Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Armchair Writer with a Remote

Journeyman on NBC. You knew I'd get around to an opinion about it, right?

Aside from the common belief that the general TV audience doesn't have the attention span or patience for a storyline this complex, completely disproved by the success of Heroes and Lost, I'm not convinced this show has longevity. And you all know how much I wish for time travel longevity, right?

Many comparisons have been made to Quantum Leap, for obvious reasons, but the similarities stop at the whole time-travel-make-things-right premise. Journeyman has the potential to explore deeper, more complex emotions and moral choices because the main character is traveling as himself, not the embodiment of another, and must return and face the consequences of his circumstances. However, because Sam Beckett communicated with the future via secondary characters and technological devices, he remained firmly in the storyline of the past, allowing the viewer full, uncluttered access to the problem at hand.

Now, this opinion is coming from someone whose novel unfolds backward in twenty-four hour increments, but Journeyman is symptomatic of the fast-paced--even hurried dramas that are becoming staples on network TV. Quick dialogue. Rushed scenes in an effort to break for more commercials and keep an audience from multitasking five other actions to stop long enough to become engaged. So many moments in Journeyman's pilot fly by. The emotional payoff to an amazing ending, where the entirety of the episode becomes clear was completely rushed. The moment he discovers his lost lost love might indeed face the same strange phenomenon he's struggling to understand, her line is rapid-fire and buried beneath an effective, but too-loud background score. Dan Vasser experienced one moral dilemma after another in the span of 38 minutes, yet the writers and directors only skimmed the surface of these emotions, asking the viewer to fill in the rest.

I applaud NBC for continuing to harness the success of Heroes and the craving the audience has for something fresh that offers complexities the viewer will analyze long after the credits roll. I hope the lightning speed of the pilot was merely set to engage a new audience and the pace will slow a bit to capitalize on the unique challenges facing the characters.
Oh, and note to self: if this fiction thing doesn't work out, I can, apparently, work as a newspaper reporter in San Francisco and earn enough to buy a four million dollar Victorian.

What did you think?


Marilyn Brant said...

We just watched it last night, so I've been holding off reading your comments until now...but I think you nailed it.

The pilot had some terrific moments, but it was initially confusing, rushed and made me question why the hero didn't pin his long-lost/time-traveling love to the wall in that hallway for 30 seconds and fire the questions at her that I wanted to know: Why was this happening to him? Is she the reason he's begun time traveling? Are there a community of travelers beyond the two of them?

Still, it's an intriguing enough premise for me to want to give it another few weeks at least, and I'm curious to see what they'll do with the second episode.

Sandra Ferguson said...

Must confess, I was grading papers and couldn't get caught up in the pilot.

Does the rushed dialogue reek of Gilmore Girls? Everything chatty and everyone sounding the same? If that's the case, I'm afraid I couldn't even give them a week's try.

When did we learn to talk in bullets? Strange, most normal conversations don't sound rapid fire at all. Maybe the writers of TV could try listening to real people talk for a change.

Eric said...

Though they bounced between past/present too frequently with the initial airing of the show, think they're going in the right direction with it and if it can keep me captivated, then that's saying something, right?

It's refreshing, deviating from all the drugs/sex/materialism and negativity that is today's America and prime-time T.V programming.