Quantum Leap S01E01 Review: Solid Start Hits All The Right Notes
The returns of Quantum Leap and MacGyver have something in common in that they more heavily rely on ensemble casts than their respective primary stars. The main difference is that Mac's (Lucas Till) skills felt diluted as the show felt more like Mission: Impossible than MacGyver. NBC's Quantum Leap, at least from the premiere "July 13, 1985," allows its main protagonists, Dr. Ben Song (Raymond Lee) and his guide, Addison Augustine (Caitlin Bassett), to maintain the spirit of the show at its core. The following contains minor spoilers.
We first find Ben at a party with his government job co-workers, and we see that he shares an intimate relationship with Addison. He gets a mysterious text and goes into the quantum leap accelerator. When he comes to, he realizes he's lept into Nick (Dax Campbell), a getaway driver. As per the formula of the series, the leaper has to think on his/her/their feet, and luckily, Addison appears as that hologram that only Ben can see/hear to give him in-real-time instructions on operating a manual transmission.
As Ben acclimates himself to 1985 with as many nods to the era as possible (from Live Aid poster to Walkmans), we find that he suffering from amnesia while trying to figure out who Nick is. Addison bears the responsibility of spoon-feeding Ben bits of info about his life while trying to keep him on task. Some updates fans of the old show will probably miss is that while Ziggy still exists in the show's canon, Bassett's Addison doesn't work her interfaces as Dean Stockwell's Adm. Al Calavicci did during the original series (with its lack of sound effects and blocky remote nature).
We do get the mentions of both Al and Sam (Scott Bakula) and a surprising twist. Deborah Pratt, who serves as an executive producer on the new series, is back as the voice of Ziggy and narrator to open the series created by Donald P. Bellisario. The guest cast does a solid job, with Michael Welch's Cole being one of the episode's focuses. Given the ensemble nature of the core cast, we get to know Mason Alexander Park's Ian Wright, the most brilliant but neurotic member of the team; Nanrisa Lee's Jenn, head of security, who delivers a healthy dose of sarcasm but not too much; and Ernie Hudson's Herbert "Magic" Williams, the fatherly figurehead trying to get his team to stay on task. The introduction of the latter three characters shifts the narrative a little too much to the present day, taking away some time for invaluable exposition that could have been gained by Lee's Ben.
I understand why they felt the need to expand the cast, given the diversity of today's viewing audiences, but I'm hoping that more time is focused on fleshing out Ben & Addison as well as Ben's backstory. Lee's more than talented enough to carry the torch that Bakula passed on to him while having fun as the series lead, displaying charm, problem-solving skills, and improvisation. It's not perfect, but it's a strong start for NBC's Quantum Leap, with vast potential storytelling-wise.