Timeless: Surprising Levels of Quality!


We’ve previously posted about Timeless, the new time-travel, vast-government-conspiracy TV show from NBC — Sarah posted when the preview came out. Now I’ve had a chance to binge-watch a bunch of episodes, and you know what? I’m surprisingly entertained! If you enjoy conspiracy TV series like LostOrphan Black, or Fringe, or if you just like the idea of a TV show that is doing a decently serious stab at different time periods, I’d recommend you give it a whirl!

Lucy is a professional historian at an unnamed university who gets pulled into a secret government mission: terrorists have stolen a time machine and is using it to disrupt American history (to what end, we don’t know). Luckily, there are two time machines, and the one still in government hands can track the one in the terrorists’ hands. The government pulls together a three-person team that they send into the past to try to stop the terrorists: Lucy is there to help the team blend into the period (and to figure out why the terrorists have chosen that particular date in the first place), engineer Rufus is there to pilot the time machine and provide the humor, and military operative Wyatt is there to be badass and hot (and theoretically to take out the terrorists).

There are a few problems, of course, with the logic — for example, historians tend to focus on particular eras/topics, so I’m confused how Lucy is an expert in every subsection of American history. And while Rufus’s commentary — particularly on being a black man going back in time — is pretty funny, he’s also very obviously there for the wry comic relief.

But who cares, because they’re actually trying to do a decent, non-cheesy job at presenting the history! Each episode begins with a scene showing how the key event went down in “real” history, then we see it play out again with the terrorists and our heroes mucking things up. I particularly like how they’re not actually keeping the history as-is — while, so far, our heroes have mostly saved the day, when they get back, they find that the history has been rewritten to accommodate the subtle changes that have occurred.

I’m also entertained by some of the costume-related bits, like the giant warehouse of period costumes the government puts together; Lucy complaining that the fabric of her blouse didn’t exist yet and that her skirt is from the following decade; watching Lucy get dressed in 1860s gear, including a cage crinoline; and Wyatt mocking the Civil War reenactors from whom uniforms were borrowed.

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Check it out — not only are these underpinnings historically accurate, you get to see Lucy be dressed in them on screen!

The costumes were designed by Mari-An Ceo (although Wendy Partridge also gets credited for one episode on IMDB), and while not everything is 100% perfect, I have been very pleased with how much they are trying to make things look seriously accurate. This is no small issue on a TV budget, when each episode calls for an entirely new wardrobe: “You’re talking about corsets and hoopskirts, suspenders and ascots, and it’s just very elaborate. It’s a tall order to ask a crew to be an expert in every time period, to know what jewelry to pick, how to tie a corset and what kind of corset goes with what outfit” (Time-traveling series Timeless a tough task for costume designer).

Timeless (2016) tv show NBC

In the first episode, the terrorists go back to the Hindenburg explosion — so 1937.

Timeless (2016) tv show NBC

I’m glad they put a hat on Lucy’s VERY modern beachy waves. Also, they were very smart to cast a dark-haired actress because then she doesn’t look super “makeup-y” in the pre-20th century episodes.

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I was, however, rolling my eyes when Lucy’s big save was to follow Wyatt’s confusing-to-the-period “Hey how’s it going” with “How do you do.” OMG ROCKET SCIENCE SO GLAD WE HAD A PROFESSIONAL THERE FOR THAT ONE.

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Wyatt (Matt Lanter). HAWT HAWT HAWT. (Photo by: Joe Lederer/NBC)

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In the next episode, we’re off to the assassination of President Lincoln. As Sarah raved, they put Lucy’s hair up, although her too-fitted-for-the-period sleeve annoys me… and yes, they loved fringe and tassels, but that it SO obviously from the upholstery section at JoAnn’s.

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Not bad! Might want to add some hooks & bars to attach the bodice to the waistline, but hey, HER HAIR IS UP!

And, some of the more egregious costumes — Rufus’s weird jacket, Lucy’s clonky brown and white dress — that Sarah rightly pointed out as being suspect don’t actually make it to screen! So that was a relief.

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The show is being weirdly reverential about NOT showing famous people — except for Abraham Lincoln. I guess he’s considered far enough back that modern people don’t have a fixed idea of what he looks like?

Timeless (2016) tv show NBC

Episode 3 sees them in 1960s Las Vegas. Skinny ties for the boys and gloves for Lucy! Rufus’s comment about being invisible in this era was hilarious.

Timeless (2016) tv show NBC

I liked the UBER boned bustier Lucy got into.

Timeless (2016) tv show NBC

Of course they’ve got to do Nazis, but it was cute having them meet Ian Fleming and get all fangirl/boy-y.

Timeless (2016) tv show NBC

I very much question Lucy’s beachy waves, however.

Timeless (2016) tv show NBC

The Alamo, in which Lucy’s ensemble is suspiciously pared down and not very 1830s — although female extras DID look good for the era.

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Once again, it was fun to see famous figures like James Bowie — and then the “reality” behind the story.

Timeless (2016) tv show NBC

Rufus’s suit looks good to my only-semi-educated-about-19th-century-boy-clothes eye.

That’s how far I’ve gotten — in two more episodes, yassss, we hit the 18th century! Although it’s the 1750s (French and Indian War), so I question Lucy’s very 1780s robe à l’anglaise. I’ll be back to praise/snark no doubt.

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Please tell me Lucy begins with better hair than this.

Timeless (2016) tv show NBC

And that the boys start off with hats.


Have you checked out Timeless yet? What’s your verdict?


About the author



Kendra has been a fixture in the online costuming world since the late 1990s. Her website, Démodé Couture, is one of the most well-known online resources for historical costumers. In the summer of 2014, she published a book on 18th-century wig and hair styling. Kendra is a librarian at a university, specializing in history and fashion. She’s also an academic, with several articles on fashion history published in research journals.

29 Responses

  1. Al

    The belt on that nazi uniform, though. Ergh. ACROSS the pockets? Really, guys? Come on, we can do better than that.

  2. mmcquown

    The thing I like most is the use of pop culture names for aliases. In the first episode, our girl identifies herself and Wyatt as Nurse Jackie and Dr Dre, from General Hospital.. The SS uniforms ngggggggh. Also, Fleming would have addressed the officer by his SS rank title, something like “Standartenfuher” or “Obergruppenfuhrer.” The German uniforms were cut high on the hip to make the legs seem longer and (theoretically) to make the men seem taller. It’s one of the commonest mistakes to cut the jackets too long.
    And — HATS!

      • Mari-An Ceo

        I feel it necessary for a quick response because we work so damn hard.

        OK Lucy’s trim is actually vintage trim from Western Costume archives but also the outfit is not suppose to be 100% percent period correct for the Lincoln episode as they cobbled the looks together in theory. Yes the gown should have had hooks but an inexperienced tailor shop could barely make the dress on time to shoot but they still did a pretty good job for their first time. Lucy was suppose to have gloves on but with the speed in which we are shooting the costumer did not get the to her on time.
        I could not watch the German episode because of Ian Flemmings belt. I tried to get them to re-shoot the master but it was a no go and it make me nuts.
        The producer does not like hats…it is a battle. We have about a week and a half to prep each episode and most of the principles have to be made in multiples for stunts. We set up and take down each period each episode with script changes and late casting….most of the clothes come from the U.S and we shoot in Canada. I hope you understand it is a massive undertaking. We are doing the best we can and I am proud of most of what we accomplish with my Great crew!!!!
        keep watching …I look forward to your critiques.

        • Trystan L. Bass

          Thanks for all the details, we love hearing directly from the designer! And it’s amazing to see this much historical accuracy on a weekly network TV show, esp. when you’re covering many different eras — we’re impressed :)

    • Kendra

      I know, but at least they’re confining that to eras when it’s okay to wear your hair down (1930s/40s) — for the 19th c. stuff, they’ve actually put her hair up! Progress!!

  3. Sarah Faltesek

    I’ve been enjoying the show! My roommate laughed at me during the Lincoln episode because I yelled “OMFG they actually put her hair up!! They never do that!!” and she (like everyone else I watch historically-themed tv/movies with) replied “Sarah, nobody cares. It’s just hair.” And then I try to swallow my rant because they have heard it all before.

  4. Kathleen Norvell

    I started to watch this, but quickly got bored with the stupid plots. TV just can’t seem to get “time travel” shows right (although I have a soft spot for New Amsterdam and Forever). The clothing didn’t seem to be egregiously wrong, but the belt on Lucy in the Alamo episode gave me hives. Unless there is better writing for this series, I won’t be watching it any more.

  5. heatherparish

    I enjoy Timeless for the fact that it takes the ideas of time travel and changing historical timelines seriously, but does it with a light touch. I’m a little over every show trying to be “gritty”. The costumes are closer to accurate than most network shows manage to be and at the very least aren’t terribly distracting.

    I’ve particularly enjoyed the moments of lampshading the ridiculous requirements of traveling to the past – like the necessity for a giant bunker of costumes at hand at any moment. But I keep saying that I want to play the part of the costume shop manager who has to stock the place and dress each of them on a moment’s notice before they go on a mission. She’d be fun to play: 1 scene per episode griping about how they expect her to manage a miracle on no budget and in less than an hour and its not her fault that they’re sending them into a warzone with the wrong military insignia on their uniforms.

  6. mmcquown

    On the other hand, “Legends of Tomorrow” tackles the same issues with often egregious results. In their WWII scenario, they have one of the top Wehrmacht old school Prussian junker generals in an SS uniform and with a full beard. As if! The old boy wouldn’t spit on the Waffen SS, and wouldn’t consider going against tradition by allowing himself any more than the regulation full moustache.

  7. Shaina

    I couldn’t get hooked into the story. The first “twist” seemed like it was visible 50 miles out. The Civil War episode though…”historian” Lucy goes running out into the streets of DC, no escort, no gloves, no bonnet, hair falling loose. There’s no way she doesn’t get taken for a “loose woman.” And then at the end she just grabs Robert Lincoln’s hand (no gloves again), and calls him by his given name?! I could not deal with that. Could not deal at all; if Lucy is this all-knowing history oracle then she should know that none of that nonsense would not fly in 1865.

    • Shaina

      Or rather, none of that nonsense would fly.
      *sigh* Autocorrect tops me again.

  8. ladylavinia1932

    And while Rufus’s commentary — particularly on being a black man going back in time — is pretty funny, he’s also very obviously there for the wry comic relief.

    Rufus is also there as the team’s technical “Mr. Fix-It”. This was especially apparent in the 1754 and 1969 episodes.

  9. Sonya Heaney

    “Also, they were very smart to cast a dark-haired actress because then she doesn’t look super “makeup-y” in the pre-20th century episodes.”

    Uh – what?

    • marcela

      I’m guessing it has to do with eyebrows and eyelashes. Blonde with no eyemakeup can look very washed out to modern eyes.

    • Kendra

      I mean if they had cast someone with lighter-colored hair — ie light eyebrows and lashes — it would have been obvious if/when they put her in eye makeup, which you KNOW they wouldn’t have been able to resist. Since she has such dark hair, her dark brows/lashes pop no matter the era and look natural.

  10. Emily

    Her current outfit–in the 1770s (the Benedict Arnold ep)–seems VERY wrong to me. AND THE HAIR. She never puts her hair up in the 18th century. And the boys have the modern hair cuts and never hats.

    • Mari-An Ceo

      the show creator hates hats…I have quit severalties over it but we get it better this season.

  11. mmcquown

    Yes, Emily, you nailed it. At the very least, she should have a cap on, and the men should most definitely have HATS. Also, the braid on the actors’ shoulder boards was cheerleader crap. It was better on the extras, and I’m betting they were reenactors. Although, the red seemed more crimson than scarlet.

  12. Kaite Fink

    I fan-girled the Ian Fleming episode hard-core. My dad and I go to each movie in the theater and we watch the older movies together too. It’s our thing. I’m sure I’ll see things that bug me here and there, but it’s fun to watch if I don’t want something too heavy.