NBC announced yesterday that their freshman time travel series Timeless will be getting an additional three episodes which will cap off its first season at sixteen. Those three eps are six short of the typical “Back 9” that a series gets to bring it to the standard full season order of twenty-two, and in the past that shortened order would suggest that a show is in trouble. In the ratings-pocalypse environment, it’s not as easy to make that determination, though. NBC’s breakout hit this season This Is Us only has a total of eighteen episodes for its first season and FOX’s juggernaut Empire has had no more than eighteen episodes in a season thus far. But Timeless will be the first Fall series to premiere in the highly coveted post-The Voice timeslot to not get the Back 9 pickup. The show has been losing a fair amount of its lead-in audience and recently slipped to a season low 1.1 rating based on the overnights for the 18-49 demographic this week (though that was Halloween night and all shows were down including The Voice). The additional three episodes of Timeless are likely just schedule padding because networks don’t have as many shows waiting in the wings these days and it is cheaper to order more episodes of an existing series then to start up a new one. And Timeless is a more expensive show to produce because each episode is set in a different period in time. The fact that its ratings have not been great thus far and that it is more expensive than the average show will work against it as well. I’m willing to bet that NBC has told the show’s producers to wrap up as many storylines as possible by that sixteenth episode so that the show will play better in binge-viewing on one or more of the streaming services. Whether it gets a chance to continue beyond that will depend on if it can build back its audience in the coming weeks and months. If its numbers stay low, I expect NBC to shuffle it to a different timeslot. And if that happens, consider it a dead show walking. For now, I am raising it Cancellation Alert Level to Moderate and will watch closely how it tracks in the coming weeks.
The other time travel show currently airing, The CW’s Frequency, is also struggling in the ratings and looks like it may miss being included in that network’s typical blanket renewal of all its Fall shows. That one is currently at a Medium Cancellation Alert Level. And FOX’s upcoming time travel comedy Making History had its episode order cut short which I discuss in more detail at this link.