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NBC’s Timeless is taking a rather negative view of history.
Like most other time-travel shows, the upcoming drama from Shawn Ryan (The Shield) and Eric Kripke (Supernatural) will send its characters (played by Abigail Spencer, Malcolm Barrett and Matt Lanter) back to various time periods to mess with history. But the key element that sets the series apart from the glut of shows like it is that it will critique the world during those different eras, rather than celebrate it.
“It’s a really visceral, grounded attack on history and we don’t sugarcoat it,” Kripke said Tuesday at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour, specifically pointing to one the show’s key black characters, Rufus (Barrett). “The reality is he’s going to face all sorts of racism in the periods that he’s at that will be specific to those particular periods.”
Kripke went on to explain that criticizing history was an intentional decision from the writers. “One thing we’ve explored when we’ve been breaking the show is that so much of history as we know it is the history of rich white dudes — and yet there’s so much untold history from a minority perspective and a female perspective,” he said. “It was a very intentional, conscious decision that of our three time travelers, one is African-American and one is female because we were really looking for a door into not just tell 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 … and allows us to frankly make commentary on issues that are really happening today.”
Timeless will travel back to several iconic moments in history. Among them: the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, 1962 Las Vegas, the Alamo, Watergate, Germany during World War II and the Space Race in the 20th century. What shouldn’t viewers expect to see? The beginnings of the pyramids, ancient Greece, medieval castles or the Colosseum, the showrunners confirmed.
For his part, Ryan discussed the “story of the week” format of the series, revealing that it will be about 80 percent procedural. “Each episode, we’re going to go back to an iconic period of time and send them on an epic adventure. On the edges — in the beginning of episodes and the ends of episodes — we’re going to have some ongoing stuff, but it’s important … that this not be the kind of show that falls down some serialized rabbit hole and sort of loses itself,” he said, adding that the series is much more like Back to the Future and Quantum Leap than it is 12 Monkeys. “Time travel is something that we use as a device to tell this pretty epic, historical adventure show — and, yes, we’re going to have important personal things … [but they] hopefully aren’t going to get in the way of people dropping in to enjoy an episode when they want.”
Ryan summed it up this way: “This isn’t the kind of show that’s going to make the audience wait forever for answers.”
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