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Two words that make kids either beeline straight for the nurse's office or turn into history geeks. I fell somewhere in the middle during my school years; I enjoyed learning about history but dreaded memorizing dates and names for exams. College stepped it up a notch for me, when I could choose the history class I wanted to attend: Marx and Marxism, Music History, and Music of the 20th Century inspired the reading of nearly all of George Orwell's literary catalog and an appreciation of everything from Gregorian Chants to John Cage and Robert Johnson.
Graduation happened, adulthood took over, and history slowly disappeared from my radar only to reignite with the occasional historical and dystopian future novels. Learning became more about business and marketing, how to craft the perfect resume, and how to pay college debt while still saving for my future.
Then the Fall of 2016 happened, and a little show about time travel premiered on NBC. Had I not been a dedicated Chicago P.D., Fire, and Med fan glued to my television, I may have missed the promos for it. A show about time travel? It intrigued me, so I caught the first episode of Timeless as it aired live. I was instantly hooked.
Network Television Education
It wasn't just entertainment. Timeless was so much more than that. It was bold, inspirational, intelligent, and taught us that each choice we make affects not only our lives but those around us. It educated us each week on historical people and events we didn't learn in history class:
- The Hindenburg? I lived in New Jersey for the better part of 20 years and had never even heard about it, never mind learned it in history class.
- H.H. Holmes? That was probably too much of a horror story for middle schoolers. The Devil in the White City was added to my Goodreads "Read" list a few weeks ago.
- Al Capone? Yeah, I heard his name before, but that was long after I graduated (and who was Eliot Ness?).
- Citizen Kane? I watched that for the first time a few weeks ago, only inspired by season two, episode three "Hollywoodland".
- Grace Humiston and the Women's Rights March? Never heard of her and vaguely knew about the 1919 march.
Catch my drift? I've purchased movies and books surrounding the people and events mentioned in Timeless (you should check out my Amazon wishlist and my Goodreads "Want to Read" list). In fact, as each episode aired, I sat with my laptop so I could Google those people and events for later research. What adult does that today?
Quantity over Quality
I get it NBC, advertisers, Sony, and streaming services who aren't quite interested in picking up Timeless (yet). I have two music industry degrees, studied marketing, communications, and even completed a few research projects on the film industry. I work for a music publisher in Los Angeles, where I often witness the intricacies of book production, the recording of an album, and film sets, so trust me when I say that I understand that entertainment industry is just that—an industry. It's business. And when you just don't have the eyeballs on a show, advertisers are wary to spend more money on said (expensive) show.
Which begs the question, why weren't people watching it? Yes, it had a terrible time slot for a family-friendly show, some people didn't even know it had been renewed for a second season, and where was the marketing this spring? (I'm looking at you, NBC). Taking a look at the broader viewing audience and reflecting on the shows that are hits for networks, it's not hard to determine a potential reason for quantity to trump quality and a thought-provoking show to go by the wayside.
Our cultural and political climate is in turmoil. We're becoming desperate, fearful, and angry at the words and actions of the people who represent us to the world and the control they inflict on our lives. People living with desperation and fear look for something that is safe, something to take their minds off their current situation, or something that will allow them to shut off their minds. Enter reality TV and cookie-cutter shows that repeat the same storylines with different characters on different networks. These shows are safe. These shows don't stir the pot. These shows allow for laughter, criticism, and most times make us feel better about ourselves and the lives we're living.
It's escapism. We get more formulaic cop, doctor, firefighter, lawyer, and romantic comedy shows because that's what people resort to in troubling times (no hate #OneChicago, I do still love you). We're watching history unfold in front of our eyes, and shows akin to Timeless provoke thought and conversation when all we want to do is bury our heads in the sand and pretend that we're still friends with Canada. Timeless delves into points in history that are uncomfortable to many and in many ways, parallel the events we're living through today (does Rittenhouse remind you of a certain administration? Yes? Exactly my point). We resort to mindless, mind-numbing reality TV and senseless comedy because we don't want to admit that history is literally repeating itself as we speak.
In all reality, shouldn't we be looking towards a show like Timeless to teach us about the past to prepare us for the future, to laugh at Rufus's one-liners, to admire Lucy's passion for history, and to take in strength from Wyatt's fight? Escapism in the form of reality TV and standard formulas teaches us nothing about our past and ourselves. How can we expect to grow as a society if we're reduced to who the next Bachelor or Bachelorette will marry or what new Kardashian scandal is hitting the tabloids? We need quality television that educates, inspires, and provides us with a solid foundation to become a greater, well-educated, and well-rounded society of people, conscious of how our actions create ripple effects around the globe.
What can we do next?
It's hard to pick ourselves up when we're so heartbroken and distraught over the loss of a show that wasn't just a show to so many of us. It was a weekly history lesson, it taught us to fight for what we believe in, that we should be true to ourselves despite what others may think or want for us, and that our choices are what determines the path we take. While our hearts may still ache and tears may still fall, we can't let big business take away the life lessons that Timeless and its cast and crew taught us. Carry the spirit of Timeless with you each and every day:
- Figure out what you're fighting for, and fight for it with every ounce of your heart and soul.
- Read, learn, and inspire. Maybe you could be the next Lucy Preston, Wyatt Logan, or Rufus Carlin teaching future generations about the little-known events that shaped our lives, creating feats of science, or fiercely protecting those you love.
- Geek out over something you are passionate about and don't give a you-know-what about what anyone else thinks.
- Fangirl or fanboy it up when you're in the presence of greatness, because whether you want to admit it or not, we've all been Wyatt meeting Ian Fleming and Wendell Scott, Rufus watching the moon landing at NASA in 1969, and Lucy meeting Abraham Lincoln.
But most of all, be you and don't let anyone get in the way of that.