  14. Jake says:

    Not sure I want to tune in every week to see the characters get insulted or worse by racist/sexist people.

  15. Thogar says:

    It sounds exactly like what you’d expect from science fiction on NBC, or most of the “major” broadcast networks. Dumbed down, non-serialized, and simple because that’s what they think audiences want. NBC hasn’t known what to do with science fiction ever. They proved that with Star Trek 50 years ago and things have only gotten worse since.

    I’ll stick with 12 Monkeys. That’s a show that never insults the viewer’s intelligence, has strong and realistic characters, and an intricate, compelling, cohesive storyline. Timeless, on the other hand, is presented here as a minor distraction easily watched whilst staring at one’s phone.

    In a golden age of true quality television, this is a throwback to the days of the “boob tube” and mindless shows. This does not sound like the kind of interesting, intelligent television I seek. I was excited when I first heard about it, but the more I learn, the more I realize I’ll be watching something else.

    Good luck with your simple little show, NBC.

  16. Donna Kolacny says:

    Definitely will NOT watch this show – “action simplified” for simple minds? I’ll stick with 12 Monkeys, which assumes it’s viewers actually have a brain, and want to use it.

  17. Coverdale says:

    From what Shawn Ryan said, it seems a line like “Green light, kid. We did it!” wouldn’t be out of place in this show.

  18. Sarah White says:

    I was looking forward to this show until I read this. Network tv has enough procedurals, this one will just happen to be time travelers instead of law enforcement. I’m sure they’re safer bets, as viewers can just jump in at any point without having to play catch up via streaming services, but the flip side is that it will reduce viewer engagement, as they will be able to just tune in and out as they see fit.

    Doesn’t sound like it will last more than a season, so I won’t even bother attempting to invest in a program that insults my intelligence. Syfy has bounced back with some intelligent science fiction programming, and Westworld looks to be a hit. Orphan Black still has another season. Time After Time might not be as bad as this one, and it looks like it might be a bit of a stinker.

    The aforementioned 12 Monkeys (that appears to be the example of a “bad time travel show”) is well written and thought provoking with a talented cast. I enjoy the rabbit hole, and have happily opened the bottle labeled “drink me” and enjoyed the trip. We need *more* intelligent programming, not less. If I want a procedural I will stick to Criminal Minds or something like that. I want my sci-fi to be Great like Battlestar Galactica or 12 Monkeys… And that means serial with a compelling, well conceived storyline.

  19. Jami says:

    The same guy who brought us REVOLUTION? No thanks

  20. Ally Oop says:

    So dissapointing. I hate case-of-the-week shows. That’s why I dropped Blacklist.