The details are from my childhood, so they may be vague, but any help would be appreciated on remembering what show this is.

It was live-action, aired in the US, late 80's early 90's, on maybe the PBS channel but I could be wrong. The premise was a man (and I think a male assistant) were scientists that ran a diner. In the back they had a time machine. The main cast of kids (maybe 3 of them?) would come hang out at the diner and go on time travel adventures. The scientists had to hide the time machine from the "bad guys," which I think were government agents or something like that. I think the agents would come to the diner to try to prove the owner was hiding something, but they could never find the time machine.

A specific episode I remember involved the cast traveling to medieval times. Their time machine was out in the woods and was disguised as a tree. They all left the machine to do... something, but knew that they had to meet back at the tree before the time machine left. I believe the side of the tree had a door that slid open to let one person in at a time (I think they could only travel through time one-by-one). One of the characters (I believe the assistant) was being chased by bad guys or something, and ended up either lost in the woods or late to the rendezvous. He ended up being trapped in the past. I think he also had a love interest that he met in the past. Or it's possible the love interest was the one who was left behind. Either way, someone was searching the woods for the time machine, but all of the trees were just ordinary trees because it had left.

I may be mixing up some of the details of that episode because I know there is a movie with a somewhat similar premise (Timeline). However I have very vivid memories of the kids visiting the diner with a hidden time machine, and the characters running through the woods and one being trapped in the past.

I have been searching for this show for years, any help is appreciated!

  • 1
    Welcome to the site! This is a nicely detailed ID question, should be enough for someone to recognise it. I found this list of time travel TV shows, see if anything rings a bell.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Jul 30, 2021 at 15:28
  • @Aeronor - Hi, welcome to the site. Do you know if this show was this show set in the US, or another country? Jul 30, 2021 at 15:36
  • en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_Warp_Trio includes a diner in one episode, but toime travel is via a magic book.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Jul 30, 2021 at 15:37
  • Whatever it is, I have to wonder if it was in any way inspired by Why I Left Harry's All-Night Hamburgers... Jul 30, 2021 at 17:00
  • @Rand al'Thor thanks for the list. Unfortunately I've found similar ones, but I really can't recall any part of the name.
    – Aeronor
    Jul 31, 2021 at 1:58

1 Answer 1


Could this be Puttnam's Prairie Emporium?

It didn't take place in a diner, but rather and old-fashioned five and dime store.

Many of the other details fit.

It was a Canadian television series that ran for 52 episodes during 1988-1990. It was syndicated in the US, possibly on PBS.

There were two children that lived with their mother and the eccentric owner of the emporium, who was also their grandfather.

There was a time machine in the back of the emporium (known as the Time Closet), invented by his scientist assistant, Ivan.

The time closet could transport the protagonists through time, space, and alternate dimensions on a variety of adventures.

You can find an episode guide here.

The master tapes are believed to have been wiped, but you can find a few surviving episodes on YouTube. Maybe it will ring a bell.

  • 1
    The store's layout does match my general memory of the place, but I don't remember there being puppets at all. I am actually wondering if I'm remembering two different shows though. Because the themes of the medieval episode I described are much too adult for something like Puttnam's. Thanks for sharing though, I will certainly keep looking. As an aside, it's a shame so few episodes of it still exist.
    – Aeronor
    Jul 31, 2021 at 1:53

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