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December 18, 2014

Gone Too Soon: Journeyman

by Jason Hughes, posted Aug 24th 2009 2:02PM
Journeyman
I was trying to figure out what show to spotlight for the second "Gone Too Soon" column. As a general rule, I want to give a show a few years off the air before I delve into it. That gives the creators and producers a chance to try and continue the story, if they're interested in doing so, and it gives the actors a chance to move on. Then I read the news that they're going to adapt The Time Traveler's Wife to television, and it hit me.

A man disappearing from his wife to travel through time, and struggling to fix his home life as he went along? That sounded awfully familiar, and to a lot of you, as well, if your comments are any indication. So even though Journeyman's finale aired less than two years ago, it's time we honored it for the great show it was ... a show, unfortunately, about two years ahead of its time.

What was it?
[Spoilers Ahead!] Journeyman was the next generation Quantum Leap. Dan Vasser (Kevin McKidd) starts randomly disappearing from the present to travel back in time. He finds himself drawn to key moments in people's lives, where he must help them make better decisions. He also tends to find himself at moments in his own life, where he really should leave well enough alone.

The disappearances start to severely strain his present existence, as well as his relationship with his wife, Katie (Gretchen Egolf). In fact, things start to get even more complicated, with Dan at one point erasing his son from existence due to leaving a piece of modern technology in the past.

Moon Bloodgood & Kevin McKiddAs the series progresses, we learn that his first girlfriend, Livia (Moon Bloodgood) is also traveling through time, but that she's doing so from a starting point of 1948, jumping forward. Her entire relationship with Dan was a long future trip. Livia, however, seems to have more control over her travels.

While on the surface, Journeyman may seem similar to Quantum Leap, it was quite different. There was equal emphasis on Dan's love for his wife and son, his relationship with his brother, and his regular life in the present day as there was on his traveling.

And that home focus helped create a center to connect the stories, as well as a tremendous amount of tension. Particularly when his wife found out that he's gallivanting through time with his ex.

Why did it have to go?
While low ratings certainly didn't help, neither did the fact that Journeyman was paired with NBC's derided second season of Heroes. It started off well enough, with over nine million viewers. But as NBC's flagship show collapsed, so did Journeyman. By the end, viewership had slipped below five million.

As a final death knell, while NBC had ordered a full season, the 2007 Writer's Guild of America strike effectively killed the series at its thirteenth episode. The networks had only half a season of data to work with when considering what shows to bring back for the 2008-2009 season, and Journeyman had only just begun to unfurl its secrets and really grab its audience. So NBC opted to let it go to make more room for future hits like Knight Rider and My Own Worst Enemy.

How do I find out what happens next?
Creator Kevin Falls did spill the beans on some of his intended plans for Journeyman. But the biggest question of all he wasn't going to answer specifically. He would only say that the cause for the time travel wasn't science or the government.

IJourneyman Castnstead, he was going to focus on the people out there in the world who wanted to control this group of travelers. They considered having Dan's son have traveling powers, but didn't want to stray into territory covered in The Time Traveler's Wife (natch!).

We were going to learn that Livia came to the future to get Dan and Katie together. She was also going to die late in the first season, but not for long. And she's alive in the present, as well; as in 70-year old Livia! In the first season finale, after a trip through time, Dan was going to come home to find someone else living in his house, and his family gone.

Falls played around with the idea of all the people Dan saved coming back in some important way, but he started seeing the writing on the wall at thirteen episodes. Even he doesn't really know everyone's ultimate fate.

Where did the cast wind up?

  • Kevin McKidd (Dan Vasser) can now be seen as Dr. Owen Hunt on Grey's Anatomy. He's also in talks to take over the role of Connor MacLeod in the Highlander film reboot currently in development.
  • Moon Bloodgood (Livia Beale) did a foray in film including Terminator: Salvation. She has since returned to television with a role in Burn Notice, as well as Steven Spielberg's forthcoming alien invasion pilot for TNT.
  • Gretchen Egolf (Katie Vasser) is on the guest TV circuit, ironically appearing in the new Knight Rider, as well as Law & Order: SVU, Ghost Whisperer and Criminal Minds this past year.
  • Reed Diamond (Jack Vasser) went on to play the head of security at Joss Whedon's Dollhouse. Unfortunately, things didn't work out for him, and he's in the attic. That isn't to say that he won't be back, though; he came back in "Epitaph One."
  • The rest of the cast can be seen in various guest roles and voice-over work ... or nowhere.

Who cares?
People remember this show fondly, but I don't think it really had the chance to build the rabid fan-base that it deserved. I can't even find a decent fan-site for it out there. Kevin Falls doesn't seem particularly broken up or passionate about the fate of Journeyman, either. He seems pleased with how it turned out, but not particularly driven to fight for a movie, novels, comics or any other way to complete his vision.

When can I see it?
Thanks to the fine folks at Hulu, you can see Journeyman right now. They've got the entire series up streaming for you. It's especially nice because there's no DVD set available or on the horizon. Maybe if enough people watch it, they'll put it out.

Here, I'll give you the first one right here to get you started:

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22 Comments

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pokermuse

I loved Journeyman and thought the casting was phenomenal. Still miss it.

August 26 2009 at 4:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Dorv

Jason: Why do you say it was two years ahead of its time? I think viewers have proven that they're just as stupid today as they were two years ago, specifically re: good Sci-Fi (T:SCC, Dollhouse (though I cede there were other factors re: Dollhouse).

August 26 2009 at 1:36 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Dorv's comment
Jason Hughes

It was a joke regarding the fact that The Time Traveler's Wife is being adapted into a series this year, two years after the very similar Journeyman was on the air.

August 26 2009 at 1:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Vijay

To be honest, I think Journeyman was good, but not good enough to keep around. It was too easy to skip. I wanted it to be more, but it never was.

That same season, another show about a guy whose existence defies time also came on the air, and I think it was much more compelling. New Amsterdam - here was an immortal who wanted to be mortal, and whose history is tied into New York's. Too bad it was Fox-ed.

August 25 2009 at 12:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Lauren

It all worked out for the best. This show went off the air so Kevin McKidd can wind up on Grey's. :)

August 25 2009 at 5:40 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
y_jello_m_f

Good post, but I agree with an earlier comment... "just when I was starting to forget..." sigh, I wish they could have given it at least one more season. Oh well, no sense dwelling on the past.

August 25 2009 at 1:27 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Joanna

Agree to all! I saw the heading and thought, "not again!" . Damn, damn, damn! I was over it!

August 25 2009 at 12:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
CParis

@Jimmy

Hmmm...Law & Order Criminal Intent moved from NBC to USA a while back - both are part of NBC Universal (GE). I thought the various unions covered productions for all of TV?

August 24 2009 at 9:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Lisa

This reminds me to not fall in love with anything new coming in the fall on the 3 networks especially NBC...this broke my heart as did the untimely passing of Studio 60. Perhaps I'm one of only 5 people who was watching S60 but I liked it a lot despite its flaws.

August 24 2009 at 5:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Lisa's comment
Michael

Bingo Lisa... I pretty much have sworn off of watching anything new on NBC. They have a pretty poor track record of keeping anything I like on the air in my opinion. The only thing they still have on the air that I'm watching is Chuck and 30 Rock and I refuse to invest any time in anything they churn out for about 4 or 5 episodes.

August 24 2009 at 10:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
CParis

Too bad NBC netmates Syfy or USA couldn't have picked Journeyman up. 5 million viewers is a nice win for a cablenet.

August 24 2009 at 5:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to CParis's comment
Jimmy

Its tough to move a series from broadcast TV to cable. Union negotiated rates and such. That's why TBS couldn't successfully strike a deal for My Name Is Earl...

August 24 2009 at 7:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
David

Ditto what everyone else said. Good post.

August 24 2009 at 4:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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