Tuesday, September 25, 2007

"I forgot that you weren’t just recently a prick, it goes back years.": Journeyman

What would you do if you fell asleep in the present and woke up in the past, with no idea how you got there or how to get back? Would you have fun collecting oodles of money from gambling like Biff Tannen? Or would you observe your life from afar, careful not to change anything and affect the present, and help random strangers? If you said yes to the latter rather tame scenarios then you’re nothing like Biff Tannen, but a lot like Journeyman’s somewhat enigmatic hero Dan Vassar.

At first glance Vassar seems to have your typical idyllic television life, complete with amazing house (In San Francisco! On a reporter’s salary!), loving wife Katie, and too-precocious kid Zack. Things start to fall apart, however, when Dan inexplicably begins to travel back and forth in time, leaving his family for days at a time with no logical explanation. Not only is he traveling back in time, but his travels put him directly in the path of his deceased fiancé, who is alive and well in the past and with whom Dan obviously has unfinished business. In the past he visits dead fiancé Livia in several different scenarios, from an informal introduction taking place before they ever even truly met to a heartbreaking scene where he sees her right before she died.

To Dan’s credit, he tells his wife and police detective brother Jack about his time travels and how he sees Livia when he is in the past. They of course think he’s a nutjob and Katie even goes so far as to stage an intervention because everyone thinks he is using drugs. Right before Katie decides to leave him for good, though, Dan pulls a clever trick with her wedding ring that proves his time travel story and puts her well on the path to believing him. One of the interesting things about the past sequences is that we learn his wife Katie used to date his brother Jack, which is all kinds of wrong on Dan’s part and sort of makes me hate him and Katie a little bit. I think Jack still hates them as well, so I’m in good company. It will be fun to learn how that whole scenario came to pass, at least.

While in the past, Dan also keeps running across someone named Neil Gaines. First he saves him from killing himself in front of a streetcar and learns that Neil’s girlfriend is pregnant but doesn’t want to keep the baby. Dan then decides to visit Neil’s girlfriend for himself and in the process of their conversation easily talks her out of having an abortion. Later, in the future, Dan decides to Google Neil Gaines and learns he killed his wife and son. On his next trip to the past he stops Neil from committing the murders (by getting him hit by a bus!) and upon returning to the present learns that he wasn’t trying to save Neil at all, but Neil’s son who performed an act of heroism he wouldn’t have if he hadn’t been born or had been killed by his father. That’s the strangest pro-life argument you will ever see on any network television show, folks. This episode was brought to you by the 700 Club, apparently.

The way the pilot breaks down, it seems future episodes will have two main elements: the continuing mystery of why and how Dan is time traveling (and what, if anything, that has to do with Livia’s death), and the helping-person-of-the-week story. Seeing that the former is far more compelling than the latter, one can only hope the mythology of the series can remain interesting enough to overcome the formulaic and static nature of the person-of-the-week melodrama.

Although the story of Neil Gaines and his family left me cold, I was quite intrigued with the Dan/Livia drama. Their connection is strong and when Dan saw what appeared to be a future Livia within one of his time travels, I was mesmerized. Future Livia seemed surprised to see him and warned him to “go with his instincts” and “don’t mess with anything,” and when Dan asked her what happened in her plane crash, she mysteriously said she left before the plane went down. Does this mean Livia is alive and time traveling? Is this just some sort of Livia apparition? Is Dan’s time travel specifically linked to Livia, or does his ability simply exist to help random strangers in the past? I have to say, I’m surprisingly anxious to find out.

Journeyman isn’t the most original or innovative show, but it’s just compelling enough to keep me wondering what will happen next and a decent intellectual companion for Heroes. (Compliment or insult? You decide!) I’m a bit concerned that Dan’s affection for Livia is being portrayed as stronger than the affection he has for his wife, because although I wouldn’t blame him considering Moon Bloodgood is absolutely luminous, it makes his attempts to save his marriage ring a little bit hollow. However, if they can solidify that aspect and put a little more juice in the more formulaic portions of the show, this could be a solid addition to NBC’s Monday night schedule.

Now that I say that, it will probably be canceled in three weeks.


Bianca Reagan said...

Completely unrelated question. How do you get the "Recent Comments" to appear on your blog? I've been trying to do that on my blog, but I can't figure it out. :(

Todd said...

Bianca, I found the widget at Hackosphere. I think if you google "recent comments" Blogger, you'll find it.

Bianca Reagan said...

Thanks Todd!