Universal Studios, 2004
By Rebecca Harrison
Posted January 14th, 2007
I recently read a book called How to Succeed with Women (shut up!) and one of the top tips for starting conversations was to carry around something peculiar. They suggested a large stuffed animal, which is cool, if you’re looking to meet 7-year-olds (and if you are, report to your nearest police station). My suggestion — and frankly, this will help you succeed with anyone — is to carry around a copy of any season of Quantum Leap.
Donald P. Bellisario’s classic show, which ran from 1989 to 1993, followed the time-traveling adventures of Dr. Sam Beckett and his holographic friend from the future, Al Calavicci. Though technically a science fiction show in premise, Quantum Leap tended to focus more on character growth and development, instead of resolving the question of who was leaping Sam or why the Quantum Leap project went wrong (the intent of the project was controlled time travel — not getting stuck in time). Instead, the show always focused tightly on the overarching theme that one person can change the world through positively affecting the lives of individuals.
One of the major keys to Quantum’s success is its genre-jumping (also cross-dressing). A combination of science fiction, comedy, drama, nostalgia, and social commentary, Quantum Leap is a television buffet with a little something for everyone. The meat and potatoes of the show, however, is the strong, almost familial bond between the two central characters. For a show that did not follow a strict episodic structure, Quantum Leap managed to cultivate a strong sense of character arcs and relationship development, with each leap revealing something new about Sam or Al, often strengthening the bond between the two men.
A rather optimistic show, each week, Sam was able to “right what had once gone wrong,” a sentiment with the potential to be saccharine. Luckily, the show was laced with a strong sense of melancholy. As much as Sam and Al enjoyed their work and doing good, the show’s opening highlighted its underlying sadness — that each week, Sam hoped the next leap would be the leap home. In fact, the most powerful episodes often involved a leap that somehow obliquely or directly touched upon a piece of personal history of either Sam or Al. My favourite episode, “The Leap Home,” is one of the few where Sam gets to connect to his past life, leaping into himself as a teenager. If I ever need a good cry, I just pop in “A Leap Home: Part II” and wait for the tears to flow.
Part of the magic of Quantum Leap is that, as dated as it is, it does not feel stale. The show is set in the future — which is now our rather distant past (1995) — but is an early 90s interpretation of the future, with flashy neon lights, holograms, silver suits, and hover cars. Putting aesthetic aside, the show was often ahead of its time, tackling issues that had not ever been tackled on television before. One episode dealt with gays in the military, a topical hot-button issue at the time, stirring up controversy and costing the show advertising dollars. The honest, tolerant manner in which Quantum Leap looked at the lives of the two leapers gave the show a resonance still relevant 13 years after the show was cancelled.
Even though it was early 90s hit, Quantum Leap has now gone on to achieve a cult-like status among those old enough to remember it. I brought my Quantum Leap: Season One DVD set to work about a week and a half ago to lend to a friend. As we sat around talking about favourite episodes we noticed that slowly, more and more people (from co-workers to managers) began to pass by and chime in on their own favourite Quantum Leap episode. With each person that passed, I heard another “Quantum Leap? Oh my God — I loved that show!”
So, you want to make a new friend or perhaps pick up? Do yourself a favour — go out and purchase a season of Quantum Leap! If you don’t have the same social success I have, you at least still have a damned good show. And that’s more than people who watch Two and a Half Men have.