But what about Rufus? This is bad news for Timeless fans — for a second consecutive year, NBC has canceled the time-travel series. This time, NBC postponed the renewal decision until after the May upfronts; it comes just days before the options of the series’ cast are set to expire.

That was in part because the network and Timeless producer Sony Pictures TV had been discussing doing a two-hour movie that would resolve the cliffhanger in the recent Season 2 finale and wrap the stories on the show, giving fans closure. I hear the two sides have not been able to make the economics work so far but conversations continue, and NBC appears interested.

Sony TV is known for fighting for its shows. The studio already tried shopping Timeless to other buyers and is expected to explore every avenue, but I hear it is not planning to extend the cast’s options, which expire June 30, as it is pretty costly. If a movie materializes, everyone will have to make a new deal, but given how invested all stars of the show have been, engaging the fans on social media, that likely won’t be a problem.

“Behind the scenes, Sony has been trying hard to set it up elsewhere, but no luck so far,” co-creator Eric Kripke said on Twitter. “I think this 2 hour movie is our best shot. We’re ready to make it if @nbc really wants it.”

Doing two-hour movie finales is very expensive as it involves ramping up production and reassembling a team with little financial upside for the series’ network or studio. The economics are especially challenging on broadcast TV; the only series that has done it in the past decade or so was CBS’ CSI, which already had made a ton of money for CBS parent CBS Corp., spawning a billion-dollar franchise for CBS TV Studios. On SVOD, Netflix recently did it with its cult sci-fi drama series Sense8. 

The new cancellation of Timeless will be hard to swallow for fans who had been campaigning for a renewal, flooding NBC’s Twitter feed with #RenewTimeless messages.. For a second year in a row, Timeless ranked as No.1 on USA Today’s Save our Shows poll.

NBC

And also for the second year in a row, the series ended its season finale with a massive cliffhanger. SPOILER ALERT. In the Season 2 ender, soldier Wyatt (Matt Lanter) and historian Lucy (Abigail Spencer) return from their latest mission without their trusted engineer Rufus (Malcolm Barrett), who was killed. But in a last-second twist, an upgraded Lifeboat shows up with  future versions of Wyatt and Lucy emerging to ask, “You guys want to get Rufus back or what?”

NBC first canceled Timeless in May 2017. With solid time-shifting lifts, the drama had averaged an OK 2.2 Live+7 adults 18-49 rating. It didn’t find a wide audience, but Timeless’ fans base was strong, passionate and very vocal over the cancellation. So strong that three days later, NBC reversed its decision and brought the show back with a 10-episode second-season order.

Timeless returned for Season 2 on March 1 with a 0.8 in 18-49 and 3 million viewers (Live+same day), off by a fraction from its Season 1 finale (0.9, 3.4 million), which was a series high. But overall, numbers were down.

NBC
NBC

“We are hopeful and yet realistic as we have a lot of shows,” NBC boss Bob Greenblatt cautioned on May 13 ahead of Timeless‘ Season 2 finale. “We are going to take a look at [Timeless and Champions] after their run and hopefully make a quick decision on them.”

Timeless creators and cast urged fans to watch the finale live. Even with the campaign, Timeless’ two-hour Season 2 ending averaged modest 0.6 adults 18-49 ratings and 2.4 million viewers in Live+same day. While up 20% in the demo over its previous episode, and the best the series had done since mid-March, Timeless was down 33% from its Season 1 finale.

Last June, Timeless was among the five programs selected to receive tax credits from California’s incentive program. Relocating from Vancouver to Los Angeles for its sophomore season, the series scored an allocation of nearly $9.6 million in credits.

Still, the series is very expensive — it deals with time-travel and depicts a different period every week, after all — so another short order always was a difficult financial proposition. And NBC already used its Get Out of Cancellation Jail card on Brooklyn Nine-Nine this year.

Created by Erik Kripke & Shawn Ryan, Timeless launched with a mysterious criminal stealing a secret state-of-the-art time machine, intent on destroying America as we know it by changing the past. It then was up to a soldier (Lanter), a history professor (Spencer) and a scientist (Barrett) to use the machine’s prototype to travel back in time to critical events. Goran Visnjic, Paterson Joseph, Sakina Jaffrey and Claudia Doumit co-starred.

Produced by Davis Entertainment, Kripke Enterprises and MiddKid Productions in association with Sony Pictures Television, Timeless is exec produced by Kripke, Ryan, John Davis, John Fox, Marney Hochman and Neill Marshall.