Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Fall 2007 TV: Journeyman

Journeyman (NBC)

Journeyman is the story of San Francisco journalist Dan Vasser (Rome's Kevin McKidd), happily married to Katie (Gretchen Egolf) and father of a young son, who suddenly finds himself coming unstuck in time, and traveling back into his past. On his first trip back, Dan spies Livia (played by the double-vowel intense Moon Bloodgood), the former love of his life who has been dead for almost ten years, and feels old emotions beginning to resurface.

In the past, Dan also saves the life of a man trying to kill himself, named Neal Gaines. It begins to seem that there's some purpose behind his time-traveling, as on subsequent trips he keeps running across both Neal and Livia. Is he meant to change their lives for the better? Meanwhile, his trips are making his own life worse, as his family and friends despair over his disappearances.

I was surprised by how wrapped up in this show I got. The writing is sharp and involving, giving you just enough information without spelling everything out. For example, I love how everyone in Dan's life immediately suspects the worst when he first starts disappearing. His boss thinks it's gambling, his wife thinks drugs (she asks if he's hanging out with "Eddie" again, whom we never meet, but know must be bad news), and his cop brother Jack thinks he's having an affair (and when it's finally revealed Dan's wife Katie was dating Jack before Livia died, we know why Jack's so quick to jump to that conclusion). Clearly, Dan's life has gone through some dark turns in the past, which makes it even harder for anyone to accept his outlandish explanations.

And the story kept me guessing, with some clever twists throughout. I was thrown when it was eventually revealed that, despite his apparent purpose in meeting Neal, Dan's goal was not to save him -- it was to keep Neal from murdering his own son, who would go on to save many lives on his own. Didn't see that coming. Another fine twist comes when Dan runs across Livia in the past -- and then, at the same time, another, older version of Livia, and discovers that she never died in that plane crash, and seems to be on the same kind of time-traveling mission Dan is on.

The weakest part of the show is probably the actual moments in which Dan passes through time; they're accompanied by unnecessary flashes of light and big ripples in the air and a goofy "VOOOMP!" sound. The subtlety of the writing does not cross over to the FX department.

But just about everything else in the show worked for me. McKidd is a gifted actor (though a little too intense at times; he needs to bring it down a notch in some places, especially if he's going to live up to the character's alleged sense of humor), and the rest of the cast is fine; and the writing ably mixes drama, mystery, and romance. Plus, I love those San Francisco location shots! Makes me miss the City all over again. Hopefully the series lives up to the pilot. This doesn't quite reach flat-out greatness, but it's easily the best of the new shows I've seen so far.

Rating: 8 out of 10

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