There are few world wonders greater than the 1990s TV show Quantum Leap. Its lovable sci-fi for dummies plot provides a nice capsule of US culture and history in the 20th century and some of TV’s kitschiest acting that remains totally watchable.
If you've never seen it, Quantum Leap is about scientist Dr. Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula), who builds a (presumably) quantum computer named Ziggy and some sort of machine that spews fog, which allows him to travel to any time in the past within his own lifetime. His top-secret government-funded project maps Sam's neurons to connect with his only time-traveling colleague, Al Calavicci (Dean Stockwell), a Navy Admiral and dirty old man comic relief. So Al remains in the future but appears as a hologram to Sam wherever he lands in each episode.
The twist is, Sam doesn't use his own body, he jumps into other people's bodies and has to pretend he's that person to correct something, always seemingly innocuous, that went wrong — before "leaping" into a new body at another unknown time and location.
The computer or “whoever’s out there,” as Sam often shouts into the air, has taken control of the time machine and determines the location and date of all his time-traveling leaps into new bodies. He gets no choice or warning of what the next one is. And every time Sam jumps into a new body, he’s hoping it’s to return to his lab in the future, so he can wear shiny clothes again — like people in the future do.
In each episode, Sam quickly tries to orient himself while hologram pal Al searches Ziggy's vast computer archives on a lights-blinking handheld device to help out. (Keep in mind this was all very futuristic in the pre-Google, pre-smartphone 1990s.) The built-in tension is addicting, as is watching Sam become everything from a wedding singer to a magician, pilot, private detective, or pregnant woman.
Beyond the imagination-capturing plot and campy script, there are bonuses. Director and show creator, Donald P. Bellisario (creator of Magnum P.I.), fills scenes with tons of vintage cars, great costuming, and immersive pop-history lessons within the episodes. The likeable Bakula basically just plays everything angry or exasperated, which can be frustrating, but loveable Stockwell tends to keep things grounded and fun. And the sci-fi meets made-for-TV drama makes the show binge-worthy.
During its time on NBC (1989-93) the show won five Emmy awards and its lead actors, Scott Bakula and Dean Stockwell, both got Golden Globes (somehow). And though it only ran for five seasons, Quantum Leap was still ranked In #15 in 2004 and #19 in 2007 by TV Guide's "Top Cult Shows Ever."
As a kid, I watched way too much TV and grew up devouring re-run after re-run of Dr. Sam Beckett "leaping from life-to-life, striving to put right what once went wrong, and hoping each leap would be the leap home."
I watched so much, I didn't have to look that intro voiceover script up before typing it just now. Combined with an irresistibly hooky three-minute LONG song by TV composer Mike Post, the show sticks with you, even after one episode.
The series is also laden with meme-worthy references I still accidentally use on a regular basis.
Same goes for, Tinkertoner's own Robert Reid, who was only introduced to the show a few years ago by yours truly. He was recently traveling with a London-based film crew in remote parts of the world for an on-camera gig. And as soon as he started adding, "oh boy," as a tagline, everyone burst out in unison with the melody of Quantum Leap's opening theme song, 🎶 "da da-da-da-da da da da-da, doo doo doo doo-doo doo doo-doo." 🎶 (Soon, you will too.)
It makes me think this isn't only a national phenomenon -- "Quantum Leap Fever" might have made its way around the globe.
So whether it's your first time watching the cult classic, or your 250th, the Tinkertowners present you with this gift: a printable Quantum Leap Bingo pdf.
Play it by yourself, with friends, or host a watch-party at your neighborhood pub and make it a drinking game. Go nuts, it's all yours. Tag it #QuantumLeapBingo so we can all join in the fun.
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