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TV Round-Up: Quantum Leap, “Stand By Ben”

breakfast-club-on-the-run-quantum-leap-s1e8One of the running threads of the original Quantum Leap was the long-standing friendship between Sam and Al and the lengths that each side would go to for the other. Early on, Al was established as a guy willing to bend or break the rules of time travel for his friend Sam – providing details on where to find Donna, helping Sam save his brother, and telling Sam he had a brother named Tom. Sam was a bit more of a stickler when it came to the rules, as witnessed in “MIA” when he chastises Al for not researching fully the reason for Sam’s leap and instead desperately working to get Sam to sabotage Beth’s new relationship.

Over the course of five seasons, we saw Sam slowly begin to realize that his mission wasn’t only to put right wrongs in the lives of people he didn’t know, but also to change his friend’s life for the better. This beautifully hits home when Sam leaps to the final moments of “MIA” as himself and asks Beth to wait for Al. The reveal is that Sam succeeds because he’s finally willing to bend the rules to help his friend. The cost is Sam never returns home.

It’s one of the reasons that the original Quantum Leap still resonates with me today.

It’s also why I’m slowly becoming frustrated with this new version of the show.

As good as the show is at giving us compelling, character-driven stories in the past, it is completely dropping the ball when it comes to the future storylines and the implications they have on Ben’s journey and his decision to start leaping through time.

This week was another example of this. Ben leaps into a teenager, who with three other teens has escaped a deprogramming camp in 1996. Ben helps them survive and turns the tables on the camp administrators. It’s all solid enough and the story hits the right emotional beats. Continue reading

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TV Round-Up: Quantum Leap, Oh Ye of Little Faith

Quantum Leap - Season 1

The problem the new Quantum Leap faces is the original did one hell of a Halloween episode back in its third season. Fans who only casually watched the original know about “The Boogeyman” because Sam met Stephen King and faced off against the devil.

Topping “The Boogeyman” in terms of sheer shock value was going to be difficult to do.

Give “O Ye of Little Faith” credit for trying, even if the final result isn’t exactly as memorable or over-the-top bonkers fun as the original version.

Ben leaps into a priest, who has been summoned to perform an exorcism on an apparently demon-possessed young girl who just turned eighteen. Eerily enough, as Ben attempts to follow the script for an exorcism, he’s cut off from Addison.

As with most of the episodes of the new Quantum Leap, the stuff in the past works very well (even hitting a few, great creepy moments) while the things in the present feels like it’s being forced on the script. This week’s biggest culprit is a conversation between Addison and Jenn where we discover that Addison had never vowed to get married – until she met Ben. I’m all for character development for all the characters on this show (quick tell me one thing about Ian besides he’s good at computers), but even this one felt like it was written to get screen time for Narisa Lee and less about advancing the plot or characters in any significant way.

Plus, I think it fails the Bechdel test on just about every level. Continue reading

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TV Round-Up: Quantum Leap, “What A Disaster”

Quantum Leap - Season 1

After seeing “What a Disaster!” I can see why the producers shuffled the order of things, moving this from the pilot to the sixth episode of the season. That’s not to say “What a Disaster” is bad, so much as to say asking the audience to invest as much in Ben’s background in episode one would have been a larger ask.

Ben leaps into a John, a man facing imminent divorce from his wife, just moments before the San Francisco Earthquake in 1989. The series is doing well at having Ben cover his initial confusion upon entering a person’s life mid-drama, and this week is no exception. Ben having to cover for gaps in his knowledge of John’s wife as his wife asks for divorce works well enough, though I keep wondering why no one notices that Ben is focusing on Addison and her advice from the future.

Speaking of Addison, can I just say that I liked the handlink used here a lot more than the one we’ve seen until now? If there’s one aspect of the original pilot they can and should use again, it’s the link.

Back to our story. Turns out John is there to save the couple’s son from dying and reunite an estranged mom and son. This mission has a personal note for Ben, who once got B’s on his report card because he was tired of his mom telling him he was special and then after they got in a huge fight about it, she died. So, Ben’s carrying around a bit of guilt over that (as one would) and it all comes bubbling back.

Some of the better emotional beats of the original series came when Sam connected with the leapie due to some emotional connection. So, Ben’s connection here worked, as did his call to his mom seconds before he leaped. Continue reading

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TV Round-Up: Quantum Leap, “Salvation or Bust”

Quantum Leap - Season 1

No matter how good or bad “Salvation or Bust” is, most of the conversation about it will probably cover the last thirty seconds of the show when another Leaper shows up who knows Ben and feels that Ben is following him through time.

The implications of this to the overall arc of why Ben leaped and what his destination is are fascinating. And given the pace at which revelations are coming in the show, I don’t think it’s something that will exactly be swept aside for an episode or two.

Part of me says that this new leaper is somehow connected to Janice and that the imaging chamber she’s building isn’t to try and contact Ben but to contact whoever this other leaper is. A big question it brings up is just how many accelerators there are and just where are they located? Given that leaping seemingly takes a huge investment of power, how exactly are the other leaping group keeping their tracks hidden?

Or is this all part of the time travel thing where the new leaper is from our future but ending up in the past.

Give the show credit – it’s got me intrigued to see where this all goes. Continue reading

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TV Round-Up: Quantum Leap, A Decent Proposal

Quantum Leap - Season 1

For years, I’ve wondered what it would be like to be a person that Sam leaped into – would you recall much, if anything about it? What would you recall? How would you know that Sam had come in and changed things?

After thirty years, we get an answer to that question, with Magic sharing that Sam leaped into him at a younger age and changed his and others’ personal history.

While I like the explanation and the scene itself, I do find myself wondering about a few other things. One is that Magic says that Sam saved his life (and that of Tom) during the time he was away. I can’t help but wonder how Magic knows if and how Sam altered history. Would history instantly shift around Magic and those around him? Another was, did Magic know what Al gave up to that Sam could save his brother and Magic? Or was what Sam did for Al something that was kept under deeper wraps?

When you reference one of my favorite episodes of television, “The Leap Home,” it brings up a lot of questions and implications. Continue reading

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TV Round-Up: Quantum Leap, “Atlantis”

VfMW85t3RA3pHjeHsa8FqLWatching “Atlantis” a detail from the original Quantum Leap reared its head and wouldn’t let go. Where exactly does the person that Ben is displacing in time go? The original had an area where the person would leap to and could then interact with Al in the future, but so far, we’ve not seen or heard it mentioned.

And while it doesn’t solve the question of when and how the astronaut that Ben replaces died earlier in the story, it does provide some better insight into the person Ben is replacing. We certainly got the impression that Al was interacting with the person first before coming to see Sam to help Sam “pass” as the person he had leapt into.

This was a better episode than the pilot last week, probably because that one did most of the heavy lifting in terms of exposition. Now that we have the team in place and a thumbnail view of who each person is, we can start digging in a bit to the future.

I did find the conflict between what the team in the future wants Ben to know versus what the person contacting Ben wants him to know intriguing. An early original episode saw Al sending messages to Sam via an ancient language Sam knew, written out on a sash Al was wearing. I did find it interesting to see Addison pushing Ben to recall things and jog his memory over the express orders of Magic in the future.

We also get a cameo from Beth, who puts Magic on the trail of Janice, Al’s daughter who has some type of connection to why Ben decided he had to go. I’m glad we got this cosmic map that the previews leaned heavily into on the radar now instead of making us wait a few more episodes to bring things into focus. The easy answer to where Ben is going is to somehow find Sam. I imagine that Janice could feel that given how much Sam gave up to save Al (one of the few through lines of the original series), maybe she owes it to Sam to bring him home when her father couldn’t do it. If that’s where this all leads (and assuming that Scott Bakula is hedging when he says he’s not involved), I will be all for it.

As for the main plot of “Atlantis,” it felt like a page out of the original. The original series was very imitative, taking pieces of successful films of its era and telling its own kind of story around them. In many ways, it felt like this was a Quantum Leap take on Gravity, with our characters in there.

I did like that we actually hear about and see Ben being the glue that can hold a team together – we hear about it in the future and see him doing it on the shuttle. His wonder about being in space and then his recklessness to solve the problem also worked well.

I do, however, feel like the moments with hidden meaning for Madison when Ben says something about coming home or the nature of their relationship, could become strained quickly. So far, they are achieving a good balance, but it could go ka-ka quickly if they aren’t careful.

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TV Round-Up: The Patient

thepatientAfter watching and loving The Americans, I was intrigued to see what series creators Joel Fields and Joseph Weisburg would do next.

So, when ads started cropping up for their new series, The Patient, I was intrigued. Now, three episodes into the miniseries and I am firmly on the hook, ready to see this all will lead. Like The Americans, The Patient offers a unique premise from which to begin its storytelling.

Alan Strauss, played by Steve Carrell (another selling point) is a successful therapist and best-selling self-help book author. Alan senses that one of his patients, Sam, isn’t being entirely honest with him, thus hindering the therapeutic process. Alan challenges him to dig deeper, resulting in Alan waking up, chained to the floor in Sam’s basement with Sam asking Alan to help him curb a violent impulse – one that has resulted in Sam’s being a wanted serial killer known as the John Doe killer.

Despite his early protestations, Alan realizes he has little choice but to try and help Sam if he wants to be released or escape.

Interspersed with scenes from Alan’s life pre-captivity, we find out that Alan is recently widowed and possibly estranged from his son. This does answer an early, niggling question of why no one might miss Alan when he suddenly vanishes.

So far, each episode has ended on a tension point, designed to ensure you’ll want to come back next week. The second installment ended with someone coming down the stairs to the basement while the third ended with Sam bringing back someone to the basement and the sound of duct tape being used to bind that person (it could be the next victim Sam desperately wants to kill but hasn’t yet because there is a connection to him that could be traced).

Again, this is a premise that requires a bit of willing suspension of disbelief, but it’s working so far. Part of that is the strength of Alan as a character – from his backstory to his growing reluctance to engage in therapy with Sam and later his mother (who is the person who comes downstairs. The mother, in fact, refuses to help Alan because Sam needs him so much). So far, the only things we know about Sam are limited, though I expect we’ll see these filled in later. He apparently is a bit of a foodie, bringing Alan various dishes each evening to share together and raving about them and he’s also got a dark side that can be pushed. So far, he hasn’t physically hurt Alan, though he does seem a powder-keg ready to blow at any moment.

Three episodes in and the show is a compelling one – a lot of that credit going to Carrell, showing a flare for the dramatic. I do wonder if we will find out more about the process Sam used to select Alan for this radical therapy process as the series goes along.

Each episode is under a half-hour, feeling like just enough without overstaying its welcome. Again, I’m hooked and intrigued to see where this all goes.

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Star Trek: Picard: Fly Me to the Moon

star-trek-picard-fly-me-to-the-moonAs Picard enters the mid-point of its second season, we’re treated to another episode that feels like it’s moving chess pieces on the board a bit.

This week, we meet Renee Picard, a distant aunt of Picard who was part of the Europa missions that first explored the galaxy, and Brent Spiner’s latest descendent of Dr. Noonian Soogh, who is exploring the field of genetic engineering to keep his daughter alive. Of course, said daughter is played by the same actress that plays Data’s daughter in season one – because, of course, she is.

Behind the scenes, Q is manipulating both parties for reasons that haven’t quite been made clear yet. Given that Q doesn’t experience time in quite the same linear fashion as we do, I can’t help but wonder what his overall end game here is. Has his interest and fascination with Picard turned to hatred, to the point that he’d change history to get back at him? Or are there changes to the continuum that are so radical that Q wants to stop PIcard from ever making them, dating back to the trial on the way to Farpoint station?

I’m not sure what Q’s agenda is – perhaps beyond getting his powers back. But I can’t help but feel that as Picard tries to save Renee Picard that he’s overlooking something fundamentally important with Dr. Soongh’s manipulation. It would be like Q to distract Picard and his crew with one thing while fundamentally altering something else to make the real changes.

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TV Round-Up: LaBrea, “Pilot”

NUP_193928_2191-H-2021Early in the first episode of NBC’s La Brea, a character turns to another and notes that it feels like they’re living an episode of Lost.

Which is all well and good, if you’re doing something that feels fresh and original like Lost did when it debuted all those years ago. Alas, too many shows since Lost have come and gone by attempting to capture lightning in a bottle again by doubling down on big mysteries that promise answers that will be as mind-boggling as those we got on Lost.

Part of what made Lost work was that it allowed us to invest in the characters on the island. Even in the pilot, there was enough time to at least give us something to grasp onto about each character beyond the superficial.

In its pilot episode, La Brea hasn’t yet given me anything concrete about these characters that makes me want to invest in them. We have the estranged husband and wife, Gavin and Eve, and their two teenage kids. They’re separated but Eve is still wearing her wedding and engagement ring on a necklace. Meanwhile, Gavin has headaches and sees visions of something that he can’t quite identify yet. Those visions drove him out of the Air Force where he did, um, something.

Eve carries a massive amount of guilt over not being their for her kids — especially the daughter who lost a limb in a car accident because Eve couldn’t or wouldn’t get away from work.

One morning, while taking the kids to school, a massive sinkhole opens up in downtown Los Angeles. Eve and the son, Josh, are sucked into the sinkhole while the daughter, Izzy, isn’t. Turns out there is some type of tear (think Doctor Who’s tear in space and time from Matt Smith’s first season) and somehow Josh and Eve end up in a prehistoric time, complete with no cell service and hostile animals.

La Brea - Season 1

Meanwhile, Gavin sees birds flying out of the sinkhole that match his visions and now he’s seeing his wife. Is he somehow connected to them and will the governmental agents, who are covering up the rip in the space time continuum at the bottom of the sink hold up, believe him?

The pilot throws a lot of characters at us, fast and furious. We have a doctor/survivalist and his daughter, a guy who wants to commit suicide, and the wacky comic relief guy who has downloaded music to his phone and has working air pods. The pilot builds in a lot of mysteries and threads but none of them particularly seized my imagination in quite the same way a polar bear on a seemingly tropical island.

La Brea also suffers from some effects that make your basic SyFy series great by comparison and some rather dull direction. Again, comparisons to Lost, which had its pilot directed by J.J Abrams (back before he started polarizing fan bases), don’t help.

After a single episode and an extended preview of what’s to come, I’m not sure I necessarily will be coming back for more. I’m already behind on so many other things I want to or feel like I should be watching (looking back, I should have watched the first episode of Foundation instead) that I’m not sure I can or want to give this show any more bandwidth.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, yes Eve does lose the wedding ring necklace and its dug up by her husband near the exact spot she lost it. So, there is apparently some wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey stuff going on here. Except, Doctor Who has already done it and done it better…

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Robert Holmes Doctor Who Re-Watch: “Carnival of Monsters”

unnamedFor the series’ twenty-fifth anniversary, Doctor Who took a moment to offer up a satire of the series and its fans with “The Greatest Show in the Galaxy.” Set at the Psychic Circus, the serial sees various parties trying to keep a trio of ever-hungering god-like beings entertained with varying degrees of success. In many ways, the serial is a predictor of the ever-increasing hunger that the world seems to have to consume pop-culture and then how quickly it can be and is forgotten. The Gods of Ragna Rock use up various acts, quickly moving on to the next one with the constant chorus of “Entertain us.”

It’s a brilliant, subversive bit of Doctor Who and one that sits in my top ten.

But, it wasn’t the first time that Doctor Who would be so subversive. The series would offer up a satire of itself fifteen years early to celebrate the show’s tenth anniversary. But as with everything involving the late, great Robert Holmes, not only would the serial be subversive and point out the current state of Doctor Who, but it would also create a template for the next decade or so of our favorite program. Continue reading

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