Time travel, time travel and more time travel. You start to get the idea that people would rather be anywhere (or anywhen) than 2017. NBC’s satisfying adventure drama “Timeless” just ended its first (maybe only) season with a cliffhanger, but the chrono-surfing never ends.
“Time After Time,” premiering Sunday on ABC, is a drama based on the 1979 movie, which was based on a novel, which was inspired by the life and works of author H.G. Wells. This version, created by Kevin Williamson (“The Following,” “Stalker”), adheres to the basic premise: It’s 1893 in London, and Wells (Freddie Stroma of “Unreal”) discovers that a surgeon friend of his, Dr. John Stevenson (Josh Bowman of “Revenge”), is the murderer dubbed “Jack the Ripper” by Scotland Yard. Just as detectives arrive at Wells’s house to make an arrest, Stevenson escapes using Wells’s basement contraption — a steampunk time machine that clanks and whirs and sends the psychotic madman to New York in 2017.
Because Stevenson doesn’t have the shiny brass key to keep the machine parked, it returns to the basement, where Wells hops in to follow Stevenson and bring him to justice. Like all time-travel shows, it would be entertaining enough to simply follow the 19th-century newcomers around Manhattan for an hour and see how they react. But because it’s been told to hurry up and act like a sexy crime series, “Time After Time” offers the barest glimpse of their culture-shock and awe.
And because it’s a crime series from Williamson, whose serial-killer shows always feature the most mediocre and trendy takes on violence, Jack the Ripper gets a Zara-and-Supercuts makeover and hits New York’s hottest clubs to slice and dice some lovelies.
“We don’t belong here,” Wells tells the killer, once he finds him.
“On the contrary,” Stevenson replies. “I belong here completely.”
“Time After Time” is not nearly as compelling or creepy as it aims to be — it could use a smidgen of the fun that “Timeless” came by naturally. Nevertheless, Stroma gives a capable performance as a hero who is as confused as he is earnest, and lucky for him that he’s bumped into all the right people, including a museum curator (Genesis Rodriguez) who believes his story and a corporate executive (Nicole Ari Parker) who’s been searching for him for decades. While the murderer is on the loose, another crisis presents itself when Wells warns of a potential time chasm that could swallow all of existence. I think the technical term for it is a yawn.
Slightly better (and a thousand times goofier) is Fox’s “Making History,” also premiering Sunday, a likable but largely forgettable comedy from the producers of “Last Man on Earth” starring Adam Pally (“Happy Endings”) as Dan, a slacker who has acquired a large duffel bag that can uncomfortably carry at least three passengers through time.
Dan has been visiting Lexington, Mass., in the mid-1770s, where he has fallen in love with Deborah Revere (yes, the daughter of, played by Leighton Meester of “Gossip Girl”).
“There’s a house I think we should look at,” she tells him. “It’s five dollars.”
“I’m just not ready for a commitment right now,” Dan says.
“What commitment?” she counters. “There’s a flu going around — we’ll be lucky to live through winter.” (And so on. “Making History” eagerly makes any available joke, with about a 52 percent LOL rate, depending on the viewer’s mood.)
Back in the present, Dan realizes he made a goof somewhere and prevented the American Revolution from happening — so he enlists the help of an African American history professor, Chris (Yassir Lester), to travel back with him and set things right. As all the current time-travel shows like to remind us, race remains an issue no matter where you land.
“Slave!” an 18th-century bartender screams at Chris. “Who brought a slave in here?”
“Wow,” Chris says. “Good to see Boston hasn’t changed.”
Making History (30 minutes) premieres Sunday at 8:30 p.m. on Fox.
Time After Time (two hours) premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. on ABC.