The Reboot of Quantum Leap Is Worth Your Time
Of Course, Some People Have Already Have Decided It Isn’t.
Last year around this time, I spent a lot of time explaining why I thought the upcoming reboot of The Wonder Years — this time done with an African American family — might have even more potential than the original. When it debuted last year, many critics considered it superb. I gave it five stars and ranked it among my ten best series of 2021. The series received multiple award nominations from the Image Awards and the HCA. But even before it had debuted, far too many people had already made up their minds.
Before a single episode aired, it had been giving an overall rating of 3.5 at imdb.com. The average rating after the first season was roughly seven, which is closer to accuracy but I wasn’t entirely stunned — any more than I was given the reaction to the CW’s Tom Swift — who I’m willing to bet nobody on the internet had even heard of — had been changed to a gay African-American was a violation of a sacred text or the fact that Amazon had decided to turn off reviewing for its Lord of the Rings spinoff when trolls decided that because people of color were playing critical roles, it was a violation of everything Tolkien stood for.
Because, as we should all know by now fantasy, like space exploration set far in the future, historic pieces done in the past and time travel, all belong to white men. They are the only people who can truly do justice to the genre — any genre, really. Because it’s fine for a time lord to regenerate a dozen times, but they must only do so as white men, never women or people of color. That’s the companion’s job and honestly, we’re not really happy about that. Similarly, they must only travel to alien worlds, not any part of the past that is relevant. Comic book heroes are always straight white men; any attempt to make them anything else is ‘political’ and that’s not what comic books are about. And we don’t put our hands on Star Trek or Star Wars; those are gospel.
Honestly, the lunacy to this has reached incredible levels. Earlier this year, Disney Plus released Obi-Wan where Ewan McGregor reprised the role, he’d played in the first three episodes of Star Wars. You remember those, right? The series that everybody said ruined their enjoyment of the original series. The episodes that basically featured actors people loathed in stories that made no sense. That relied on CGI that so many people hated. This is the prime example of the exact kind of series that nobody asked for, and there was outrage when it came out. But not because of that. Not because people hated the idea. No, all of their loathing was directed to Moses Ingram’s portrayal of an African American female Jedi. If I remember some of the criticism, she was ‘taking attention away from the series.’
If this doesn’t prove that the trolls on the internet on spoiled fanboys, I don’t know what will. At this point, I honestly if Plan 9 From Outer Space was remade and the Bela Lugosi character — who you might not know died two days before filming and was replaced by a non-actor who hid this face — was replaced by Morgan Freeman, the Internet would react by saying this was ‘turning a classic film woke’. Really at this point, I honestly think what the fans really want when they say they want a ‘reimagining of a classic franchise’ is literally shot-for-shot remakes of films and TV series with better effect and different actors. Of course, when Gus Van Sant does this with Psycho, they torch him for being derivative. But considering how the fanbase reacts to anything they consider classing being altered when its remade, I honestly think it’s the only thing that will satisfy them. For more than quarter century fans were obsessed with Battlestar Galactica — a series that was never a ratings success and nothing more than a Star Wars rip-off — being remade. And when it was with Starbuck being played by a woman, they turned on it immediately called it ‘Galactica in name Only or GINO. Hmm. Interesting acronym. Perhaps there’s some connection to something else.
Anyway, when I was writing my first article on The Wonder Years reboot, I pondered that I actually thought there were some series that would benefit from a reimaging, and one, surprise, surprise was Quantum Leap. I thought that much of the series potential was unrealized (rewatching many of the episodes in syndication have convinced as much) that the series was cancelled a season before Donald Bellisario wanted to end it (it was just starting to reach its true potential in what turned out to be its final year) and that there might be a way to do and bring closure. But of course, when the new version of the series was announced, the same old haters came out saying ‘how dare they’ and this series was sacred. Right. A series about time travel with a white savior leaping into the lives of African Americans, women, a chimp and in one case an amputee was perfect. A series where one of the two leads was a middle-aged hologram who wanted to sleep with every pretty woman who appeared in Sam’s leaps, had been married half a dozen times, and who we would later learn was sleeping with at least two women on the project. That’s not the point, they’d argue, never telling us what the point is. I will get back to these haters a little later. (Or maybe I won’t. I’ve considered a column or two raging against them, but time -ha-ha — has convinced me to think better of it.)
Well, I’ve seen the first three episodes and while I don’t think it’s nearly as superlative as the new Wonder Years was at this point, it is certainly far more ambitious than the original was at this same point (or indeed the first season). The pilot begins with us meeting Ben Sung (Raymond Lee) the man at the center of the new Quantum Leap project with his entire team — which includes his fiancée. (For the record, this is keeping to canon: eventually we learned that Sam Beckett’s wife was part of the project from the start. The series is just playing fair with us from the start.) Then Ben ends up going to the project ahead of schedule (like Sam did in the original) and leaps into a bizarre situation — this time as the driver for a robbery. He is given support from a hologram — only he doesn’t know that it’s his fiancée.
The basic premise of the series has not changed: Ben is leaping from life to life, striving to put right what once went wrong, has no memory of his past, and is ‘hoping the next leap will be the leap home’. The major variation is that we spend nearly as much time with the team as we do with Ben as they try to figure out what’s going on with Ben. This is actually something I would have preferred the series have done more often and far earlier than it ended up doing: when it went to the imaging chamber and beyond it actually was intriguing. (One of my favorite moments in the series is when Sam has leaped into Lee Harvey Oswald and Al is trying to find out exactly what the world’s most notorious assassin actually was planning.)
At this point, the team (led by Ernie Hudson as Magic) is proceeding not only trying to figure out why Ben ended up leaping before the project was ready. We have already that he has been working in secret with Al Calavicci’s daughter who was never part of the project. (Some would argue Al never had a daughter, but this is possible: in the original series finale, Al and his first wife were reunited as Sam’s last leap and the subtitles said they had several children.) She’s working for some purpose that remains undetermined at this time but given that she was willing to drug her own mother to get some remnants from the project that Al was holding on, it ain’t for any good reason. We have also learned that part of the code that Ben was working on with here has changed things: in his last leap, he managed to leap outside his own lifetime. (Sam actually did that in one of the series last episodes, ending up in the body of a pre-Civil War ancestor, but let’s let that go.) And apparently, he has arranged things so that he can leap to a specific point in time. Is it possible that Ben is trying to find a way to locate and rescue Sam Beckett himself?
Now I imagine this is the point where all the trolls come out and complain about the hologram being a young woman and the team including an Asian woman and a non-binary tech support guy. I could make the argument that the original team was made up of at least three women, one of whom was African American and that Ziggy itself was such a diva, that if a computer could be gay, it would be. But I know better than to try and use logic with trolls and I’ve spent far too much of this review ranting. (I will no doubt do so again when this happens.) I’ve described why I think this new version of Quantum Leap works and why I think it has potential. I think the cast and the writing are still finding their legs in the actual leaps, but so was the original at this point in time. I think it is worth watching to see where the series goes. If this review encourages you, then I’ve done my job. If it doesn’t… well, I still haven’t given up. I’m hoping that the next review will be the one that convinces you to change your mind.
My score: 3.75 stars.