When good TV runs bad: how Quantum Leap manufactured one bounce extremely far

The time-travel show used its man-in-another-mans-body tool to show that pity trumps racism. Then Dr Sam turned up as Lee Harvey Oswald

Keep your salacious, grimacing, morally accommodation antiheroes. Doctor Sam Beckett– Quantum Leap’s time-hopping samaritan- was dependably the opposite, a kind of uncle hero. As played by the square-jawed Scott Bakula, Sam may have ogled rocky but he was also relatable, a goofy but indefatigable do-gooder with six different doctorates, some sick kickboxing moves and a core decency so unshakeable it could apparently exist the existential damage of frequent temporal displacement.

For five memorable seasons between 1989 and 1993, Sam didn’t merely parrot the old adage about ambling a mile in another man’s shoes( or desert boot or high heels ); he lived it. After a berserk physics experiment in 1999 mails him ping-ponging within the encompas of his own lifetime, Sam find himself zapped unexpectedly into strangers like a one-sided Freaky Friday. With the aid of horndog hologram Al( Dean Stockwell ), Sam must intuit how to alter each current shred of history for the better, clearing the cosmic runway for his next compassion mission.

Sporadic sci-fi signifiers such as Al’s eye-searing future-zoot suits disguised Quantum Leap’s old-fashioned heart. With the only recurring ingredients being the two main personas and Bakula’s bewildered catchphrase (” Oh son !”), Quantum Leap was essentially an collection line built around color, ever-revolving span trappings. These were standalone justice plays- literal age vessels- that interrogated what it meant to live, occupation and enjoy in the US during the disturbance of the late 20 th century. Sam did a lot of preventing collisions and foiling assassinations but Quantum Leap cooked in social issues to reinforce its thesis: that empathy can and should trump prejudice.

Even below-par chapters were enlivened by the daisy-chaining preview of the next undertaking, a moreish cliffhanger that would reveal Sam was unexpectedly a trapeze artist in mid-air, or a convict in the electric chair, or a cheesy magician about to be shish-kebabbed by a sword. By broom the board clear every week, Quantum Leap could claim to be essentially shark-proof.

Yet when it shifted toward originality, such as Sam leaping into a chimpanzee, Quantum Leap surely began to inch over the fin. There was the creepy third-season chapter where it was implied the very best doctor had tangled with the actual demon, a shocker in all sorts of ways. Increasingly, instead of ordinary parties with vaguely relatable troubles, Sam received himself hijacking famous luminaries such as fornication therapist Dr Ruth and a pre-fame Elvis. These stunt bounces cumulatively chipped away at the show’s original foundations.

But Quantum Leap definitively jump-start the shark during the premiere of the work of its fifth and final season, when Sam moved his notorious leap into Lee Harvey Oswald. This contentious two-parter discounted the seduce of plots to present JFK’s assassin as a lone gunman. That was an unpopular creative pick but a defendable one. The real unforgivable sin was season five, taking Mike Post’s skillful original topic- a very warm, accepting bubblebath of soothing cocktail jazz- and remixing it into hateful, artificially energised absurdity. If only there was some method to go back and fixture that …

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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