11.07.2007

The Amazing Journey

The Angry Young Bostonian takes television-watching very seriously. It provides an escape from the mundaneness of the workday; it keeps the mind off the monotony of running on a treadmill; it gives a frame a reference when reading columns and columns of commentary about TV online.

Most shows that debuted in September have now broadcast over 25% of their episodes and it's time to check in with what works, what doesn't work, what still has a season pass on the DVR and what doesn't deserve disk space.

Some of the shows reviewed are returning series, others are in their freshman year. All reviews are written after the viewing of the fifth episode.

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Since Journeyman is in its first season, we'll pass judgment via the categorization route:

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What it's about: Think Quantum Leap, but a little more touchy-feely. Dan Vassar is a metro columnist for a San Francisco newspaper. He has a hot wife, a medium-temperature young son and a cold relationship with his brother. Oh yeah -- and he travels through time but can't control when he travels, nor to what time he travels.

Thoughts after the pilot: Good, but not great; needs to more than just "a wrong needs to be righted" of the week. Needs to avoid all the pratfalls of a typical "main character is hiding a large secret from everyone else" show.

Your typical episode includes: Dan finds himself "tracking" certain individuals at different points in their lives, often influencing decisions in order to right some kind of wrong. He'll pop into a situation for an hour or two and then pop back to the present when his task his done. He usually does his traveling at the most inopportune times (about the get it on with his wife, spending time with his 5-year-old at a street performance, etc). Just as Quantum Leap had Al to help out Dr. Beckett, Dan has his presumed-dead ex-girlfriend helping him out. It turns out she didn't die in a plane crash, but had been time traveling herself. It appears as if she's only tracking one person: Dan.

Long-term subplot: As of the fifth episode, nothing solid yet, but Dan has had modern-day contact with a scientist that specializes in tachyons. From their interactions, you can tell that the scientist is hiding something. The scientist also happened to call Dan on his cell phone -- while he was tracking somebody in 1998.

What's good:
  • The show's writers have done a good job with the relationship between Dan and his wife. He could have spent all season coming up with lame excuses as to why he disappears so much -- instead he breaks the news to her in the pilot episode and it's interesting to see how they both come to grips with something that's bigger than themselves.
  • Dan even broke the news to his wife that he's encountered his not-so-deceased girlfriend in the past, and she's actually OK with it.
  • Related to above, the show is moving at a good episode-by-episode pace. He isn't sitting idly as this new ability manifests itself. He told his wife; his son saw him disappear; he's contacted a scientist about it. I'm really excited to see where it goes.
What's not good:
  • Kevin McKidd (Dan) is the only Brit on the show and does not have the best American accent.
  • Dan still hasn't told his brother, a cop, about what's happening to him. His brother assumes his gambling addiction has kicked up. Why doesn't Dan just tell/show him what's really going on?
  • Somewhat complicated back story to the main characters -- while Dan was dating his not-so-deceased girlfriend in the late 90's, his brother was dating the woman who would eventually become his wife. No explanation as to why they played musical beds, yet.
  • Dan's interactions with his not-so-deceased girlfriend at different points in the past is awkward. It's like they're playing catch-up and don't know how to feel about each other. Call me old fashioned, but he should be devoted to his wife -- but at the same time, I'm not sure how anyone would react to regularly seeing someone you loved and thought dead.
Thoughts after five episodes: Things have definitely been taken up a notch since the pilot. The traveling situations are pretty fun and the show's strengths greatly outweigh its weaknesses. Like I said above, I really want to see how the scientist fits into all this.

You can watch episodes here.

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Bottom line: One of the best new shows on TV.

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