Long Haul: Journeyman 1.1 – Pilot

Welcome to the first Long Haul of The Leisure Time Blog.  Unlike Season Rewatches and Series in Reviews, which do overviews of a complete season or series, Long Hauls are episode-by-episode looks at series that I either love, haven’t seen all of or just flat-out haven’t seen.

And we’re starting with one I love that premiered five years ago today: Journeyman

As I said back when Leisure Time was still affiliated with my then-local newspaper:

“Journeyman aired in 2007 and was cancelled after 13 fabulous episodes. Part Quantum Leap, part Time Traveler’s Wife, this show about a reporter who is inexplicably whisked back and forth through time to track specific people and change the course of their lives while hopefully not messing his up too horribly is, I think, my favorite show ever. …”

So let’s get started (and see if my thoughts have changed in the past five years), shall we?

My first reaction this time around was shock at just how much stuff they managed to cram into the pilot without ever making it feel cramped or weighed down. This episode not only has the job of introducing our main characters and setting up the premise, it also unloads a ton of backstory and peeks into the future.

For starters, Dan (Kevin McKidd), our protagonist, is a crime reporter in San Francisco who’s married to Katie (Gretchen Egolf) with a son, Zack (Charles Henry Wyson). They’re all adorable, and even though we’ll learn later in the episode that they’d been having some problems, it’s all happy and good right now.

And then Dan disappears for two days.

Through a combination of things we learn while Katie is dealing with his mysterious disappearance in the present and things we learn while Dan is dealing with suddenly being in the past, we find out that Dan was once engaged to Livia (Moon Bloodgood — best name ever), and it was only after she died in a plane crash that he got together with Katie…who was dating his brother Jack (Reed Diamond).

While that all reads like a fairly terrible soap opera, it plays really well on the screen, I think because we end up with two perspectives on the Jack/Katie/Dan romantic triangle, and none of them are from the time when things were at their worst.

And that’s just the backstory!

With the show taking a cue from Quantum Leap, Dan’s journeys back in time have him interacting a particular person at various points in life and changing the course of history for whomever he’s tracking.  This could easily be the weakest part of the series, just because there’s so much potential for it to be the boring B-story we have to slog through to see the characters we care about. But so far it doesn’t feel that way.

Part of what keeps it interesting is the way future!Dan relies on past!Everyone Else (including an alive Livia) to get things done, so far without tipping his hand about not being “their Dan,” or running into his past self. It’s kind “Back to the Future Part II”-ish in that regard. And yeah, there’s some suspension of disbelief when it comes to everybody still looking essentially the same a decade in the past, but hey. If Revolution can do it today, Journeyman can do it five years ago.

And just to throw Dan (and the audience) for even more of a loop, on one journey he runs into Livia. Not Livia of the past, but a present-day Livia who seems to know a little something about all this time travel stuff.

Meanwhile, in the present, Dan’s unexplained absence and strange stories begin to concern and frustrate his friends and family — not helped when he journeys while driving, and ends up with his empty car running a red light and causing an accident. His editor is worried he’s dealing with an addiction, his brother thinks he’s on a train to crazy town, and his wife doesn’t know what to think or if she can deal.

And it all comes together in a wonderful whole, that I really thought had a chance. Unfortunately, 12 episodes later it ended, but it also deserves an award for one of the most satisfying ends to a short-lived series I’ve ever seen.

If you’ve never seen Journeyman (or want to watch it again), it’s available on Hulu, and I don’t even think you need Hulu Plus, unless you want to watch it through a device other than your computer. And while it probably doesn’t need saying, I would recommend watching it.

So, here endeth the first installment of the first Leisure Time Long Haul. I imagine future posts will get into more reviewy detail about the individual episodes, but I thought this one would work better in general terms.

I’ll try to keep these on a MWF schedule, so look forward to Episode 2: Friendly Skies in a couple days.

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