Dazzling Knowledge

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Tpotdomescandal's Top 10 TV shows

#8: Quantum Leap

Theorizing that one could time travel within his own lifetime, Dr. Sam Beckett stepped into the Quantum Leap accelerator and vanished .... He awoke to find himself trapped in the past, facing mirror images that were not his own and driven by an unknown force to change history for the better. His only guide on this journey is Al, an observer from his own time, who appears in the form of a hologram that only Sam can see and hear. And so Dr. Beckett finds himself leaping from life to life, striving to put right what once went wrong and hoping each time that his next leap will be the leap home.

It still gives me chills. Quantum Leap was a fine example of episodic programming, in which each episode began and ended in a similar manner and told a similar type of story. I often prefer more complex structures in television, but Quantum Leap excelled because of its heart and its unique ability to completely change settings from week to week. The show’s great heart came off as genuine, rather than hokey. Part of the reason is that Scott Bakula’s Sam Beckett was believable in his heroism and innocence. You rooted for him to right what once went wrong. The structure of the show allowed Sam to be in a different era every episode (well, between 1958 and 1987). This added variety and increased its appeal, especially to nostalgic types who grew up in the 50s and 60s. The show could be funny, dramatic, or smart, but it was always about doing the right thing. In fact, like Futurama, Quantum Leap succeds as a sincere and intelligent scifi porogram precisely because it avoids the pretention and jargon of conventional scifi. The cigar-chomping skirt-chasing Al was a classic sidekick character.

The spiritual theme developed over time, and in the final seasons, there was a good deal of metaphysics. Righting what once went wrong explicitly took on a dimension of working to do God's will. There was even an anti-leaper working for the devil to make things wrong. All along, Al puffed his cigar.

If you're not familiar with the art of wikigroaning, quantum leap (scientific term) vs. Quantum Leap (television series), is a great example.


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