NBC’s freshman time-travel drama series Timeless is wrapping its 16-episode run tonight before the network has made a decision on its future. While the other two new NBC fall series with shorter seasons, breakout drama This Is Us and comedy The Good Place, both have been renewed, Timeless is on the bubble and will likely have to wait until May to find out its fate.
Timeless has been a big conundrum. It had everything going for it – A-list pedigree with Shawn Ryan and Eric Kripke as creators and executive producers; strong reviews; a great time slot, Monday 10 PM after The Voice; an appealing cast; and being first to market as the only of the three new broadcast time-travel series this season to premiere in the fall. But, while it quickly established a small loyal viewership, Timeless never found a wide audience the way the previous dramas that had launched in the time period did – at least initially – The Blacklist and Blindspot.
With solid time-shifting lifts, Timeless has averaged an OK, not great, 2.2 Live+7 adults 18-49 rating, on par with the third installment in the Chicago franchise, sophomore Chicago Med. Timeless has suffered without The Voice as a lead-in this winter, slipping to a 0.6 and 0.7 demo Day+Same day rating the last two weeks. The drop was partially offset by big DVR lifts, including a +117% for the Feb.6 season low L+SD episode.
“Timeless is what they call a ‘bubble show’. It may come back next year, it may not,” Kripke wrote on Twitter. “We’re damn proud of the show; the actors are killing it; the reviews are great; and our DVR ratings are quite respectable. It’s the live viewer ratings that need some help,” he added, urging fans to get more people to watch the show live. (you can read his entire note under the story.)
The modest ratings performance, which has left NBC brass puzzled, has made Timeless vulnerable to cancellation, but it has support internally.
“We really like it,” NBC Entertainment president Jenifer Salke told Deadline at TCA in January. “I didn’t think it was going to be like This Is Us, but I am a little surprised that it didn’t settle in at a higher number.”
Still, NBC owns half of the show, produced by Sony TV, and I hear that, even with the so-so ratings, the network does not lose money on it.
Timeless also is a rare family viewing show, so I hear NBC has been mulling putting it on at 8 PM, so such a play, possibly on Friday, is considered an option for next season.
In Timeless, the heroes travel back in time to a major event in history, making the show a potential learning tool for schools.
“You learn a little something, and it takes you back to these periods of history, which is interesting,” Salke said, adding that she and NBC chairman Bob Greenblatt both are fans.
In the end, it will come down to NBC’s scheduling needs for next season, but in some cases, a series with loyal – albeit not large – following could be more attractive than spending $30 million to market a new series that may deliver the same ratings.
“There is a lot of passion for it,” Salke said of Timeless.
One factor that could complicate a potential renewal is the ongoing copyright lawsuit against NBC and Sony TV over the show, which may be resolved before the upfronts.
No matter what NBC decides, Ryan and Kripke are not ready to call it quits, with a Season 1 finale designed to set up a second season. You can read my interview with Ryan following the end of the finale telecast later tonight.