Thursday, December 20, 2007

Journey On

It appears that the writer's strike has finally dealt it's first major blow to my personal television viewing schedule, well, besides the fact that only eight of the 16 LOST Season Four episodes have been produced. Tonight the (presumably) final episode of my favorite new show of the season aired.

Journeyman wasn't the greatest show ever. I won't even try to say it was. Honestly, the only reason I wanted to watch it in the beginning was its main plot device: time travel. Time travel is such an interesting story telling technique and has created some of my favorite movies such as the Back to the Future trilogy and the two Bill & Ted movies. Even the plot of the book I'm currently writing revolves around time travel. It's an ability we wished we had (as a species), but is, in all likelihood, impossible. This yearning combined with infeasiblity stirs the creative juices of many writers such that so many different conceptions of time travel have been created.

The main reason I loved Journeyman is its rules of time travel. The main character, Dan Vassar, randomly started traveling and didn't know why. He soon found that, through his actions in the past, he could change his present, but his knowledge of his "original" present remained. For instance, in one of the better episodes of the series, he returns home to find he doesn't have a son, but has a daughter. His wife doesn't even remember the son. Now, the writers pulled some funky stuff with a psychic knowing the son's name, but the basic premise remains the same: he changed the timeline and he didn't change. There were no predestination paradoxes or other types of paradoxes. The writers seemed to have created a version of time travel that was at least logically consistent with itself.

There were some things I didn't like about Journeyman. The first few episodes of the series weren't that great (which I think is part of the reason it never caught on). It took a little while for the show to find its legs. The writers didn't seem to know if they wanted to do another Early Edition or a more involved series. Some of the characters were hard to emotionally invest in. The newspaper editor Hugh seemed to be nothing more than a token character Dan had to answer to in order to keep his job. Most notably, Dan's wife Katie was hard to invest in. Partly, Dan's time travel partner Olivia was a more interesting character, so I wanted Dan to end up with her. Partly, I don't think the writers ever found a good story for Katie beyond sitting at home waiting for Dan (which a woman clearly cannot do in today's entertainment industry). At one point it seemed as if she would go back to work, though perhaps that story was dropped when the writers knew the series would be shortened. Overall though, Katie was likable. What was worse than her shortcomings was the characters that came along to try and "tempt" her away from Dan, saying he was crazy and she could survive on her own such as her mother and sister. The two never felt like more than caricatures written in to give Katie someone to interact with and to quantify her inner struggle. It would have been much more interesting had she invested more in Dan's brother Jack, her ex, or found another outlet, perhaps another guy.

I'll miss Journeyman, although I'm not completely sure it's over. True, NBC hasn't picked up the option on the show, but why would they with all the writers' strike hoopla putting the entire television season into jeopardy...and I don't mean that every network will just air the game show over and over again. Also, if NBC drops the show, I wouldn't be surprised to see it end up on another network (I'm looking at you SciFi.). The most important piece of evidence for the show being in limbo and not sent down to cancellation hell is that the fans are the only one uttering the ugly c word. The creator seems to think some hope still exists. The network hasn't said yes, but hasn't said no either (although, women tend to use that technique and it often does mean no). Most convincing to me is a line from tonight's episode:

"I don't know why, but I think it's going to be a while," Olivia

Something about that statement stuck out to me. Within the context of the story Olivia was having some sort of premonition that she wouldn't see Dan for awhile, but an integral part of the drama of when he traveled, at least for me, was her being there too. They were like the ultimate time-traveling-crime-solving duo. If they didn't see each other for awhile, there would be no story. Outside the story, even if the show is picked up, because of the strike it won't be back for awhile.

Whatever happens to Journeyman, somewhere, somehow, may Dan Vassar journey on.

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