Five Thoughts on Quantum Leap‘s “July 13, 1985”
Welcome back, leapers! If you’re new to Multiversity’s Quantum Leap coverage, know that for the past two summers we’ve been revisiting the original series, just wrapping up season three last week. We’ll be back with season four next summer, but for now, we are going to be covering the new season as part of our Boomb Tube weekly column.
So, with that out of the way, welcome! Let’s get into it!
1. No theme song. Fuck this
I almost want to stop covering this show because it isn’t using the classic Mike Post theme song. This may seem like an overreaction, but it isn’t. That is a perfect theme song and, while I recognize that there is likely no way they could do the 90-second intro for a series in 2022, even just referencing it throughout the score would’ve been enough. While the rest of the episode does a pretty good job honoring the original series, through making Sam and Al pieces of the story, this feels like the easiest way to incorporate some of that initial series magic into this show, and it fell flat. I’ll try to forgive it.
2. Oh oh oh it’s Magic!
This next bit may be considered a slight spoiler, so if you want to go into this totally blind, skip down to #3.
So, Ernie Hudson’s character’s nickname is Magic, and if you look it up on IMDB, the character’s full name is Herbert ‘Magic’ Williams, who is the Navy Seal that Sam leaped into in “The Leap Home Part 2,” the second episode of season three. This is a nice touch, although I would think there’s no way for Magic to be aware of this coincidence. With the promise of Al’s daughter showing up and a former leapee in the driver’s seat, the show isn’t trying to hide its connection to the past. Except, of course, for the fucking theme song.
3. What year could this possibly be?
While there are a fair amount of original series episodes that take place in my 1982 and on lifetime, most of the series takes place between the early 50s and the late 70s, in part because it allowed the series to get cute with references and allusions that the adults watching the series on NBC in its original run would recognize and do the Leo pointing at the TV gif at. But now that I’m that adult watching this on NBC in its original run, the first episode seems grossly over the top in its 1985ness. It has to be the day of Live Aid, they have to pass a theater playing both The Goonies and the ultimate Brat Pack film, St. Elmo’s Fire. Of course “Take on Me” plays a prominent role.
Thankfully, the plot itself was relatively nostalgia-free, allowing the show’s trademark heart to seep through a bit.
For the first three full seasons of the original series, we only really deal with one person from Project Quantum Leap, which is Al. There are very rare appearances in the pilot, the season three finale, and the episode where Al has to defend the project in court that we get a few glimpses, but from just this pilot, we have far more of a relationship with the folks at PQL than we did for most the original run.
The cast is a diverse one, but right now they all feel a little one dimensional and flat. To be fair to all involved, there is an insane amount of exposition that is needed to even begin to understand this show, and we at least know what most of these characters do and one quasi-fact about them. But while I get the desire for a more stable supporting cast, the show’s charm is the leaps, not the behind the scenes, and there is way that this reboot forgets that and goes too big on the other end.
I promise I will not spend all season comparing this to the original, but it’s instructive to look at the original pilot, which let us spend much more time with Sam than this does with Ben, and Sam’s abject fear is palpable in that pilot. Ben is too cool and collected through all of this, which should be a horribly disorienting experience. The show also adds in the mystery of Al’s daughter’s involvement to give a more overarching structure, which later seasons of the original run did as well, often times to diminishing returns.
Again, the charm of this show is the leaping back and forth in time, into different bodies. If the show focuses too much on the background story, I fear it will suffer.
5. Dr. Ben Seong and the Swiss cheese brain
The single most important aspect of this show is the casting of Raymond Lee in the lead role. Now, while he’s no Scott Bakula – because, honestly, who could be? – he has an undeniable charm and open heart that made Bakula such a great Sam Beckett. Like I said earlier, he’s a little too cool and collected, but his empathy is there, and I’m sure that, over time, his charms will show themselves a little more than they do here. Not that he isn’t charming, but he’s not even in the same zip code as Bakula right now.
The Oh shit Teaser:
The world is so edgy man, and that’s why Ben says “oh shit” instead of “oh boy,” man.
To be fair, I’d say “oh shit” if I leaped into an astronaut, too.
See ya in Boomb Tube!
* This article was originally published here