Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Journeyman: Dan vs. Dan

I haven't written about "Journeyman" in a few weeks, which is unfortunate, since the show has gotten better. Spoilers coming up just as soon as I order "La Vida Loca" from iTunes...

The strike has been an odd ally for "Journeyman." With ratings like this, it would almost certainly have been yanked by now, never to return, but with the networks desperate to stretch out whatever original scripted content they have for as long as possible, struggling shows like "Journeyman" and "Life" will probably get to air 10 or 11 episodes. At the same time, though, the chaos that's going to be created by what everyone assumes will be a long strike means that a show like this has no real shot at starting up again whenever the strike is over.

If the show had been canceled three or four episodes in as it might have any other year, I wouldn't have cared, but now it's become just good enough that I'm going to be disappointed when the originals run out.

High concept shows often run into what I call the Premise Pilot Problem, where so much time in the first episode has to be devoted to explaining what's happening that there's no time to have any fun with it. "Journeyman" needed several episodes to get past that issue, but there came a point -- I want to say in the episode that began with Dan waking up in the church with a pipe wrench in his hand -- where Dan and the show began treating his time trips as a fact of life, and the show's been much better for it. A Dan who knows what he's doing is a much better character than one who stands around slack-jawed or has to spend time trying to convince his wife what's happening to him, and we've had some cool treats along the way like the Livermore scientist returning Dan's call while he was still in the past.

The stories of the people who Dan "tracks" are still hit-or-miss, but I've found myself involved in the Vasser marriage, which made an episode like "Double Down" so strong, since it abandoned the Victim of the Week a quarter of the way in to focus entirely on Dan, Livia, Katie and Dan again, with a dash of Jack here and there.

Last week's episode finally had Dan come right out and ask the standard reporter questions of Livia, and had her explain that she's as in the dark as he is, which removes the distraction factor from the scenes where they talk about their relationship and about his present circumstances. And just when I was wondering why, other than for dramatic purposes, Livia got sent to retrieve the money instead of Dan, Dan wound up saving the Victim a second time, which wouldn't have happened if he'd gone for the money. The internal logic is feeling stronger each week.

What did everybody else think? And given that we're probably never going to get answers to the series' big questions, anyone care to offer their own theories?

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

Glad someone else is sticking with this show. It's still got some premise problems -- like why doesn't the Dan of the present remember some of the weird things that he caused to happen to the Dan of the past? -- but the family dynamics and the matter-of-fact approach to the fantasy elements have made it one of the few new fall shows that I watch right away, rather than letting it sit on my DVR. (I recently dropped LIFE due to dust-gatherting, for example.)

It's not great TV, but it's consistently good TV, with potential. I'd like to see what they could do with a full season.

Anonymous said...

I thought the pilot of this show was awful, but I am really starting to love it. I liked the Back to the Futur-esque plot from last night (with making sure he still fell in love with his wife). And I liked the idea that he didn't remember the poker game, but maybe that is because it was always future Dan that played.

I kinda felt like that was going to be the last time we saw Livia, which is sad because I was just starting to like her.

I did feel old though. Living La Vida Loco is a song to signify the past? That song was super popular back during my senior year of HS. That wasn't THAT long ago.

Kat Coble said...

I absolutely love this show and am going to be heartbroken when the strike kills it.

It's not perfect television a la "The Wire", but it IS alot of fun.

It has a sparkle of the originality that Heroes promised last seasson but has been lucky enough to maintain without getting full of itself.

(Unlike Heroes.)

Frankly, I think this show deserves a better time slot and a chance AFTER the strike.

jim treacher said...

I liked that in order to make sure he and his wife fell in love, he had to gamble again. Reliving his past to save his future and so forth.

Glad I'm not the only one digging this show. The juggling of his personal life with the time-jumps, and the way they complicate each other, is what makes it work. Sucks that the ratings, well, suck.

I haven't seen Rome, but if you like Kevin McKidd, rent Dog Soldiers. It's a fun, clever little action/horror flick, and you get to hear his real accent.

Robin said...

I LOVE this show, so yea! that you're talking about it again Alan.

I read in one of the many, many articles about the writer's strike that although Journeyman didn't get a full season order, it will film and show the entire 13-episode original order from NBC. Maybe I'm just being optimistic, but perhaps that gave the writers enough time to bring it to a reasonable conclusion. The previews for next week seem to suggest that we're going to find out alot more about what's going on with the time traveling, and I have faith that the writers knew where they ultimately wanted this to go.

Perhaps, like good British tv, Journeyman can give us a satisfying tv show in a really small package.

jim treacher said...

Or if it does get canned before then, maybe NBC will put the remaining episodes online like ABC did with Day Break. (Poor Moon Bloodgood!)

Anonymous said...

That wasn't THAT long ago.

Tell me about it...The older I get, the closer to yesterday those things begin to feel. It's like this internal/eteral conflict of future me running into past me...!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for writing about this show, I fell as though I've been enjoying it in a vacumn. I think it has gotten better with each passing week and it's now downright wonderful after the slog that is Heroes.

I'd be OK with it not surviving the year however, just because the premise (the way they're been writing it) doesn't seem like it can be sustained in the long term.

Kenrick said...

I haven't watched yesterday's episode yet, but I just wanted to say I like this show. Not so much for the time traveling part, but more for how the time traveling affects his present life. They haven't really dealt with the consequences of altering timelines and time paradoxes and all that, but I'd rather they completely ignore the greater repercussions of time traveling (otherwise things would get really messy), as long as they maintain that stance.

I've missed a couple episodes so far, but I've always wondered why Livia shows up at the same time and place as Dan all the time. I mean isn't she supposed to solve her cases? Is her job to babysit Dan while he learns the ropes?

Lastly, I don't get why Dan hasn't told his brother about his... problem.

Anyway another reason this show is good I think is 'cause of Kevin McKidd, he's just inherently likeable for some reason.

Taleena said...

jeez treacher, you haven't seen Rome?

I do hope they are able to gracefully wrap this show up. I really like the way that the Victim of the week is secondary to the family/love life dynamics that Dan deals with. I like the fact that Katie believes Dan but still has to struggle through dealing with it while his 7 year old thinks it's cool.

Alex R said...

I have never seen "Rome" either.

That being said, yes, Kevin McKidd's immense likeability is one of the biggest factors of this series being SO good - thank you for covering it again, Alan.

I like the time travel stuff but this show is more of course - in describing it to my wife, I told her, "Quantum Leap" meets a family Drama. Great combo that really works because of this stellar cast.

I will miss this show when it's inevitably gone. A lot.

Also, a note to everyone who's missed episode - you can catch with all the episodes for free at NBC.com. They are ALL there.

zoz said...

Alan, that was Dan, not Jack, who came right out and asked the standard reporter questions of Livia in the last episode.

wjmtv said...

I agree that it gets better every week, and will also be sorry to see it go. The meshing of the two storylines is good, and I think it's handling the whole time-travel problem better than most shows and movies do.

My main complaint is that Dan hasn't yet asked Olivia what she's doing when she isn't babysitting (great term) him. Is she married to a cardiologist and has a chihuahua in the 'burbs? She's a part-time tour guide on Alcatraz? Limbo? What????

Have to mention my favorite moment last night: Jack asks Dan's boss how many deadlines Jack has missed lately, and Hugh just gives him a look. Priceless.

PS Rome is awesome. Watch it watch it watch it.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Alan, that was Dan, not Jack, who came right out and asked the standard reporter questions of Livia in the last episode.

Dammit, I thought I had caught all of those. For whatever stupid reason, I want to call Dan Jack and vice versa. It's fixed now.

jim treacher said...

"jeez treacher, you haven't seen Rome?"

No, but I do know it wasn't built in a day! Tee-hee, gimme those ribs, you.

Anonymous said...

After seeing the pilot, I figured this show would just be about Dan's jumps back into time, where he saves somebody week in and week out, and narrowly averts being discovered in his present life. Instead, his jumps have consequences that affect the present day (and that his supporting cast reacts to), mainly due to the writers adhering to some basic logic of time travel. It makes for a much more interesting show, and one that I'm more inclined to watch than the "guy from present fixes the past quantum leap style" that I feel was pitched to the networks and shown in the pilot. Sad that it probably won't be around as long as I'd like.
-Lance

Kris Eton said...

I hope, really hope, that everyone is wrong about "Journeyman" going away forever once its 13 episodes are up. I enjoy this show so much. It is very smart, and changes up the formula enough each week that it doesn't get boring. I also find that the jumps back in time work really well as flashbacks about what makes Dan tick.

I hope we find out why he and Livia are jumping around like this. I do think Dan's dad was also jumping through time for some reason. Didn't he say something a week or so ago about his dad disappearing?? I can't remember now.

The scene where Livia appears in Dan's closet was so intense. With Dan's brother running up the stairs to pull out the money bag, and then...bingo Livia takes it all. I was on the edge of my seat for that one.

The elements that carry over from episode to episode make this for smart viewing. This is leaps and bounds better TV than "Heroes."

Alex R said...

My long term vision for this show, if this were an alternate reality and people actually watched great shows like this, rather than giving ratings to unwatchable Reality fluff, would be that by the end of season 1, Jack Vasser (Reed Diamond) would be brought up to speed on Dan's travels, which would do the following things heading into these not-likely-to-exist-future seasons:

1. Jack would finally understand what Dan is going through

2. Once Dan (and possibly with the help of Livia and Katie) could offer 100% proof to Jack what's happening, Jack not only understands but becomes a present day ally

Eventually, a long term goal of this show could be that once Dan and Livia understand what makes them "time jump", the WHY or WHO that's causing it, then they could harness their jumps better and perhaps even involve Jack and/or Katie to help.

Also, as Dan has shown a few times - when he jumps, he not only jumps with the clothes on his body, but whatever is in his hand.

In theory, the time he was holding Zack's hand and then time jumped but only ended up with Zack's jacket - why for instance can he take a physical item, like a jacket or a bag of recycling or old money, but he can't physically clutch onto a human being (like Zack or eventually Jack) and take them w/ him?

It would be great if Jack were in on this & supporting Dan and then Jack could eventually figure out a way to jump in time with Jack, therebye giving himself a police officer plus an extra set of hands to help out.

As for Livia, I would also like to know where she goes when she's not babysitting Dan in the past?

Since I am starting to really trust the writing staff of "Journeyman" (again, a moot point if the strike leads to an inevitable cancellation) unlike say "Heroes" where the writing staff may actually be made up by a team of monkeys, I would trust the "Journeyman" staff to provide more answers to these basic questions many of us still have.

If this show only gets 13 episodes in its lifepsan, I hope in episode #13 we can get the basic questions about WHY and more about Livia by that episode.

And as someone said earlier, poor Moon Bloodgood! She's keeps going into these interesting serialized shows like "Journeyman" and "Daybreak" (although "Journeyman is 50X better) and they all keep dying early deaths.

The one modicum of hope I hold out for this series is that because it's on clear cut 4th placed NBC, that like with "30 Rock" and "Friday Night Lights", NBC decides to keep quality going despite ratings, since nothing they would likely put on would do any better.

Oh, and we can all thank "Heroes" for their dogsh-- 2nd season, not helping matters for "Chuck" or "Journeyman", both of which are far superior shows that actually seem to use real writers.

PamelaJaye said...

Well, I can't be as eloquent as some people, but as a fan of Quantum Leap who hates shows about time travel (I'm not kidding, and yeah, I know, it's inconvenient - once upon a time, the story I wanted to write for a Dark Shadows group ended up having to include time travel. I just can't seem to escape it. but in this instance I *chose* to watch the show) I just really like this show.

And of course, we've now reached the point where we can be cliffhung, as things are finally starting to happen that have consequences we would like to see Dan escape. Of course, we still have a few eps to sort that one out.

Also, I really enjoyed seeing Dan save his past self and future family.

And it's not that Quantum Leap didn't do this, every now and then, it's just that we rarely got to see the results (his brother didn't die, and his ex-fiancee actually married him)

I really enjoy the family dynamics that come due to the fact that he does return home, all the time (although when he promises to "always come home" - how can he know that?). And I love the humor of things like having the wrong money or his wife selling his old cell phone charger (packrats of the world: here is yet another reason to never throw anything away!)

I also love that, in the past, he wasn't a saint (like Sam) but he turned himself around and his wife stuck with him (actually, you might wonder, from the bedside scene, whether she's another Cameron - cause this guy was already screwed up when she met him - rather badly - and she fell in love and married him anyway)

Anyway, being a big fan of Scott Bakula (and not a scifi fan at all) saying that I really like the show must really say something about the show.

I've heard varying stories - one that production was shutting down, one that all the eps were shot. And I don't know which to believe...

now, on to the other Monday night fun - Chuck

PS - also glad you've returned to commenting on it.

jim treacher said...

I really liked Day Break. It helped to be able to watch the rest of the episodes online and see how the whole thing played out. It really holds together as a single 13-episode story. And that ending...

Michael said...

Add me to the list of folks who are glad you wrote about this show again (and I refrained from commenting on the Heroes thread)!

This show has actually become my favorite of the season, precisely because of how it has changed from the first episode.

I came close to not adding a Season Pass to my TiVo, but it kept picking up, and focusing more on the drama, and the time travel does have a logical sense to it... and now I find myself caring more and more about the characters and wanting to find answers to all of my questions.

Nate said...

Wassup Sep...

Is this show definitely on the chopping block? What kind of ratings has it been getting? It's surely a lot better than that glasses removing David Caruso and his scantily clad assistants over on CBS!

Jaynee said...

I've really been enjoying the show. I definitely didn't like the first episode much but gave it a second shot, then a third and next thing I know I have it saved on my Tivo list and I can't wait to watch it each week. It is DEFINITELY improve as it moves forward. Hope it sticks around...

boduke755 said...

I hate NBC for cancleing the show they suck

micheal said...

I thought the pilot of this Journey Man Episodes was awful, but I am really starting to love it. I liked the Back to the Futur-esque plot from last night