Video Vulture: Time After … Whoops! Out of time

Hey guys! I can’t wait to tell you about this new sci-fi show that just started! It’s a reboot of a corny old 1979 time travel flick that I loved, and it’s called Time After Time …

Hold on, what? 

Cancelled?! Already?! After just five episodes? What the hell, ABC?! Why?! Explain yourself!

For those of you who don’t remember the original 1979 film, it featured Malcolm McDowell (looking gloriously nerdy with his waistcoat, waxed moustache and pince-nez) as celebrated author H.G. Wells, only this version of the beloved writer has actually invented a working time machine. On the eve of the device’s completion, Wells’s friend John Stevenson (David Warner!) reveals himself to be none other than Jack the Ripper, and steals the time machine to escape from justice. Horrors! The only thing that H.G. can do now is follow the Ripper to 1979 San Francisco, and stop him before he kills again! 

H.G. (“Herbert” to his friends) is excited to see the glorious future world of the late 1970s, but is dismayed to learn that society hasn’t outgrown violence, as he had hoped. The Ripper, conversely, finds himself completely at home in this new world, as soon as he watches the evening news. 

“Ninety years ago, I was a freak! Today … I’m an amateur,” muses the celebrated serial killer. 

Pardon me for a minute, while I grin like an idiot. The whole “Time travelling writer vs. Jack the Ripper” premise still fills me with glee, and I must have watched this flick dozens of times when it came on Superchannel or whatever I saw it on back in the day. 

So yes, it was probably nostalgia that made me excited to tune in to the Time After Time series premiere on March 5th, 2017, but that nostalgia was generously rewarded. I was hooked immediately, and never missed an episode. 

This time, Wells (Freddie Stroma) and Stevenson/Ripper (Josh Bowman) travel to a future that has Google and smartphones, and the story is expanded to include some tantalizing mysteries. (There are characters who know who Wells is, and who seem to be trying to steal his time machine, or to prevent him from causing some kind of tragedy.) 

The romantic tension between Wells and immediately-smitten modern woman Jane Walker (Genesis Rodriguez) is delicious, as each of the lovebirds try clumsily to adapt to the sexual customs of the others’ era. The show also manages to make the Ripper menacing without turning every episode into a bloodbath. (We’re trying for thrills here, not horror.) 

Sure, critics mostly hated the show. And it was up against all the other new time travel series, like Making History, Timeless, Legends of Tomorrow, Frequency, Outlander and 12 Monkeys. And yes, having episode titles taken from that Cyndi Lauper song (“I Will Catch You,” “Picture Fades,” “Caught Up in Circles”) was corny as hell. But damn it, ABC, couldn’t you have stuck with it for more than one month?! 

Maybe it’s my fault for getting attached. After all, TV shows have been getting cancelled since … I don’t know, what was the first show to ever get cancelled? Man, that must have sucked. Can you imagine working on the very first show to get cancelled? 

“What do you mean, stop making the show? Don’t shows just go on forever? What about those guys over there? How come they still have their show?” 

Well, whatever. These days, I usually don’t see a new TV series until there’s at least an entire season to binge watch, which reduces the risk of being cut off with seven goddamn unaired episodes cast into limbo. That’s what most of us do. But hey, no show would succeed if people didn’t watch from the very beginning, and tell others how great it was. There’s still a lot of pleasure in actually waiting for a new episode to get broadcast. 

Okay, deep breath. Time to accept reality. Time After Time is gone, and I’ll probably never see how the Ripper deals with failing to save the life of the war-hero son he just found out he had. Not unless there’s a home video or streaming release of the unseen chapters. 

So, ABC, what did you put in it’s timeslot?

MATCH GAME? Are you f***ing kidding me? 

John Tebbutt is the Video Vulture. He has been writing about obscure and ridiculous cinema since 1997. You can keep up with his nonsense on his websiteFacebook and Twitter