Time is the big theme for the fall TV season, from the alternate worlds created in “The Flash” to the different time lines that ripple through the new CW series “Frequency.”
No show will be more involved with time, however, than NBC’s “Timeless.” The premise: A criminal steals a secret time machine with the intention of changing America by manipulating the past. History’s only hope rests on a scientist, soldier and history professor who are trying to correct the time changes.
Abigail Spencer, Matt Lanter, Malcolm Barrett, Goran Visnjic, Paterson Joseph, Sakina Jaffrey and Claudia Doumit star.
Series creators faced some of the similar issues that have haunted those dealing with time travel in the past. The biggest brain-twister is that if you fail a mission in the past, why not just go back to that time period and keep trying until the plan works?
The producers created a no-repeat rule to avoid such a situation.
“You cannot go to any point that you exist. And that’s a really hard rule for our show. Frankly, it’s designed to keep a certain self-enclosed simplicity to it,” says Eric Kripke, executive producer. “It’s a rule that we talked a lot about in the room to create the fun forward momentum that a show like ‘Quantum Leap’ would have.
“So rather than always doubling back and meeting doubles and triples of yourself, you always have to keep moving forward.”
That rule also means they can’t go back in time to stop the theft of the time machine because the team members exist in that time frame.
Another rule that is in place – at least for this season – is that the time travelers cannot travel father back than 1750, the French Indian War. Trips to the Colosseum in Rome or to run from dinosaurs are only possibilities in future seasons.
Not only will the show be looking at specific historical events – such as the crash of the Hindenburg – but it will examine social issues of the time period as well. All of these elements are exciting to Spencer.
“As an actor, that is such a delicious treat. We’re shooting right now the 1865 episode, and I am in the most glorious getup of all time with the hoop skirts and the pantaloons and the corsets and the whole thing,” Spencer says. “And then, on Friday, I’m going to be in 1960s wear, so it’s really, really been a beautiful process.”
How that all plays out will depend on how much time NBC gives “Timeless” to build an audience.
Hayley Atwell spent two seasons playing a champion of justice in the 1940s on the ABC series “Marvel’s Agent Carter.” The British actress moves into the 21st century with her new series, “Conviction.” It’s a change in decades, but she’s still playing a character dealing with truth and justice.
She plays lawyer and first daughter Hayes Morrison, who, instead of going to jail for cocaine possession, agrees to run a team looking into potential cases of wrongful conviction.
Atwell has had no trouble making the transition to her new role.
“I think my job is to kind of be as flexible as I can with discovering new characters and new storylines, and it feels like an easy transition when you have good material,” Atwell says. “When you have material that is strong enough where the character kind of pings at you from the page, then it’s a matter of just inhabiting a world that’s already been formed for you.
“So it was a very welcome challenge, but something that I didn’t find was daunting. I was thrilled by it, really.”
A big part of her new character is that she’s playing someone who has been in the public eye all her life. Atwell didn’t do a lot of research into the lives of presidential children. It wouldn’t have been much help as none of those offspring have been as wild and crazy as Hayes.
“There’s a wild aspect of her. I think she’s at times feeling that she is not so much reckless, but in kind of a reckless situation, or with the environment she’s in, she’s kind of just she’s reacting to that,” Atwell says. I did feel that there were elements of Hayes where she’s just stayed at the party too long, and she doesn’t quite know how to leave.
“And she’s missed her ride, and the lights have gone off, but she’s eating congealed pizza.”
- 10 p.m. Monday, Oct. 3, NBC (Channel 24.1)
- 10 p.m. Monday, Oct. 3, ABC (Channel 30.1)