Super-tall skyscrapers are apparently killing the concept of the “elevator pitch.” How else can you explain how a premise like the one in this new NBC series called “Timeless” ever saw the light of day? It probably took an elevator ride of nearly a hundred stories to explain this one, after which the weary recipient of this pitch probably had such a severe headache that he or she would have said anything to make it stop.
Are you ready for this? In this new one-hour drama, premiering Monday night, a rogue terrorist dreams up a unique strategy for destroying the U.S. -- stealing a top-secret time machine, and then traveling into the past to prevent or otherwise alter historical events – thereby changing what happens afterward.
The show is based on the childish notion that if you go back and, say, prevent the death of this or that person -- or conversely cause the death of someone else who wasn’t supposed to die just then -- the result would be nothing less than a wholesale redrawing of the map of world history from then on.
This theory has always struck me as poppycock, even when I was around 14 years old -- which would seem to be the target audience NBC is trying to attract with this ludicrous scenario.
In the premiere episode, a team of three -- a special forces vet, a history professor and a computer geek -- are suddenly thrown together by a shadowy unit within the Department of Homeland Security to go chasing after this time-traveling anarchist in another time machine that was kept handy as a spare in case the other one was stolen.
As shown in the photo above, the team lands in a clearing inside some woods near Lakehurst, New Jersey, in May 1937 -- the location and time where this terrorist has traveled in order to change the fate of the Hindenburg, the German zeppelin that famously burned and crashed there. Next week, in Episode Two, they’ll become involved somehow in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
None of it is believable on any level. For openers, the New Jersey of 1937 is depicted as being just as racist as a state located deep in the Jim Crow south such as Mississippi. For example, the African-American character (played by Malcolm Barrett) -- the computer geek who this show’s writers have actually named Rufus -- is forced to sit in the back of a New Jersey bus. If this was a true fact -- that black people had to ride in the back of buses in New Jersey in the 1930s -- then it’s news to me.
The show begins in the most tasteless way possible, thanks to the show’s writers. As the Hindenburg is making its approach to land, a sailor marveling at the spectacle says innocently: “Can you believe something this big can actually fly?”
To which a woman standing nearby replies: “Men … always obsessed with how big something is!” Actually, she’s wrong. Men generally are not obsessed with this subject, but TV writers are.
Not to be outdone, the show shifts to the present day and the history prof (played by Abigail Spencer) is giving a lecture about the size of LBJ’s penis. I can hardly wait to hear what she says about Lincoln in next week’s show.
This season (if not the last few seasons), hour-long dramas about threats to the United States and the shadowy Homeland Security units that have been formed to prevent them are a dime a dozen. That’s about how much this show called “Timeless” happens to be worth.
“Timeless” premieres Monday night (Oct. 3) at 10 Eastern on NBC.