It's About Time: First Look at Time Travel TV Shows of 2016/2017

by BROCK KOLLER

The Flash. Outlander. Legends of Tomorrow. 11.22.63. Frequency. Time After Time. Making History. Timeless.

Pretty soon there will be Chicago Time Traveler and NCIS: Time Warp. Well, not yet, but it feels like we are getting there.

The new TV season – if there still is such a thing - will see the trend of time travel take over the television airwaves.  Which is all fine with me.

Being an absolute fanatic about Back to the Future, I have never been one to shy away from a new venture in the time travel genre.  Journeyman, Life on Mars, 7 Days, I’ve watched them all.

But when is too many too many? It might be the Fall of 2016 and beyond.

Right now, all we have to examine the future of time travel TV are the sneak peek trailers the networks pushed out a few months ago. Yes, these few minutes are really not the best way to determine the quality of a show, but unless a time machine pops out of the space-time continuum to take me to the premiere of each show, this is all I got to go on.

Frequency

‘Frequency,’ the 2000 movie starring Dennis Quaid and Jim Caviezel, is one of my favorites. It had a different approach to the time travel concept. No one actually traveled through time physically. There were no vortexes, no wormholes, no bending of space. There was the aroura borealis, but that’s a usual occurrence in reality. A father spoke to his older son in the future through a ham radio. They were able to alter the future, but sometimes not for the better. It was a fantastic concept and when I heard they were finally going to turn it into a television series, I was all for it. Of course, the thought then goes – it made a great 2-hour movie, but how could it make a great TV series for years to come? That’s not my job to figure that out. 

 

Right off the bat, knowing that this comes from Jeremy Carver, a producer-writer on the long-running and constantly charming ‘Supernatural,’ is a big plus for ‘Frequency.’ The writer of the movie Toby Emmerich is also onboard as a producer.

Some changes. The lead is no longer a male cop, but a female cop. And it no longer is 1999 and 1969, but 2016 and 1996. However, some things are the same as the original – ham radio, talk of baseball which makes them figure out who each other is, a murderer on the loose. Again, it all worked it in the span of 120 or so minutes in 2000, but can it last in a longer format? I’m excited to find out, as I really am still intrigued at this take on time travel and want this show to succeed.

Frequency premieres October 5 on The CW

Time After Time

Growing up, as alluded to before, there was no better time travel movie for me to watch than Back to the Future. It had it all, as I explained in a previous blog back on Back to the Future Day. But every so often, I would stumble upon another version of the time travel story – Doctor Who, Quantum Leap, Josh Kirby…Time Warrior, Time Cop, and more. Then I found this strange film on the local movie channel and I was just totally confused. Is that H.G. Wells? The author of The Time Machine? Why is he going after Jack the Ripper? What is happening? I would ask those questions every time I found this movie. Until I finally saw the beginning scenes. The movie was called ‘Time After Time.’ It was created in 1979 and saw both Wells and the suspected Ripper travel from the 1890s London to the 1970s California. Like ‘Frequency,’ this movie with another take on time travel is being made into a television series for the Fall of 2016.

 

Like the original – H.G. Wells’ friend steals the time machine and, like the original, his friend turns out to be Jack the Ripper. Here’s the change this time around: when the two land in the future, it’s no longer 1979 San Francisco, but 2016 New York. And because this is a TV series, more characters need to be introduced – including Wells’ great-granddaughter!! Hmmm…interesting. I’m wondering if this chase will end up spanning other time eras or will they stay in the present. This show does have a seasoned vet behind it – Kevin Williamson, creator of ‘Dawson’s Creek,’ ‘The Vampire Diaries,’ and ‘Scream.’ So this show has the chance to be both really dramatic and terrifying. Sign me up!

Time After Time premieres on ABC on TBD

Making History

OK, so technically ‘Making History’ doesn’t premiere on FOX until 2017, but the trailer is up, so it’s got to be reviewed. This is the only comedy take on the time travel format in the upcoming TV season. Can time travel work for laughs? Have I mentioned ‘Back to the Future?’ The show is produced by Phil Lord and Chris Miller of ‘Lego Movie’ fame.

 

Here’s how FOX explains it: “Two shows in one, it’s both a rollicking historical adventure, and a contemporary comedy about love, friendship and trying to fit in to an increasingly complex and impersonal world." Rollicking is always good, right?

While this show has its own version of the time travel story, it centers on the constant time travel question – if I can go back in the past, can I alter the future? It plays on that in a comedic fashion – duffel bag time machine, ham as currency, movie quotes used as revolution inspiration, and especially when introducing the female lead in the show as Paul Revere’s daughter. Hey, it’s a time travel show, so why not make a character related to a historical figure?

Adam Pally has been hilarious in whatever show he’s been on – ‘Happy Endings,’ especially and this should be no different here.

The issue is by the time this show debuts, all the other time travel shows will likely have seen their fate sealed. Will this show premiere too late and us time traveler lovers be exhausted by then?

Making History premieres on FOX in 2017

Timeless

Like ABC’s ‘Time After Time,’ NBC’s ‘Timeless’ features a criminal who steals a time machine. But whereas one person goes to the stop him in ‘Time After Time,’ ‘Timeless’ features three protagonists. And in another difference, this criminal doesn’t stay in one year, he travels through time.  The series is produced by the team behind ‘The Blacklist.’

 

When comparing the new entries into the time travel TV mythos, the trio concept is exclusive to ‘Timeless.’ This is also more of a serious, reality-based sci-fi show. It is the first show of these to mention Homeland Security. The showrunners say they will not hide from the racist and sexist parts of bygone eras.

The concept though is very similar to The CW’s ‘Legends of Tomorrow.’ A group of good guys travel through time to stop a madman from turning the future into his vision. Of course, on ‘Timeless,’ none of the good guys and gals have superpowers. That we know of.

Timeless premieres on NBC on October 3.

All in all, the four shows premiering this upcoming “TV season” centering around time travel all have potential. None are too much like the others, except the whole time travel thing.

But we have to remind ourselves, there’s still ‘The Flash,’ ‘Outlander,’ ‘Legends of Tomorrow,’ ‘12 Monkeys,’ ‘Doctor Who,’ and I’m sure others that I’ve never watched – who has the time!

The question is will these shows be worth our time, stand the test of time, and last long enough for us to remember them?

Time will tell.