TV Review: 'Journeyman' goes on perplexing ride

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There's an epidemic running rampant in television today: TV shows that should be one-shot movies, not weekly series. Last season, ABC's "Day Break" was just that kind of program, a show where the hero repeated the same day in every episode, sort of a unique concept, but exceedingly tiresome and frustrating to watch.

NBC's "Journeyman" (10 tonight, WPXI) suffers from the same malady: A mystery without borders. It's one thing when a TV show sets up a concrete mystery whose resolution you have faith will come, something like, "Who killed Mr. X?" But it's quite another when the show is so abstract that you aren't even sure what questions it asks.

Kevin McKidd ("Rome") is an excellent actor, and it's only his skill that makes "Journeyman" tolerable. He stars as Dan Vasser, a San Francisco newspaper reporter who lives in a house no newspaper reporter could afford, especially in this uber-expensive Left Coast city.

Dan has a great life with his wife, Kate (Gretchen Egolf), and their son, until one day he gets a headache and then starts traveling, inexplicably, through time. He flashes back to 1987, then back to the present. In the past he encounters the love of his life, Olive (Moon Bloodgood, "Day Break"), who has since died.

But he doesn't just encounter Olive in the past: He also meets another Olive who appears to be a time traveler like him. But does she explain to him (or us) what's going on? Why he's tripping the space-time continuum? Why she's not dead? Of course not.

"Journeyman" expects viewers to hang with the show, indulging in stories of Dan helping a person he encounters in the past to better his or her life for the future. These "Early Edition"-ish plots may draw in some viewers, but anyone who cares about the series' regular characters will need the patience of Job, because it doesn't seem like "Journeyman" will clear up the murkiness surrounding the show's lead time traveler anytime soon.

Aside from a few quirks of time travel revealed next week (a cabbie in the past refusing a modern, redesigned $20 bill; Olive's odd, funny warning to Dan: "Don't time travel with citrus. It explodes"), "Journeyman" is a show that feels like it's taking viewers for a ride -- one that doesn't have a discernible destination.


TV editor Rob Owen can be reached at rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582. Ask TV questions at www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV Q&A.


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