I was just introduced to Journeyman, a TV show that only lasted one session that aired in 2007. It is free on HULU and I really loved it. The series centers on Dan Vasser, a newspaper reporter living with his wife Katie and young son Zack in San Francisco. For an unknown reason, one day he begins "jumping" backward in time. He soon learns that each series of jumps follows the life of a person whose destiny he seems meant to change. Dan's jumping affects his family life and his job, and instills suspicion in his brother Jack, a police detective.
The first episode is slow but it really picks up and gets more and more intense in a good way. Plus, I think the open is super cool and I love the theme music. If you are going to watch it at least watch the first two episodes.
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I absolutely LOVED this show.
To be honest, I feel like it needed a few more episodes than just two to pick up steam, but by the end, the intensity was insane. Time travel/supernatural stories almost never play out in 100% literal, natural ways, but this one raised the stakes by doing exactly that. It was a 100% realistic show about a guy who doesn't understand what's happening to him, and has to hide it from family, friends, bosses who will never, ever understand it, or believe him even if he TRIED to explain it.
Quantum Leap did something similar of course, but I think this was significantly different, definitely more realistic, and I think more appealing to me because it played with the idea of whether love can transcend time, as well as basic concepts of self-identity and "home."
I'm not sure it needed to be on forever or anything...but I think it was one of several shows that needed some nurturing at the time, but instead got jammed up by the writer's strike. I was a supporter of the strike fwiw, but Journeyman always felt like some of the collateral damage.
In fact, the show wasn't officially cancelled for quite a while after they stopped making episodes! It led to a fan campaign for revival, and some speculation that it might come back in some form, at least a back nine order to wrap things up.
It didn't come to pass, but I think the non-cancellation reflected the belief in some quarters that there was something here worth protecting, even if immediate ratings didn't necessarily warrant it. I've always respected NBC for its willingness to take these kinds of "we're only keeping it on because we LIKE it" risks all the time, from Cheers to Community.
A bunch of off-topic yapping that's typical of me, exacerbated by being a real fan. I'd apologize but I know you won't believe me. Which you shouldn't. LOL
The lead performance by Kevin McKidd is particularly noteworthy not only for anchoring an admittedly high concept, but because when you see him in Trainspotting, it's nothing even vaguely similar. It's easy to forget that playing a "normal" guy in abnormal circumstances is hard work, and gets harder the more abnormal the circumstances are.
Again not to overstate the show's charms...but it's got charms out the wazoo.
There could be a whole thread of shows like this -- as interesting for what might have happened if they'd been given room to breathe as they are for what DID happen. Firefly is at the top of that list, followed by Freaks and Geeks and Arrested Development, but My So-called Life, The Tick, Pushing Daisies, Sarah Connor Chronicles, Flash Forward, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, My So-called Life, Carnivale, Dead Like Me...heck, add Twin Peaks, which, had it finished morphing away from Laura Palmer, easily had a couple more seasons...
...and my own personal #1, one of my favorite shows ever: Life. It's another one that took a handful of episodes to find its feet. After getting rid of its organizing trope (bridging action sequences with highly-stylized pseudo-documentary interviews), it became a real tour-de-force.
Thinking about this a little more as I type, Life comes up any time we see Damien Lewis or Sarah Shahi (which is, gladly, often), and is definitely the one whose loss we still feel most...but after that, Journeyman is the one that Nora and I bring up with each other the most often.
Even though I would in no way put it as high up the list as some of these other shows when compared head to head, it was something special. Its growth over the last half-dozen episodes in particular was so remarkable that ending it when it did really did feel like a loss.
On the topic of shows ending too early, gotta add two from producer Shaun Cassidy - yes, THAT Shaun Cassidy.
The first (and indeed his first gig as a producer) was American Gothic on CBS -- exec produced by Sam Raimi! Here's Wikipedia:
Though appearing affable and charismatic, Sheriff Buck is a murderous rapist whose powerbase is backed by apparent supernatural powers, which he generally uses to manipulate people to "fulfill their potential" and make life-changing choices (usually for evil).
Add to that the innate creepiness of being set in South Carolina (LOL - I was born there and my wife lived there for a while as a child), and this thing was off the hook dark. We kept asking ourselves, "How did this ever get on network TV??" which is surely part of why it left. A shame.
His other unfortunately early exit was Invasion -- as the name suggests it was about, well, W'pedia again:
The show told the story of the aftermath of a hurricane in which water-based creatures infiltrate a small Florida town and begin to take over the bodies of the town's inhabitants through a cloning process (first by merging with and then unknowingly replacing them).
That's right, the water-based creatures DIDN'T REALIZE they were replacing the people.
Again, off the hook creepy. Dude sawed off his own arm (for different reasons than Saw of course), one of several things that made us ask, "How did this wind up on TV?" -- which we meant in a good way. The network was ABC in this case, and the show was produced by Shaun for Warner Bros. At least it went a full 22 episodes, but it had a LOT left in the tank. Should have been another couple of seasons, easy.
Much to love about this one, but top of the list: William Fichtner at his all-time creepiest, which is saying a lot.
Not produced by Shaun Cassidy but like American Gothic, only airing a couple of highly memorable episodes, Wonderland, created by Peter Berg -- his first gig as a producer. (He also wrote and directed the pilot.)
A very dark look inside a very dark fictional mental hospital, although without the supernatural/fantasy aspects of the other shows. It featured the perspectives of both doctors and patients, and was hammered from pretty much every quarter for one thing or another.
Really hard core...again, leading us to wonder at our good fortune that it landed on network TV (ABC again)...and knowing that this is part of the reason it was yanked after 2 episodes aired. The first one in particular is one of the strongest hours of TV I've ever seen. Absolutely mind-boggling.
Ace cast too. Ted Levine as the head psychiatrist, in a massive shift from his role as Jamie Gumb in Silence Of The Lambs, plus Michelle Forbes, Patricia Clarkson, and a bunch of actors who deserve better than "oh yeah, THAT guy" status. Love, love, love.
But my wife agrees: Life towers over all the rest, with American Gothic #2 on the list of most painful for her (Wonderland for me) -- but Journeyman is absolutely the one we talk about most after Life. Journeyman really did have something that has stuck with us for many years....
I didn't know this was on Hulu! I loved this show so much.
I'll again second Life as a show really worth watching. It really felt like it died at its high point. Better than overstaying its welcome, I suppose. Cough The Office cough cough.
Among shows that went out the hard way, I was thinking a bit about Arrested Development, and other shows that seemed to become self-aware (maybe the American version of Life on Mars? I'm blanking on others.) Shows that knew they were terminal before they had finished shooting. After viewing this season of Arrested Development on Netflix (which I thought for the most part was really good), I think the original seasons were something really amazing BECAUSE of the circumstances the show was in. A lot of jokes about TV, about low budgets...the whole last season was driven in part by a Save our Bluths/Fight TBA campaign partially created by fans. If they had money and all the resources they needed, it would have been good but not memorable.
Some shows die in their prime. Others live their prime because they're dying. I guess.
The British series Life On Mars was limited -- two 8-episode series, a total of 16. The creator felt, rightly I think, that the series only made sense at all if it had a conclusion.
The American version could well have wound up like the US version of The Office -- going on forever. Instead, it was saved by low ratings. LOL Notice came early enough that they were able to come in for a smooth landing in a total of 17 episodes. In fact, the American producers had a chance to clean up some of what they felt were loose ends in the UK version. (The UK creator thought -- surprise, surprise -- that the American version just made up a bunch of crap and threw it at the screen with no finesse at all.)
This was another show that needed tweaking. Remember, it started out set (and shot) in LA, then moved to New York for both setting and shooting. Once there, it became inconceivable that they'd ever considered anything else.
Thought of another painful one: The Unusuals, a wonderful, fresh take on New York cops starring Jeremy Renner - his last stop on TV before the mooovies. It had a MASH vibe -- focus on insanity, with the twist that everybody on the show was hiding something big from everybody else. Only 10 eps. Available free on Hulu, as well as the other usual suspects. Highly, highly recommended.
Three more from ABC, the lightning round:
Sports Night, Aaron Sorkin's TV intro. West Wing was greater of course, and while it hasn't aged especially well, it really, really should have been around longer.
Dirty Sexy Money was CRAZY good - really juicy high-society stuff that hadn't been seen since Dynasty, and wouldn't be seen again until Revenge...both also on ABC! CRAZY good cast here, starting with Donald Sutherland and Jill Clayburgh as the parents at the head of the clan. 23 eps in all, but could, and should, have gone on for years.
Eli Stone, 26 eps in two seasons, but had at least another full season, maybe two, in the tank. Indeed, the plan had been to wrap it up at the end of the third season, assuming it had been a full one. Jonny Lee Miller in the title role (currently Sherlock on CBS), with the great Victor Garber as his mentor, and George Michael playing himself in a recurring hallucinatory vision. Quite popular around the world, but unlike movies, there's still not much of a model for producing American TV for global markets and letting the US just come along for the ride.
Funny, Fox is the one that had the reputation for killing series too quickly, but looking at these 5, as well as others I've mentioned, ABC has a lot more on the list, including some of the cream of the crop....
but by the end, the intensity was insane.
Not to give anything away for those who haven't seen it but the two episodes with Aden Bennett (the kidnapper) where super intense. I was watching an episode a night and had to watch the next episode to see what happened. Great story telling. The stakes just kept getting higher each episode (minus the last two).
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New shows I am looking forward to:
The Black List. Silence Of the Lambs meets 24. Spader does sociopath very well. If you see the online promo, you've seen the entire premiere episode, so beware. This is our replacement for watching "Burn Notice".
the 22nd Precinct I don't much care for Andy Samberg but I will watch anything Andre Braugher is in, from his stunning work in "Homicide" to the crappy submarine show and before that, his awesome but short-lived series, "Thief". THAT one died way too early; his mid-air airline heist was awesome. This new show looks so formulaic, I give it just one season.
Marvel's Agents of Shield, I expect to be interesting for about 4- 5 episodes, then it may hit a slump. What's interesting about this show is that if Marvel plays their cards right, they can introduce lesser known comic heroes in the series and build a movie audience for them over time. Look for an introduction of Luke Cage in the early eps.