Journeyman, the NBC drama series starring Kevin McKidd, has already featured here in my Top 25 Time Travel Stories, but it deserves a closer look, seeing as it was one of the stand out dramas of the Fall schedule and is still running on Sky over here in the UK.
What at first looked like a gimmicky Quantum Leap rip off turned out to be a moving drama about how a disorder like involuntary time travel can affect a marriage. No surprise then, that the show was created by Kevin Falls, who’s had writing and exec roles on quality drama series like Sports Night, The West Wing and Shark.
Kevin McKidd stars as Dan Vasser, a San Francisco reporter who suffers from chrono-displacement (to borrow a term from Audrey Niffenegger’s novel The Time-Traveler’s Wife): randomly finding himself catapulted into his own past. But there appears to be some kind of controlling intelligence at work: Dan is there to help someone and change something, which is where the Quantum Leap comparisons come in.
Journeyman is much more intelligent than Quantum Leap, though, and there’s a compelling series arc in which we never quite get to find out who’s controlling Dan’s jaunts (a revelation they were perhaps saving for episode 21).
Kevin Falls has acknowledged the comparisons, though he stresses he’s never read The Time-Traveler’s Wife: ‘The issue was more of the domestic problem of time traveling and its impact on the marriage, I think we kind started there ‘cause we wanted it to start with how it would feel to a family, and then get into more of the mythology of it. But once we got deeper into it, all that stuff fell away. And the Quantum Leap comparison hung around for a while, and then that fell away, and it seemed like everybody kind of realized it was its own show.’
Journeyman suffered in the ratings war but managed to complete its 13-episode initial run with a few questions answered, much in the manner that Heroes tried to wind things up for its half season run. The reason for this is the WGA Writers Strike. Shows don’t know if they’re going to come back or not.
Ironically, though, the strike may have helped Journeyman. Its pilot episode was perhaps too complex and viewers dropped away, but those that stuck with it saw it develop quickly into a compelling drama. If the strike hadn’t been on, NBS may well have pulled it earlier.
But Journeyman now seems to have gone the same way as that other high quality NBC show, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip: screwed over because the network never bothered to push it in the proper timeslot, although Falls was quick to point out that NBC gave Studio 60 a much bigger push than they gave Journeyman, which achieved the same ratings on a fraction of the promotion.
Although no official cancellation has been announced, NBC allowed their full season pick-up option to lapse, which means actors and crew are now free to look for other work. In the eyes of many, this means the show is effectively dead, much to the anger of the millions who love it.
The only winners in this might be The Quaker Oats Company. Outraged Journeyman fans have emulated the actions of the Jericho supporters who got CBS to re-order that show by deluging them with peanuts. The Save Journeyman campaign are sending NBS executives boxes of the San Francisco snack Rice a Roni.
Hopefully, they’ll get the message. Or another network that is less prone to premature cancellations will see the massive support out there for quality, intelligent drama and pick it up themselves… once the strike is over, of course.