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Time Travel TV: How the Abundance of Time-Bending Shows Could Be Good For TV

Very Good TV Podcast: Traveling to the distant and not-so-distant past has shown a recent growth on TV these days.

Matt Lanter, Abigail Spencer and Malcolm Barrett on "Timeless"

Matt Lanter, Abigail Spencer and Malcolm Barrett on “Timeless”

Sergei Bachlakov/NBC

With two new time travel TV shows airing this past weekend with “Making History” and “Time After Time,” it’s worth looking at the recent abundance of shows which deal with going back in time. Why is this genre becoming so popular? It could be that audiences are feeling nostalgic, or want to escape to the past because they’re tired of our modern times, or maybe it’s just that it makes for some damn good television.

READ MORE: ‘Making History’ Review: Leighton Meester is a Badass Feminist Pioneer in Fox’s Delightful Time Travel Comedy

Last year, the J.J. Abrams-produced Hulu series “11.22.63” saw James Franco as a high school teacher go back in time to try and prevent JFK from being assassinated. The limited series received generally positive reviews, ranking perhaps as one of the better Stephen King adaptations.

Another recent time travel show was yet another adaptation, Syfy’s “12 Monkeys.” Based on Terry Gilliam‘s 1995 thriller starring Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt, the show focuses on a man, played by Aaron Stanford, who travels back in time to try and solve the mystery of the epidemic that produced the post-apocalyptic future he lives in. The show saw a decline in viewership following its initial season, suggesting that time might be up for the show following its upcoming third season, which has been announced to air later in 2017.

READ MORE: ‘Time After Time’ Review: A Super-Hot Jack the Ripper Evokes Peculiar Questions in Sporadically Fun Time Travel Drama

Timeless” premiered this past October on NBC, and has been a decently successful show for the network through its first season. The plot centers on three central characters, played by Abigail Spencer, Malcolm Barrett, and Matt Lanter, who travel back in time to preserve the balance of history, and while the show’s second season is still up in the air, it did receive the honor of being one of Indiewire’s trickiest current time travel shows.

Some other notable current series within this genre are “Frequency” on the CW, superhero series such as “The Flash” and “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow,” and “Outlander,” available on Starz. It’s probably safe to say none of these shows will stand the test of time like BBC’s iconic “Doctor Who,” but a better question to ask is if this trend is simply just a fad that audiences will eventually grow bored of?

Listen to IndieWire TV Editor Liz Shannon Miller and TV Critic Ben Travers debate the issue on this week’s Very Good TV Podcast (above). Don’t forget to subscribe via Soundcloud or iTunes, and follow IndieWire on Twitter and Facebook for all your pertinent TV news. Check out Liz and Ben’s Twitter feeds for more, more, more. Plus, don’t forget to listen to IndieWire’s other podcastsScreen Talk with Eric Kohn and Anne Thompson, as well as Michael Schneider’s new podcast, Turn It On, which spotlights the most important TV of each week.

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