Journeyman was not very high on my list of interesting looking pilots. There just wasn’t anything that stood out when I read over the blurb. The basic premise has been done, and neither the cast nor crew had any names that rang bells. Nothing stood out before I watched the pilot and to be honest, nothing stood out afterwards either.
Firstly the concept. Dan is a journalist who’s trundling through his life quite happily when utterly randomly he finds himself in the past. He spends the first episode bouncing back and forth wondering what on earth is going on and generally being a bit befuddled. By the end of the first episode he’s cleverly managed to convince his wife that he’s not crazy (mostly) and work out that he’s supposed to be a kind of guardian angel for someone. It looks like the weekly plot will be that he starts bouncing back in time and has to work out who he’s helping, why and how.
So far, so Quantum Leap. But throw into this a bit of an arc about a dead girlfriend, a love-square from hell and attempting to still have a day job and a family while bouncing around in time and you’ve got yourself a ball game. Just not a very good one.
Here’s the problem, this show doesn’t know what it is. It’s not sci-fi enough to be sci-fi and it’s too sci-fi to be regular drama. It’s trying to cache in on the whole genre thing (it airs after Heroes on a Monday night) but it’s not smart enough. I actually watched Journeyman after Heroes and the drop in quality was astounding. Heroes shines, Journeyman is a dull blob.
The whole thing is very bland. None of the characters one stood out (maybe, just maybe the newspaper boss) and I could not care less about the love-square relationship. I found it quite hard to tell the two brothers apart, convincing family similarity, but not helpful to confused viewers. There’s no style to the direction either; rather than come up with some clever, consistent visual motif for the jumping they use a selection of cheesy effects. When we’re in the past we’re overwhelmed with too obvious historical references – giant mobile phones, bad hair and scary fashions.
This is all of course based on one measly 45 minute episode which was done great disservice by its director and editor. This was a really pretty awful pilot. I don’t know whether it was written as a two part and got cut down or whether it got network notes wanting more stuff added in, but it was a mess of epic proportions. By the time the opening credits came up 5 minutes in you’d already had enough plot and characters thrown at you to make half an episode. The editing was poorly done giving very little support to the viewer’s understanding of how time is flowing for the different characters and which time period the character is in.
Left to my own devices, I would not bother with this series, however my flat mates are more forgiving and want to see the second episode just to see what they do. There was one tiny element that was interesting to me (I won’t spoil it as it is nowhere near as interesting on paper as it was when a surprise) and raised my spirits a little. I have a suspicion it’s not going to be long for this world, I don’t think there’s enough to keep people coming back in the crowded schedules. The concept and the quality are just not high enough for the kind of lead-in audience it gets from Heroes. I would imagine it will be moved to a less prestigious time slot pretty soon and quietly fade away.