Time travel shows have exploded on network TV. With the series premieres of Time After Time on ABC and Making History on FOX, on the same night, every broadcast network but CBS now has at least one-time travel show on their schedule. This is not even to mention the time travel series on cable. Though they all approach the same premise, surprisingly none of these shows are very similar and they certainly aren’t of the same quality. We’ve ranked the seven best time travel shows on TV and the result may surprise you.
7. Time After Time
Time After Time might have only aired two episodes but there is really no reason to visit the show beyond them. While none of the shows compiled here are exactly normal, Time After Time is laughably ridiculous. It’s silly enough that H.G. Wells and Jack the Ripper are best friends and have been cast as two actors who are undeniable hunks. When you add in the time travel, the mysterious conspiracy behind it all and the half-baked romance Time After Time is just a mess. There is nothing on the show that isn’t being done better by many, many different series. Time After Time is good for some eye candy from its leads but that is about all it has to offer.
After expanding their superhero universe out even further with Legends of Tomorrow, The CW launched Frequency in 2016. The results were less than stellar. In its first and probably only season, Frequency made the cardinal sin of time travel and took itself entirely too seriously. The series’ premise of a daughter talking to her deceased father through a radio in the garage is a wild one but Frequency had no fun with the idea. None of the characters were having fun on the show as main character Raimy tried to prevent her father’s death (and then her mother’s.) Frequency was really just a drag to watch. No matter how many cool twists were thrown into the story there was never a real reason given to care about anyone or anything.
5. Doctor Who
The beauty of Doctor Who is that because of the main character’s ability to regenerate, the show can reinvent itself constantly by bringing on a new lead. While the series has more history than any show here (and really any show on television) the current iteration of The Doctor, and the series, is not ideal. With Peter Capaldi at the head, Doctor Who feels cynical and tired. It’s a far cry from the swashbuckling glory days of David Tennant and it is a good thing that Capaldi’s days as the Doctor are ending. Maybe the next iteration of the classic character will usher in something fresh and exciting but currently Doctor Who is right smack dab in the middle of the pack.
4. Making History
FOX’s entry into the time travel boom might be a late arrival but it already has made a very strong impression. Making History is the only real comedy here and it really uses that fact to its advantage. Every joke in Making History doesn’t land but that is the case for most comedies. Making History does lovingly poke fun at a sub-genre that has become very common as of late and adds something new and hilarious. It certainly helps that the leads are incredibly likable and have a proven track record of being very funny people. Anything with Adam Pally will at least be passably amusing. The biggest surprise and pretty much the reason to watch the show is Leighton Meester. Meester is having the time of her life playing Paul Revere’s daughter and she is doing a hysterically good job of it.
If you remove the serial killer angle from it, Outlander is really the show that Time After Time wants to be and it’s kind of sad they are trying to emulate it. Outlander is undoubtedly a time travel show but it is a little bit more than that. The story begins with a woman from the 1940s being transported to 1740s Scotland and falling in love with a man there. It is this romance that is the center of the series. There is more to it but the romance between Claire and Jaime is the point of Outlander and it is incredibly well done. The only reason Outlander isn’t higher is because time travel really comes secondary to the romance.
Timeless is far from perfect but it is a ton of fun. The worst part of the show, by far, is the really dull overarching conspiracy narrative concerning Rittenhouse. Everything else the show manages to nail. The core trio of characters are incredibly fun to watch together or apart. Timeless has kept itself to primarily exploring American events but it still manages to get the best out of the little adventures into the past and the team’s mission to protect history. Hopefully Timeless will get a season 2 so it can continue to grow and move away from the boring elements of the series. Don’t keep teasing the audience about Rittenhouse; just let Wyatt, Lucy and Rufus travel through time righting historical wrongs.
1. Legends of Tomorrow
Legends of Tomorrow embraces fully what it means to be a time travel show. It’s true that not everything that happens on the series makes sense and the rules are little vague and malleable. Still, Legends capitalizes on its time travel premise by going anywhere at any time period and telling the best and craziest stories imaginable. One week we can see the diverse superheroes at its center in King Arthur’s court and the next trying to ensure that George Lucas creates Star Wars. The variety is what makes Legends remarkable and well worth anyone’s time.
Legends of Tomorrow isn’t what you’d call a deep show but it is one of the more enjoyable series on TV. There is seemingly no limits to what the show is willing to do with its characters and that creates an enveloping atmosphere of joy and adventure. The cast is huge but every single one of them is given a moment to shine and a reason for the audience to care. Legends of Tomorrow is the gold standard for time travel series and every series in the genre should be trying to emulate at least one aspect from it.
Do you agree with this list? What are you favorite time travel shows, past and present? Are there too many shows about time travel or not enough? Which of these shows is your favorite? Did we miss any big current time travel show?
(Images courtesy of ABC, The CW, NBC, Starz, FOX and BBC)