Why fans want to protect the past and save the future of ‘Timeless’
When the sci-fi series Timeless dropped on NBC back in 2016, it was hailed a smart time travel drama with a solid future ahead. The story centers on an unlikely trio: Lucy Preston (Abigail Spencer), a historian and anthropologist; Wyatt Logan (Matt Lanter), a special ops military dude; and our #1 Rufus Carlin (Malcolm Barrett), a computer programmer who works for an Elon Musk-type mogul. The threesome travel through time in order to battle unknown criminals and protect history as we know it.
Although it garnered numerous fans (or “Clockblockers” as they’re now known), including Ghostbusters’s Leslie Jones and Star Trek’s William Shatner, to say Timeless has had a bumpy ride would be an understatement – it’s had more ups and downs than a Nicolas Cage performance. The show was cancelled after its first season before being resurrected by NBC, thanks in part to a reaction of epic proportions from the show’s dedicated fanbase.
— Eric Kripke (@therealKripke) May 13, 2017
Timeless was picked up for a tumultuous ten more episodes which aired earlier this year. And with S2 the show appeared to have tightened its production even more, offering a leaner, smarter, and funnier narrative driven by the characters, their chemistry, and their time-travelling hijinx as they battled it out with some spiced-up villains.
All was looking well for Timeless at last – perhaps the choppy waters were finally starting to settle. But of course, this didn’t last for long and a fucking tsunami headed our way in the shape of the show’s second cancellation. Much to the dismay of the creators and of those who enjoyed the second season of Timeless even more than the first, NBC announced the decision to axe the sci-fi saga once more.
As such, any chance of a third season is now dead in the water. Per Digital Spy: “Co-creator Shawn Ryan has confirmed attempts to land the show on another network have failed . . . the only hope now resting on a final movie to wrap things up.”
1. This is a sad day for the writers, actors, crew and especially the viewers of Timeless. We are all extremely proud of what we made and know that it was more than just a show for so many of our fans. It became a passion and a cause for many of them. https://t.co/FPbySi7LXZ
— Shawn Ryan (@ShawnRyanTV) June 22, 2018
2. We’re proud of the impact @NBCTImeless had on so many people – the students who embraced history as a result of our show, the people who were inspired by our stories of inclusion and acceptance. We saw your tweets and were inspired by you.
— Shawn Ryan (@ShawnRyanTV) June 22, 2018
1. @SPTV has notified @TheRealKripke and me that efforts to land #Timeless at another network have sadly failed. While Sony will continue to look at any and all options, actor deals have expired and it appears there will be no Season 3 or beyond.
— Shawn Ryan (@ShawnRyanTV) July 2, 2018
Much like Sense8, which saw a similarly passionate outcry from its fans after Netflix cut the show just two seasons in, it would appear the only remaining hope for Timeless is a finale movie. “Discussions still take place between @SPTV and @NBC about a possible 2-hour movie to conclude the #Timeless story, but there are considerable economic obstacles that make it an uncertainty,” Ryan went on to announce on Twitter.
Once again we’ve been stuck in a time loop with the show and it’s a frustrating place to be. Even if a finale movie were to go ahead, it wouldn’t be enough to satisfy the Timeless fandom who are deserving of far more than a two-hour special.
The second season took our heroes to new places as they discovered an unlikely ally on their mission to ruin Rittenhouse. Going after sleeper agents hidden throughout history, Rufus, Wyatt, and Lucy headed back to 1692, 1917, 1941, and 1981, and visited such historical figures as Marie Curie, Hedy Lamarr, William Randolph Hearst, Harriet Tubman, and a legion of other influential people of the past.
The reaction spoke for itself, with fans & critics alike singing S2’s praises for bringing an even better set of high-octane adventures to the small screen. Hank Stuever from the Washington Post wrote, “Timeless is like old-fashioned TV with a modern sense of momentum and wit.”
The AV Club’s Allison Shoemaker declared, “It’s not just back. It’s here with more spirit and energy and focus, displaying a willingness to reset the status quo without leaving the events of the first season in the dust.” Elsewhere, fans took to Twitter to write, “I’m seriously obsessed with the show #Timeless,” and, “Ya’ll need to watch the show Timeless.”
The outcry since the second cancellation was announced has seen the birth of an online #SaveTimeless campaign, matching that of the supernatural young adult show Shadowhunters. Since June when the show was axed, its dedicated fandom launched the #SaveShadowhunters campaign and its members continue to call on Freeform to rethink its decision.
— Shawn Ryan (@ShawnRyanTV) July 22, 2018
Much like the #SaveShadowhunters initiative – which saw a #SaveShadowhunters pedicab (bought with funds raised by fans) circling this year’s San Diego Comic-Con – Timeless Clockblockers raised money to hire two helicopters to fly a #SaveTimeless banner over the SDCC, which was live streamed online.
— Chris Parnell (@ChrisFParnell) July 22, 2018
And just as actor Jack Yang rocked up to SDCC in character as Shadowhunter’s Asmodeus and rode that pedicab with all the swagger of the prince of hell, Malcolm Barrett rocked up to surprise the Clockblockers at the SDCC (at least Rufus did return – kinda).
In fact, the fan reaction to Timeless’s cancellation has been just as strong as that of Shadowhunters. And while both Freeform and NBC have yet to reply to the many questions circling their decisions to cut these shows, it does indicate how fan engagement is shaping the future of television.
Let’s not forget the success of One Day at a Time and the fanbase who refused to stand down when Netflix announced its cancellation. After indicating S3 was a no-go, viewers took to Twitter, sent out official letters, and posted emotive articles about why the show needed to stay – not only to explore the story further, but for its representation of Latinx culture on the small screen. Netflix listened to the outcry and the show was renewed for a third season in March.
Similarly, Brooklyn Nine-Nine was picked up by NBC just days after Fox gave it the boot, with Melissa Fumero crediting the show’s fans for saving the Nine-Nine by stating, “You did this!! You got loud and you were heard and you saved our show!!”
As we change the way we watch TV, such online campaigns and fan reactions depict why a show’s future should not be based solely on live metrics. Networks and streamers are waking up to this fact, but it’s a slow progress. Until then, the devoted followers will continue to fight the good fight and that goes for Timeless and its merry Clockblockers. As proved by One Day at a Time and the Nine-Nine, time has not yet run out for Timeless – watch this space!