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A classic that deserves a larger audience
on 8 February 2010
I became an avid fan of Quantum Leap when it was first aired on TV. Having bought the box set for myself for Christmas I am now introducing it to my teenage children as we work our way through many hours of excellent family viewing.
The idea of a scientist who leaps from one body to another during different periods in his lifetime enables the makers of the series to show off a wide variety of genres from the 1950s to the 1970s - with classic clothing, cars and scenery to match. It tackles sometimes challenging issues - Southern States segregation, prejudice against the Japanese, the horror of Vietnam, blindness, women establishing themselves in the workplace, gang violence - as well having fun with topics like the birth of Rock and Roll, a college fraternity house and 70s disco.
Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula) is a rather untypical "action hero", as a scientist with lots of hidden talents who is also very handy in a fight and contrasts with his buddy Al (Dean Stockwell), who materialises in holographic form to advise Sam on what to do, partly based on information from a temperamental computer (Ziggy), but also relying on Al's vast experience of life, including life in an orphanage, being captured in Vietnam and more marriages than he can remember. Together they make a great team. Sam often gets to kiss some beautiful women, while Al's tangled love life sometimes distracts him from being there when Sam needs him most. The episodes where Sam leaps into a woman's body are some of the most entertaining as Scott Bakula in drag is anything other than feminine.
The characters are great, the cast is well selected and the acting excellent. So far, apart from one "horror" episode (where the devil appears as Al which was rather disturbing) they follow a pattern of:
(a) Sam arrives somewhere new and has to get to grips with who he is, where he is, and what he is here to do
(b) Sam is faced with one or more challenges to overcome - sometimes not always the ones you might expect - and often a particular individual he has to stand up to
(c) Sam's extensive experience as multi talented scientist with a historical perspective and ju-jitsu skills enable him to overcome the challenge - usually with thrills and spills along the way
(d) Against the odds, he changes someone's life for the better and their future is transformed
(e) Just when he is kissing the girl, he leaps onto his next challenge.
These programmes have a real "feel good" factor and it's nice to find a series that I can watch with my wife and children which all of us can enjoy, while getting an insight into late 20th century America.
The only thing that surprises me is that I've never seen any repeats of the series before, either on good old fashioned analogue TV or on Freeview. It definitely deserves a wider audience.