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‘Timeless’ review: Drama series doesn’t satisfy

Time-travel action series about a group tracking a criminal through time. (Credit: Timeless)

THE SERIES “Timeless”

WHEN | WHERE Premieres Monday at 10 p.m. on NBC/4

GRADE B-

WHAT IT’S ABOUT A bad guy, Garcia Flynn (Goran Višnjić), and his gang have stolen a time machine, apparently with the intention of changing history, and thereby destroying the world. That’s not clear, but it doesn’t look good anyway. The good guys, led by top scientist Connor Mason (Paterson Joseph) want their darn time machine back before he does it. Fortunately, they’ve got another one in which to chase him. The call goes out to amazing historian Lucy Preston (Abigail Spencer), dashing special ops guy Wyatt Logan (Matt Lanter) and brilliant computer specialist Rufus Carlin (Malcolm Barrett) to get in the thing and chase him down. First stop: 1937, and the Hindenburg. The drama’s showrunners are Shawn Ryan (“The Shield”) and Eric Kripke (“Supernatural”).

MY SAY Like clockwork, the time usually comes during any show about time travel when you stop watching the show and start thinking about time. And not just the usual meanderings of the human mind as it starts to wander — “What time is the Giants game Sunday?” or “When am I supposed to be at the dentist?” — but more fundamental questions relating to logic.

In the case of “Timeless,” that arrives fairly quickly. For example, why should Lucy, Wyatt and Rufus travel back in time to stop Flynn from doing whatever he plans to do when — by virtue of them actually existing and discussing the historic event he planned to change — he has already clearly failed? The historic event — say, Lincoln’s assassination in the second episode — remains part of history. He did nothing. No reason to go back. Write off the time machine as just a bad investment. History is unchanged.

Ergo: Flynn flopped.

Then there’s the other possibility. Flynn got trapped in a “predestination paradox time loop,” in which he succeeded and as a result, returns to do the deed again and again, ad infinitum. The opening moments when he steals the machine would be his own personal “Groundhog Day.” But Lucy, Wyatt and Rufus still wouldn’t need to chase him down.

Ergo: No need for “Timeless” either.

So you now see what I mean. We’re not even talking about the show in this review (which we will eventually. How much time have you got?).

“Timeless’s” almost-clever way around these paradoxes is by making Lucy/Wyatt/Rufus part of the historic event — they have to be there because they were part of it in the first place — which means they are also trapped in the predestination paradox time loop with Flynn.

Now we’ve got a TV series. Alas, we’ve also got one that could last on into infinity, and beyond, which would be a bad thing. A very bad thing.

Not that “Timeless” is bad. It’s not, but it is merely OK — not quite tricky enough to satisfy the hard-core geeks, not quite mindless enough to satisfy someone who just wants to watch the tube and forget a long day. But it is tricky, with at least one interesting twist (of course, no spoilers here). And bonus point for the return of Goran Višnjić, who almost seemed to disappear from TV after his fine run on “ER.”

BOTTOM LINE “Timeless” is not mindless — although perilously close at times — with a twist that might turn out to actually be interesting one of these days.

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