Five episodes. Five regular episodes was all it took for ABC to kill their new time travel series “Time After Time”, starring H.G. Wells and Jack the Ripper, who live now in modern day after traveling in Wells’ time machine. The series was based on a movie with the same name and premise from 1979, and was actually pretty interesting and enjoyable.
So why, one might say, this new series, in a year full of new and returning time travel series, was so quick to get cancelled? The main reason, of course, is cable networks.
We currently have three successful time traveling series on air, they are both in excellent homes: Doctor Who is on BBC, 12 Monkeys is on SyFy (which got the science fiction great again few years ago), and Legends of Tomorrow is on the CW (along with the entire DC/Arrow universe, which is a solid bet for now).
But this year, the networks joined the celebration with 3 new entries: Timeless on NBC (as of yet wasn’t renewed or cancelled, but why wait if they wanted to renew?), Time After Time on ABC (quickly cancelled), and Making History on Fox (which was reduced to only 9 episodes instead of 13, and is only a 30-minutes comedy with a presumably cheaper budget). See the defining line?
Cable networks can’t handle out of the ordinary concepts. Time travel may be at a peak these days, but it’s very far from mainstream. The same happens every other year, when series such as “The Event”, “Flash Forward”, “Journeyman”, “Jericho”, “Terra Nova”, “Last Resort”, “Persons Unknown”, “Revolution”, and much much more, get developed, pumped for the September season, receive low ratings and then get cancelled.
Networks are known to be a wonderful home for Reality shows, Dramas and Cop Serials. Everything else might get axed, but for the wrong reasons: the story can’t be told good enough within one season when the producers are being pushed to deliver results and viewers. This ends with too much drama on-air, too less story, and too less science fiction. By the way, upon the end of their first season, all of those became much more interesting and thrilling, but it was too late.
Another issue, was the miserable interview in which the executive producers claimed the time travel itself in “Time After Time” will be “a very rare occasion” in the series. “We kind of use time travel, we have a time machine, but time travel will occur only four times over the first 12 episodes”. Seriously?
I’ve already wrote about it before, in my Time Travel Fundamentals post, and I’ll say it again: if you have a time travel series, embrace it, support it, be proud of it. Time travel shouldn’t be a plot excuse just to launch the series and then be forgotten. Time travel can be featured in dramas and in comedies both, and shouldn’t be dismissed anymore as a “science fiction” idea that will make the audience flee. People enjoy science fiction these days, otherwise Marvel wouldn’t have been that successful. Right?
My only wish is that the 3 remaining episodes of Time After Time will one day be broadcasted.
And also, I’d like Timeless and Making History to return to a second season. Is it too much to ask?