Maybe it's a good thing that Dr. Sam Beckett never returned home

...because then he might have had to deal with the nitwits that took over the Quantum Leap project.


I speak, of course, of the latest reboot of a beloved TV show that Hollywood has bastardized and beaten into a messy pulp.


ICYMI, the original Quantum Leap starred Scott Bakula and aired on NBC from 1989-1993. It concerned a scientist named Dr. Sam Beckett (existentialist nod intended) who built a machine that let him leap through time into other people's bodies, setting right what once went wrong. Helping him along the way was his colleague, Al (played by Dean Stockwell) who would pop up in holographic form, smoking a stogie, spitting out pithy one-liners, and constantly banging on his iPhone-like device which was the mobile version of the master computer back in the lab, nicknamed Ziggy. Bakula's Beckett was a soft-spoken, likable guy who inhabited the bodies of everyone from Marilyn Monroe to an actor playing Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha, and everything in between. And while I'd never claim that the writing or directing was the best I've ever seen, it always had a sense of fun while winking at the audience.

The new version (now streaming on Peacock) has none of that. For a show that was once so much about a person's connection to others in the universe, it is completely lacking any personality.


Each episode feels like a cross between CSI and any recent NBC action series (Manifest, La Brea, Blacklist, take your pick) which should tell you it's both outdated and unlikely to be memorable.


Our new leaper is Ben Song (Raymond Lee) whose ego places himself in the same predicament as Beckett before him. Instead of wise-cracking Al, Ben's fiancee Addison (Caitlin Bassett) often comes to his rescue.


Lee does his best with the role, giving the right amounts of comedic mugging when needed, and he has all the trappings of a small-screen action star too. But like him, the viewer too also scrunch up their faces at the plethora of confusing moments he faces; in episode 2, the bosses want Addison to not tell Ben what they're discovering about his mysterious reason to begin leaping without anyone else knowing. They give some sort of cockamamie explanation, but the reason is just as baffling to us as it is to Song (who Addison eventually tells, by the way, yet he only shrugs and says something along the lines of, "Ok, I would've done the same.")

Bassett, however, is far too uptight and uninteresting, largely due, I assume, to the often ill-conceived scripts and likely subpar directing she has to work with. When her character destroys her apartment in episode one, you can't help but think that she, like Song, feel trapped in an inescapable loop and she's only just realizing it now. She is a far cry from the original's Al, who, even when Beckett was about to die in a fiery blaze, was still throwing out zingers.


Speaking of our favorite hologram guide, the new Leap tries to connect to the old one by involving Al's daughter into a potentially interesting subplot (don't think too much about how the ages wouldn't line up). But, without giving away spoilers, what they end up doing with her is almost an insult to the legacy of the original show. The last thing you want to do is ruin a favorite character's place in a TV show's lore.


To combat reboot fatigue, the creators have added a new angle that the original didn't have: we get alternating scenes between Ben in whatever time he's in, as well as the Quantum Leap lab back home. The operation is run by the enigmatically-named Magic (Ernie Hudson, who can certainly do a lot better) and features a predictable ensemble of characters of diverse backgrounds. (To their credit, a major player is portrayed by a trans actor.) I would have preferred to see a woman take on the time-traveling role, but NBC can only be relevant to a point.


Yet, instead of giving the show more depth, these moments take away from the ultimate heartbeat of the show, which is Song's story. We are, instead, left to listen to meaningless techno-babble about computers not working (Ziggy still malfunctions just as much as he did in the original, despite it being able to send people through time!!!) government agency protocols (which have to stay hush-hush), and back-stories that are really unnecessary (see Al's daughter's subplot above). One development that doesn't add up is how Song can't remember anything about who he is in episode 1, but by episode 2 he tells about part of the the Quantum Leap project, in a grand example of mansplaining.


The creators of the show think that their main through-line -- that of Song's (mis)adventures -- are not enough to carry the show, and that's partially true because the lives Song leaps into are often dull and cliche; so much so that before Song leaped at the end of episode two, I predicted that he would next end up as an athlete. In episode three, he's a boxer.


But it's not like the original Leap had Beckett jumping into really interesting people either (apart from a few "special" episodes). No, what made that series so special was the fact that the viewer wasn't slowed down and interrupted by meandering, meaningless scenes in the lab. It was essentially 47 minutes of Sam Beckett in a fish-out-of-water situation. More than anything else, that Leap was a character drama, not a poor man's Baby Driver, Apollo 13, or Rocky. Yes, there was action, but more than anything, it wasn't complicated with the silly sci-fi jargon or farfetched drama of what was happening in the present day.


Quantum Leap was, and should have remained, a story about a man's search for meaning in a sometimes cold and frightening world, but ironically, the one thing that didn't make the jump to this new series was a heart and soul.

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