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Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2007-2008 season. Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere this season and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot. While it's still a little early for full reviews (some recasting and reshooting will be done on a good chunk of them), we still want to give you a heads up on what you should - and shouldn't - keep on your radar in the coming months.
And as an added bonus this year, each day we'll also take a look at one of the pilots that didn't make the cut. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!
(Mondays at 10:00/9:00c this fall)
The network's description: "From Emmy Award-winning writer-producer Kevin Falls ("The West Wing") and Emmy Award-winning director-producer Alex Graves ("The West Wing"), "Journeyman" is a romantic mystery-drama about Dan Vasser (Kevin McKidd, "Rome"), a San Francisco newspaper reporter and family man who inexplicably begins to travel through time and change people's lives. Along the way, he also must deal with the difficulties and strife at work and home brought on by his sudden disappearances. However, his freewheeling travels through the decades reunite him with his long-lost fiance Livia (Moon Bloodgood, "Day Break") -- which complicates his present-day life with wife Katie (Gretchen Egolf, "Martial Law") and their son. Reed Diamond ("Homicide: Life on the Street") and Charles Henry Wyson ("The Curious Case of Benjamin Button") also star. "Journeyman" is a production of 20th Century Fox Television. Falls is executive producer and writer; Graves is executive producer and director of the pilot."
What did they leave out: An earlier version of the script apparently featured a regular character named Laura Teischer, one of Katie's friends who comforts her during Dan's disappearances.
The plot in a nutshell: San Francisco Register reporter Dan Vasser (Kevin McKidd) is losing time. He gets into a cab only to wake up a few hours later. He goes to bed at night only to return to his doorstep to learn two days have passed. During these "trips" as he calls them he has what feels like dreams about the past - whether it be a first meeting with his old flame Livia (Moon Bloodgood) or their subsequent engagement party a few months before her untimely death. Slowly but surely however he realizes he's actually jumping back in time. It's news that would make any normal person sound crazy, even worse for Dan as he has something of a reputation as a gambler, boozer and everything else under the sun. It's not surprising then that his wife Katie (Gretchen Egolf), his cop brother Jack (Reed Diamond) and his editor Hugh (Brian Howe) don't buy his story, even going so far as to schedule an intervention. Dan's only lead to solve his predicament then is that he keeps on running into the same guy (Christopher Warren) during each of his trips. Some journalistic sniffing around (or luck actually) later, Dan figures out why he thinks he was sent back. But he's got bigger problems though - like proving to his wife he's not crazy. Thankfully, he's seen "Back to the Future" like the rest of us and pulls an ace out from his sleeve to save his marriage.
What works: There's an underlying cleverness to the show that dulls the edges of its rockier parts - whether it be how 2007 must deal with the repercussions of Dan being pulled into 1997 while driving his car; Dan using his PDA's wireless signal to figure out if he's in present day; or its fun anachronistic references (a billboard for the movie "Less Than Zero," the closing minutes of Super Bowl XXXII, a clip from the Jane Pauley/Bryant Gumbel-era "Today" show, etc.). There's also a solid love rectangle at the center of the show - while Dan was with Livia, Jack was dating Katie, Dan's future wife. And while the show never explains who or what is behind Dan's trips, a juicy - albeit predictable - tease thankfully provides the carrot for those wanting to know more about what's really going on.
What doesn't: At the end of the day though, the show didn't quite make "the leap" to hook me. McKidd and Bloodgood, while only a few years apart in real life, actually feel much wider apart onscreen, leading to something of an awkward chemistry. And while part of it is the point - he's seeing someone he loved 10 years ago - he still has to play himself 10 years ago too. The same goes for the pilot's "case" which Dan solves mostly through blind luck. And again, part of that is the point - a certain someone mentions he's supposed to screw up - it certainly doesn't engender us to the idea his character is a dogged beat reporter. This all leads to the show's biggest flaw - we're told Dan used to be this big gambler/drinker/etc. and not to be trusted but we never really see him be anything but a clean cut, stand-up guy and good father to his son (Charles Henry Wyson) - which is kind of ironic considering it's a time travel show. Because of that the whole "nobody trusts me... and with good reason" angle never quite connects. In the end, all the pieces for an entertaining show are there - they just don't quite come together. And finally as a postscript, "Journeyman" proves why it's sometimes unfair to look at shows in the early stages - the temp track on the screener is lifted entirely from the score to "Prison Break," giving it a feeling I don't think was intended.
The bottom line: As mentioned previously, all the pieces for an entertaining show are there - they just don't quite come together.