Kevin Williamson fascinates me. Really. His scripts always get ordered to pilot and his pilots always get ordered to series. That’s how good he is on the page, as a writer, but also as an executive producer. It doesn’t mean his shows are always good -remember Stalker– and last long -remember Hidden Palms– but he’s an incredible storyteller. He simply knows how to write efficient, entertaining and edgy network television. He has a large number of obsessions -serial killers are one, love triangles are another- that make all of this shows very familiar but also very different at the same time because he never tells the same story twice. This pilot season, he created two -This + Ghost at The CW- and produces one, Recon for FOX (Read the preview). Time After Time is definitely the best. And also one of the best pilot scripts at ABC overall. I would VERY surprised if they don’t order it. Because of its quality, because of its huge potential and because of…
Time After Time is not produced in-house, it’s a Warner Bros. Television production. BUT ABC signed an “unprecedented” stacking rights deal with them a few weeks ago so they’re able to offer all in-season episodes –rather than the current practice of the “rolling five” most recent 5 in-season episodes– of any new Warner Bros. series launched in the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons on a variety of video-on-demand platforms. And Time After Time happens to be the only drama pilot in contention at ABC that is produced by them. So you do the maths. If they don’t pick it up, the deal is a waste of money, at least for this first year. They also have comedy pilot Dream Team (read the preview) that is very much alive.
Why such a deal was made? Certainly to avoid another “Forever situation”. Remember last year, the funny police producedural didn’t match ABC’s expectations in terms of ratings and was cancelled after one season, even though it had a huge fanbase, promising storylines and a terrible timeslot where it was almost impossible to do satisfying numbers. If Forever had been a ABC Studios show, they would probably have offered it a second season. But it was from Warner Bros. so it died. I know many fans are still very angry about this and I see Time After Time as a possible way to make amends to them. It’s not the same show, it’s not the same story, it’s not the same actors, but it shares a lot of DNA with Forever and gives the same promise to the audience: a fun, solid series, led by a charming duo, with a hint of science-fiction.
The only big difference –that might also be a real problem– is there is no cop involved at this stage of the story, so no clear procedural element. There’s an ongoing hunt to find Jack The Reaper in New York City and stop his savage crimes towards innocent women, but the rest is mostly dramedic. A man from 1893 navigating modern life is a fertile ground for jokes and awkward situations as you can imagine, including yummy shirtless scenes that makes us very comfortable. It’s really funny and sweet. Plus, HG Wells has an interesting point of view on our society since he’s an outside player who has no other choice but to play the game if he wants to fit in, but as a dreamer, a hopelessly romantic and someone who deeply believes in utopia, he’s very disappointed to discover that the world in 2016 is nothing like what he imagined in his novels. It’s cutely sad.
I just can’t wait to watch Freddie Stroma in this part. He was tremendously sexy in UnREAL. Here, he can be even more. This HG Wells is a mix between Sherlock, Harry Morgan & David Tennant’s Doctor Who. The cliché of the authentic english man who makes girls wet when he cracks a joke or simply opens his mouth. His sort of innocence is a breath of fresh air, compared to the cynicism –which also has its charms– of a Dr House or a Lucifer. Hoping Stroma has a great chemistry with his female partner Genesis Rodriguez. Its success will depend on it. Her character is a buzzy modern girl, not particularly special, not the life of the party, but she has secrets, of course. And a roommate.
The Jack The Reaper part is the most worrying. Not only because he’s played by Revenge‘s Josh Bowman, who’s not a good actor in my opinion. How long can they look for him? It makes me think of The Following. It was a great concept for one season, but what do do you do after that? This example proves it can be very tricky for the writers and nothing good can come out of it. It’s adapted from a book and a movie, which both have a real end. What’s the ultimate goal of Time After Time? I’m not sure. But one element makes me think Kevin Williamson may have a plan. A smart one. Towards the end of the pilot, we’re introduced to a new character, Vanessa Anders, who’s HG’s great granddaughter! And she was waiting for him all along. She knew he would come. We learn characters from HG Wells’ novels have came to life, like Dr Moreau from The Island of Dr Moreau; or The Invisible Man. Maybe every season will tackle a new villain? Anyway, there are many stories to tell.
Time After Time has an ambitious and smart concept where time travel is the just a start. It has everything else it needs to attract a huge fanbase: a charming duo at the center with love in the air, a great deal of fun, suspense… It’s one of the best scripts I’ve read this year, honestly, even though it doesn’t say much. Kevin Williamson did it again! This is impressive.