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NBC chairman explains why they brought back Timeless

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In a practically unprecedented move, NBC gave Timeless an eleventh hour renewal just days after canceling the freshman time travel drama — and now we know why.

“Well, we all loved the show creatively and we were hoping for it to have a bigger audience in the fall,” NBC Chairman Robert Greenblatt told reporters Sunday morning. “Once it came off the schedule in midseason, we thought, ‘Well, we love it, but can it grow, and do we have a place for it, and all those questions that you ask yourself when you’re looking at the renewal of a show that is a borderline.”

During its first season, the series — which follows an unlikely trio (Abigail Spencer, Malcolm Barrett, and Matt Lanter) who traveled through time to battle a supposed master criminal (Goran Visnjic) — averaged 8 million total viewers and a 2.1 in the 18-49 demographic but dropped sharply by its finale.

“There was a moment earlier in the week where we just thought, ‘We have all these shows that are coming back and these new shows and maybe there’s not room for Timeless and we decided to move on from it,” Greenblatt continued. “And then woke up the next morning, all of us, and heard from fans and the outcry and we thought, ‘Well, let’s figure out how to try to bring it back.’ We went back to the drawing board in every way with our partners, with Sony, and I’m happy to say we were able to figure out a way to bring it back. We love the show creatively. Nothing would make us happier than to see the audience grow.”

However, in the wake of how the news played out, some skeptics thought NBC had canceled the show and subsequently renewed it as a marketing ploy — after all, what’s better marketing for a time travel show than to ostensibly say time travel exists and the trio went back in time to change NBC’s minds? “I wish we were that clever in the middle of scheduling things,” Greenblatt said. “Maybe we’ll do that with some other shows, so keep your eyes peeled. We would never do that to the creators of the show. That didn’t happen, and they weren’t in on it. These things are really tricky in negotiations. It just happened the way it happened. I’m happy it happened this way as opposed to the other, where we pick up a show and two days later and we cancel it.”

Timeless is expected to return in 2018. Check out NBC’s new fall schedule here.