I’m sitting watching tonight’s episode of Journeyman, which I wrote about a few months ago. I’m impressed with it so far, after 8 episodes: It’s consistent and intriguing, and the story seems to be moving right along.
One unexpected bonus is that NBC has been so completely off-base in promoting most episodes: It seems like they often promote elements of the show which are sensational but pretty minor. For example, a few weeks ago the previews played up the fact that our hero, Dan Vassar, was out with his son Zack at a farmer’s market when he disappears into the past, leaving Zack alone in a crowd of strangers. Sure, it’s good copy (as they say), but it had almost nothing to do with the crux of the episode. This means that I’m usually surprised – and pleasantly so – by what really happens in the episode.
The series’ story arc is pretty nifty, too: Dan’s time-travelling ex-girlfriend Livia is gradually revealing her background and Dan’s disappearances are slowly catching up to him in the present. And there are lots of little hints that one other character might know what’s going on. The acting is also strong, especially Dan and Jack. It’s a nicely-blended mix of character drama (the Dan-Katie-Jack triangle is intense) and plot (each episode is self-contained, but the overall storyline is moving forward).
I’m usually very skeptical that a TV series has a plan and direction – almost every one I’ve ever seen is obviously plotted on-the-fly, and this becomes painfully evident after a couple of years. (I gave up on The X-Files early in the third season when this became clear for that series.) But Journeyman certainly feels like it’s got a plan behind it. And even if the direction is somewhat loose, the theme of self-determination in the face of what seems like an overwhelming cosmic force might be able to carry it for quite a while.
I’ll be pretty bummed if the series gets cancelled, or if the Hollywood writer’s strike blows the series off-course, although in principle I support the writers in their walkout. But hopefully the series will have a decent run with a satisfying conclusion. It’s got me pretty well hooked so far.
So this new TV season: I’ll probably skip Bionic Woman, and not much else attracted my attention even a little bit.
Tonight we watched the first episode of the second season of Heroes. It takes place four months after the first season, and we catch up with what the characters are doing. I found the first season to be pretty slow, so I don’t know whether I’ll make it through the second season. This episode bored me when it came to the Claire-and-Noah stuff (Hayden Panettiere & Jack Coleman), and more than once I thought that I’d really just like to have a whole episode of Hiro (Masi Oka). The show spends too much time lingering on boring stuff, and the dialogue isn’t especially clever so there’s very little to carry the viewer through those scenes.
The episode kicks it up a notch at the end, though, with several intriguing scenes. If it can build on these bits rather than stepping back and taking its usual time-outs then it could keep me watching. But it has to keep moving.
I stuck around afterwards to watch the first episode of Journeyman. While watching the story of Dan Vassar, it struck me how much Kevin McKidd reminded me of Reed Diamond of Homicide, and who should show up playing Dan’s older brother Jack but – Reed Diamond. I swear, I had no clue!
In Journeyman, Dan is a journalist in San Francisco who starts disappearing from his present life and appearing in the past, apparently following the life of a man whose wife and child died some years ago. Meanwhile his marriage is falling apart since his wife Katie (Gretchen Egolf) and friends thinks he’s having trouble with drug abuse. The set-up is slightly reminiscent of the book The Time Traveler’s Wife, since Dan has no control over what’s happening to him, though at least he does travel with his clothes.
The episode started a little slowly, and I cringed a little at Dan’s encounters with people he knows in his travels to the past, but it grabbed me with two scenes late in the episode: A sudden appearance by a very unexpected character, and then taking the big step of having Dan act smart in explaining his dilemma to his wife. The implication that there’s something larger going on, and that Dan’s not going to be an oaf while forces manipulate him makes me optimistic that this could be a good series. So that leaves the biggest question of all: Is the series going to go somewhere?
Maybe not, but I’m motivated at least to watch the next couple of episodes to see.