Premiere Date: Monday, October 3, 2016 — 10/9C, NBC
RUFUS: I am black. There is literally no place in American history that will be awesome for me.
Eric Kripke, of Supernatural fame, co-created this new series. So I was predisposed to liking it, even though time travel: not my thing. But it turns out, my dislike of time travel eclipses my love of Kripke — despite the occasional flashes of pop culture funny found here — and there is so much else that is so tiresome going on in Timeless that I really just can’t even tell you.
Still, I’ll try.
History professor Lucy Preston (Abigail Spencer) is an engaging lecturer, but that is not enough to get her tenure, according to the handsome head of her department who must surely show up again in later episodes, or else why is he played by David Sutcliffe? (Hi, Christopher!) What it is enough to get her is seconded onto a time travelling team searching out escaped madman Garcia Flynn (Goran Višnjić) who has stolen the Elon Musk-esque Connor Mason’s (Patterson Joseph) time machine.
It really does happen just that quickly.
Joining Lucy in the past — in 1937, just before the crash of the Hindenberg, as Lucy deduces immediately — is oddly foolish Delta Force soldier Wyatt Logan (Matt Lanter) and jumpy coder/reluctant pilot Rufus Carlin (Malcolm Barrett). Together they must try to avoid Butterfly Effect-ing the future as well as stop Flynn from changing history for some as yet ill-defined purpose, something about bringing down the American hegemony before it really begins, which the show presents to us as though that would be an entirely bad thing.
Timeless isn’t completely terrible. Abigail Spencer is delightful as Lucy, there’s some fun historical trivia to learn and share, the discomfort of Rufus at being a black man in the American 30s is beautifully played, and if you like a persuasive, charismatic villain with complex motivations, then Višnjić’s Flynn fits the bill. The mysterious Mason is also somewhat intriguing, and man, Matt Lanter is pretty.
But here’s why it’s not going to make it onto my weekly schedule. For one, the plot holes are significant and insane, and that’s not even counting any that are time travel-related. Of those, the most pointed comes after our team returns from ’37 having (not entirely) prevented catastrophe, and we are told they can’t go try again because they cannot be present twice in the same time period. Solid exposition there, to be sure, but quite why other people can’t go back and try again, forewarned with the knowledge painstakingly gleaned by our intrepid time travelers the first go around, is not adequately, or even at all, explained.
Secondly, the Lucy/Wyatt ship is established here so early this might as well be a Hallmark Channel rom-com, and while I am all for a burgeoning romance in my television viewing — the more potentially angst-filled the better (thanks, Joss) — I could only roll my eyes at how incredibly unsubtle it was presented to us here, an insta-ship all gift-wrapped with a bow. It’s the equivalent of when networks put up hashtags of events unfolding on screen to helpfully kickstart a conversation on Twitter: seriously, don’t try so hard! These things have to happen organically, or they’re just not worth it.
But finally, this show is just too much like other shows I have seen before to make it high up on the priority list in what is a pretty bumper TV season. From as far back as Time Trax through to Continuum and even DCs Legends of Tomorrow (Flynn is very Vandal Savage), chasing criminals through time is a well-trodden tale that this attempted retelling doesn’t do differently enough to make essential viewing. Possibly, I’ll give it a binge throughout the summer hiatus — should it even last a full season — but week-to-week, there just isn’t enough here to warrant my attention.
Really, Kripke should have just brought us Octocobra.
SEASON PASS: No.