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Time travel made its way to NBC last fall with the series premiere of Timeless. The show was well-enough received by critics, but it has so far failed to build the kind of broad audience that NBC wants out of its primetime dramas. We now know that Timeless has other problems to deal with as well. A lawsuit has been filed against the show that alleges some behind-the-scenes shenanigans, and it's already causing trouble for Sony, NBC, and Timeless creators Shawn Ryan and Eric Kripke.
The lawsuit was filed by Onza Entertainment, and it claims that Timeless has been "ripped off" from the Spanish drama El Ministerio del Tiempo, or The Department of Time. According to the filing, The Department of Time producer Gonzalo Sagardia took the premise of his show to an international TV conference, where Roy Ashton from the Gersh Agency reportedly took interest. During their meetings, Sagardia claims that he gave a DVD of The Department of Time to Ashton with the understanding that if Ashton thought the premise had the potential for success in the U.S. market, they would work together for an American version of the show. The DVD was for pitching purposes and nothing more.
The suit claims that Sony agreed the produce an American version of The Department of Time, offering an 18-month contract to representatives from Onza Entertainment back in the summer of 2015. Then, in August of 2015, Sony officially announced the project that would becomeTimeless, and Onza says that the company then cut off negotiations Gonzalo Sagardia.
For their part, Sony and NBC do not deny the similarities between Timeless and The Department of Time, but they make the argument that the public broadcast of The Department of Time was a consensual reveal of the premise of the show, and that premise could be imitated without any breach of contract, implied or otherwise. Sony argues that time travel is such a popular genre across many forms of media that the fundamentals of Timeless did not originate with The Department of Time, and so Timeless is not a rip off of the Spanish show.
NBC and Sony recently made the move to try and secure a federal dismissal for the lawsuit, but Deadline reports that the judge rejected their motion. The plot has only thickened, and it may be a while before the case is settled to the satisfaction of any party. We'll have to wait and see.
In the meantime, Timeless fans can only hope that nothing happens to lower the chances of a renewal. The show got off to a pretty solid start in the ratings, and NBC didn't waste time in extending its episode order, but both ratings and viewership have dwindled as the season has progressed. All signs point toward a niche audience that is willing to stick around for the long run; the question is if NBC will be willing to give Timeless a shot at Season 2 despite middling numbers.