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Tag Archive: Quantum Leap


How I Married Your Mother finale

It always pays to be wary of grandiose statements and definitive pronouncements.  When I first watched Forrest Gump in the theater, one-third of the way through the movie it occurred to me I might be watching the greatest production of all time, and walking out of the theater I carried that thought with me.  But time changes things.  Now I see it as a fun film, but it’s not at the top of any of my “best of” lists.  Professor Schofield advised that you can’t really objectively analyze something, an art movement, a political figure, a fad–anything worth analyzing–unless several years had transpired and you could have the value of time and distance, contemplation and reflection, to look back with.

So it is with a bit of reservation that I am asserting that the series finale to How I Met Your Mother that aired Monday night should top any list of great finales.  The writers, producers, and actors simply got it just right.  Exactly right.  Airing the first episode of season one just before the finale aired really showcased how this ending was exactly what viewers deserved after nine seasons of sticking with the show.  Consider all the series finales that were promoted over the years, and despite the biggest of viewing audiences, you might find that most last hoorahs miss the mark, try too hard, or just do something that didn’t reflect the best of the series.

Trek TNG All Good Things

The granddaddy of all finales was the 1983 M*A*S*H extended episode “Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen.”  Although some elements were right, like a bounty of typical and appropriate sad goodbyes, Captain Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce, (one of the best characters of all time) after more than a decade of using laughter to beat the odds and help his unit survive the Korean War, cracks at the very end.  NBC’s comedy spy series Chuck made a similar mistake, wiping the memory of Chuck’s hard-earned love interest Sarah after we cheered him on all those years, requiring the story to basically start over from scratch in some far off place after the series wrapped.  Another less than satisfying but at least appropriate-to-the-series finale was the end of the monumental 20th year of the original Law & Order.  We basically got to see a fairly typical episode of the series, which certainly fit the seriousness of the show’s drama.  But we also got a goodbye scene and were left on a positive note with “Lieut’s” good news about her hard-fought illness.

Before that, you might have seen the last episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show on Nick at Nite or other classic rerun network if you weren’t old enough to catch it in its initial run.  The TV network that was the subject of the series fires everyone including Mary at the end, except Ted Knight’s character Ted Baxter.  The annoying guy that we loved for being annoying gets to stay.  A funny series with a funny end, as well as the requisite bittersweet goodbye scene.  A similarly funny sitcom, Psych, wrapped its eighth and final season last month, tying up all its remaining loose ends.  Psych took a different path, taking its angst-inducing character, Detective-then-Chief Lassiter, and with a redemption of sorts, switched up his role in the last two seasons to become a guy viewers could cheer on.

Newhart finale

Another comedy, Newhart, gave us a completely bizarre ending for an otherwise enjoyable comedy series.  Yet it was saved literally in the last two minutes by a brilliantly concocted stunt–bring back Bob’s wife from his original series, The Bob Newhart Show, the lovely Suzanne Pleshette, revealing the whole series was just a dream.  It’s a gimmick that didn’t work for a series like the original Dallas (recall Bobby Ewing died then came back to life with a “poof”), but for a comedy wrap-up, it couldn’t have been better timed.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Every twenty years or so, some intrepid editor or assistant editor rummages through the files at DCHQ only to stumble upon an old comic book featuring the H-Dial.  And with a loud poof it becomes another attempt to revive a strange and cartoonish concept, a dial with symbols or letters and numbers.  When the finder dials the right order of symbols or letters, the dial transforms the dialler into a superhero–usually a strange superhero we’re never encountered anywhere before.

First seen the House of Mystery and later featured as secondary stories throughout Adventure Comics and other titles and featured as its own title starting in 2003 that lasted 22 issues, titled H.E.R.O., the H-Dial is a short story writer’s dream.  What Quantum Leap did with Sam Beckett, only the holder of the H-Dial gets powers to help solve an immediate problem (usually).  The result should be an unlimited source of stories for short-lived superheroes and their powers.

Like the headpiece to the Staff of Ra, the H-Dial carries its own brand of mystery.  We have never learned the story behind its origin, or how many H-Dials are circulating the past and present of this or any parallel Earths.

Clever gimmicks have often accompanied the H-Dial.  In Adventure Comics in the 1980s, Marv Wolfman and Carmine Infantino created a way for readers to create new heroes to appear in issues of the comic book–an early interactive way of engaging readers.

The longest user of the dialler was Robby Reed.  He has appeared from the 1960s to the past decade in full stories and cameos with the dial.  In the New 52 series titled simply Dial H, we find in Issue #1 the new finder of the H-Dial is a young guy named Nelson, who, visually, seems a bit like Hurley from the TV series Lost.  Nelson finds the dial and uses it to try to help his friend, creating two superheroes with the device: Boy Chimney, who can travel on smoke and do who knows what that a… um… chimney and smoke would do to stop bad guys, and Captain Lachyrmose, who makes people sad and gets more powerful through other people’s sadness.

These two first uses of the H-Dial sort of fall with a thud.  The ideas are bizarre, which can be a good thing when done the right way.  But first-time comic book writer China Mieville’s dialogue is clunky.  We cannot tell what accent his friend has–is he suppoed to have some accent or does he intentionally speak a little strangely?  If he is supposed to be of some ethnic group, then artist Mateus Santolouco isn’t clear enough of what we’re supposed to think.  It doesn’t matter to the story, but it’s just a bit difficult to understand what these friends are saying to each other.  Example: “Please excuse me while screw you… just damn luck there was no damage this time.”

That said, for the most part, Santolouco does a very good job of creating bizarre images to fit Mieville’s story.  His characters are creepy and this book does fall into the “Dark” line of DC’s New 52 series.  It’s just unortunate the story is difficult to follow.

As a fan of the concept and a reader of the Adventure Comics issues featuring the H-Dial and the 2003 H.E.R.O. series, I will give Dial H a few more issues to hook me.

I’ll take a tangent for a minute and mention what DC Comics didn’t do on this round that I think would be more fun.  In this world of reality TV, as DC featured as a device in the first issues of the New 52 Green Arrow series, Dial H is the perfect venue to try some new things.  Why not have readers submit stories on some type of Dial H blog?  Why not have DC Comics’ whole pantheon of writers and artists each get a crack at developing a story within the pages of Dial H, much like Top Cow did with the Eisner nominated mini-series Common Grounds?  I’ll stop there because I’m not a fan of people reviewing what they want to see instead of what is offered by a creator.  But I do think there are unlimited stories to be told with a device like the H-Dial, and I hope Mieville, once he gets his sea legs in his new medium, takes full advantage of the opportunity.

Review by C.J. Bunce

My best reaction to movies comes from those films that are not over-hyped, and that have trailers that do not show too much of a film’s content.  Examples are Inception and Avatar, two movies that were so hyped that by the time I saw them I was disappointed.  Not so for Source CodeSource Code is so innovative and interesting that you may keep talking about it, keep thinking about the different elements, the different choices made and possibilities the story reveals.  If they only made sequels to movies like this.

For one, my favorite sci-fi movie subject involves alternate realities, whether they are parallel timelines, time loops, time travel, or alternate histories.  On a basic level you will encounter time loops, a discussion topic from earlier this week, and you may encounter other alternate reality topics in Source Code.  Despite its title, it is not a computer techno-romp like The Net.  That’s a good thing.

Source Code stars Jake Gyllenhaal as a man on a train who appears out of nowhere and believes he is an American soldier whose last memory was fighting a battle in Afghanistan.  He is pulled out and replaced into a confined space, and from the trailer we know this place is a train that has a destiny with some type of horrible explosion.  Like Unstoppable, reviewed earlier here, only a handful of characters and tight locations are necessary to tell this tale.  The grandiosity of the typical blockbuster is not necessary here to deliver fast-paced action and harrowing circumstances for Gyllenhaal and co-star Michelle Monaghan, and uniquely difficult decisions for a project leader played by Vera Farmiga.  The is a small film, but high concept.

Gyllenhall fails to disappoint.  Joining Tom Cruise and Bruce Willis, his films always deliver.  His acting project choices, like this film, will hopefully continue to propel his career forward.  Like his character in Zodiac, the suspense mystery about the search for the real-life Zodiac serial killer, his character in this film struggles with confidence, angst, and a desire to break out of his confinement, his lot.  His performance here is as equally exciting as his acclaimed role as a troubled youth in Donnie Darko.

Source Code contains traditional sci-fi elements, to the point you would swear this was based on a Philip K. Dick, Arthur C. Clarke or Ray Bradbury story.  It has the feel of a classic sci-fi story.  Like with Bruce Willis’s Twelve Monkeys, Gyllenhaal’s Colter Stevens is a traveller, not by choice, not in the way we all dream about what you could do if time travel were possible.  Like characters in Connie Willis books (To Say Nothing of the Dog, Lincoln’s Dreams, Doomsday Book, All Clear) Stevens has a mission to complete, but not all is as it appears.  Rounding out the key characters of the story is Jeffrey Wright (Casino Royale), a lead actor type who is always equally solid in a supporting role as “the man behind the curtain.”  Look for the voice of Scott Bakula as Stevens’ father, not entirely coincidental considering this Quantum Leap-inspired quest.  And see how this could be considered another borg story, not unlike The Six Million Dollar Man.

Source Code could be compared with the Matrix, but Source Code is much better, much smarter, and more compelling.  As with movies like War of the Worlds, you are forced to ask yourself “what would I do if I suddenly awoke in Stevens’ shoes?”  Directed by Duncan Jones, this film does not follow any typical pattern and the story begins in the middle of the action, like a lot of TV shows, such as Heroes, have been filmed in recent years.  The pace works really well here.  You may be able to stay ahead of the action and decisions a few times throughout the movie, but I’d wager no one could predict the branches the story ultimately follows.  What contributes to the gravity of the characters’ situations is the believability of the circumstances in our current era of varying colored alerts.

While you’re buckling down for Irene to arrive this weekend, you could do a lot worse than renting Source Code on DVD or Blu-Ray.  Source Code’s creative story, action, and good acting earn 4.5 of 5 stars.  This may have fared even better in theaters, because so many details contribute to the story understanding that even on a decent size small screen you may miss some of these bits and pieces.

Zachary Levi (Chuck on the TV series Chuck) took over Jolt’n Joe’s Restaurant in San Diego’s Gaslight District and during Comic-Con weekend he sold tickets to the public to benefit Operation Smile, a charity that helps children born with cleft palates.  Ultimately his “Nerd HQ,” along with selling nerd merchandising for Levi’s new enterprise, was able to collect more than $40,000 for the charity.  Nice work!

Over the weekend, the small venue of about 250 seats hosted members of the casts of Chuck, Psych, and Firefly, including Dule Hill and Adam Baldwin, and chats with Dominic Monaghan (Lord of the Rings, Lost), Scott Bakula, Zachary Quinto (Star Trek 2009, Heroes), and members of his new company, Seth Green (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), and Jared Padalecki (Supernatural), as well as video game companies who co-marketed the event.

We attended the conversation with Scott Bakula and with maybe half the room filled, the intimate setting allowed for a lot of interaction. Unlike a lot of other panels with celebrities, Bakula was just plain fun. You could see that Scott was an actor who doesn’t take himself too seriously, yet he is serious about his craft.

Scott discussed his first major hit, Quantum Leap, and described the changes in special effects technology in that series versus today.  Back then he said he would literally have to freeze in place while his co-star Dean Stockwell would run into place–all to create the image of Stockwell’s character seeming to beam into the frame from the future.  Today, Bakula said that the director would film straight through and add the effects in later.  He said for fun, if you watch old Quantum Leap episodes pay attention to the extras in the background and you will notice they also jerk to a stop as part of the then “cutting edge” special effects.  The greatest challenge (and joy) of the show for Scott was working with an entirely new crew each week (since only he and Stockwell had a recurring role)–including literally thousands of actors–that appeared over the course of the series.

Bakula said he was proud of Quantum Leap and is glad a new generation can watch the series through technologies like DVDs and streaming media.  His favorite episode?  When he just played himself, going back and forth in time, including meeting his own father.

Similarly, Bakula said he enjoyed making the Star Trek series Enterprise.  He said he believed that in any other franchise five seasons would be a successful series, but for some reason in the Star Trek franchise you’re not considered a success if you don’t make it seven seasons.  He said part of the reason could be attributed to the tenor of the show in light of the post-9-11 landscape.  Originally sold as a light-hearted exploration show, the producers did not believe the audience at the time wanted to see escapist entertainment.  Instead the series became darker with more conflict.  While it worked and was more appropriate to the mood of the country, Bakula believe it led to the cancellation of the series.  He said ultimately “it hurt us” in terms of the longevity of the show. 

Bakula appeared earlier in the day on a panel with William Shatner and other former Star Trek captains at a Comic-Con panel about Shatner’s new documentary, where each captain is interviewed about his or her experiences.  Bakula said it’s a little hard not to pick up Shatner’s unique, abrupt dialogue timing after speaking with Shatner for an hour and answered the next question in Shatnerspeak.

Both Bakula and the audience had only just received word that Scott’s current series, Men of a Certain Age (co-starring Ray Romano and Andre Braugher) was cancelled by TNT.  It was clear that even this audience of genre fans followed Bakula in his new series and were disappointed in the news.  Bakula briefly explained how new criteria govern whether a show stays or goes, and that the days of following just one set of Nielsen’s ratings is long past.  With the advent of DVRs and similar technologies, where viewers may not watch a current program for 7 or 14 days out, the calculation of a show’s success is more difficult and arbitrary and ultimately each network has its own criteria.  He said for example, had Men of a Certain Age have aired on the AMC channel, it would probably have been renewed for another season.  He said Men of a Certain Age was TNT’s first in-house drama, and that may have played a factor in the show’s cancellation.

When Zack Levi introduced Bakula, he mentioned Bakula’s most recent genre role, that of his father on the TV series Chuck.  Levi noted the oddity of Bakula standing in the back of the room with Levi’s real dad, Daryl.  This all led later on to a duet from the stage show Godspell (which both had previously appeared in) by Bakula and Levi, both hamming it up in stage show style.

Bakula noted that his first love was the stage, and stage acting was preferable to him over TV and movie work, and his favorite work was any role where he gets to sing.

Bakula’s advice for everyone, actors or not, was far-reaching:  It’s important to stay passionate in your craft, even when your TV show gets cancelled.  Find what you love about acting or what you do and concentrate on that–that the only part you can control is the performance.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

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