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What I Watched Last Night

How do you throw an intervention for a guy who disappears for days because he's off time traveling instead of losing track of time at the local crack house like everyone else? That was one of the conundrums posed by NBC's Journeyman, an interesting but at times confusing series which premiered Monday night.

It's like another NBC series, Quantum Leap, in that San Francisco reporter Dan Vassar (Kevin McKidd, looking somewhat similar to Anthony Michael Hall of USA Network's The Dead Zone) leaps around time within his own lifetime righting past wrongs of complete strangers. It's not like Quantum Leap in that 1) Reporter Dan doesn't go leaping into the bodies of complete strangers, and 2) it takes far more effort on our part than is probably necessary to figure out what's going on. When Sam Beckett went time traveling, you rarely sat there thinking, "What the fuck is this now?"

Monday night's Journeyman went light on the details of exactly why Reporter Dan ended up being the guy walking down the street minding his own damn business one second, and waking up lying on the streetcar tracks in 1987 the next second. Unless you've been conked in the head or started messing with the brown acid, this tends to be quite unsettling, and you'd start demanding some damn answers right now from someone, and right now. Sam Beckett at least had the holographic Al Calavicci to bitch to. Not so for Reporter Dan, who ends up getting stuck to fend for himself in year-whatever for as long as the celestial travel agent in charge of Reporter Dan's travel itinerary decides he's had enough fun and plops him back into the present day. Might be an hour later or two weeks later. It's a major surprise for everyone.

So, if you're not paying close enough attention, you're never sure what time and space Reporter Dan is occupying at any given moment, unless maybe everyone's cellphone was a gray Motorola brick. Or unless he's getting harassed by his wife Katie, his cop brother Jack, or his editor-boss Hugh over how a guy can disappear for several days without any reasonable explanation that doesn't involve gambling, drugs, booze, sleepwalking, or a babe on the side. That's when you know Reporter Dan's in the present, telling everyone they wouldn't believe where he's been if he told them because, well, going insane is a tougher nut to crack than substance abuse or infidelity.

Well, Reporter Dan eventually does tell his wife. Naturally, she doesn't believe him, particularly when he gets zapped from behind the wheel of his car, leaving it to driverlessly blow a red light and wreck two cars in the intersection. Time travel is pretty bitchin' (especially when you can do things like watch your Past Self leave your own engagement luncheon 10 years ago and then have your Present Self step back into it and talk with your hot, now-dead fiancee like you never left) but there are still some bugs to be worked out.

The other bug for Reporter Dan is he's never sure whose life he's supposed to be changing. He just supposed to wander around until he sees someone in peril, we guess. Monday night it was a suicidal fellow named Neal Gaines, minding his own business standing in the middle of the street waiting to get turned into Rice-A-Roni by an oncoming cable car. Reporter Dan pushes him out of the way, and you'd think that was that, but it wasn't. Turns out that Reporter Dan wasn't time traveling to save Neal; he was here to save Neal's son, who wouldn't have eventually grown up to save a mess of kids from a burning bus had Neal not gunned down him and his estranged wife as they were leaving town to start a new life without him. Reporter Dan saves son and mom by distracting Neal enough to get run over by a bus in somewhat spectacular TV fashion.

In the end, Reporter Dan - now on the brink of getting booted out of his house and marriage - proves without a shadow of a doubt to his wife that he's actually not the biggest liar or crackhead in the history of mankind. He does this by digging up her wedding ring and a 10-year-old newspaper that he stuck inside a tool box and buried beneath the brick patio in their back yard during one of his travels while their house was up for sale.

NBC's new and improved time travel: We don't need no stinkin' accelerator chamber.

*

See our spectacular fall TV preview and the spectacular What I Watched Last Night collection.



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Posted on September 26, 2007


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