The Most Ridiculous Times That Sam Influenced The Future On ‘Quantum Leap’

Senior Writer
10.09.14 25 Comments

With all of this week’s news about NBC trying to break up Lloyd Dobler and Diane Court in a Say Anthing… TV series, as well as ABC not learning from the mistakes of the past with a new Uncle Buck series, I’ve been thinking a lot about this concept of recycling. While we’re pretty pumped that David Lynch is bringing Twin Peaks back to television with a 9-episode run on Showtime in 2016 – which still feels like 10 years away – that idea is probably going to encourage networks to keep trying to dig up old shows like Murder, She Wrote (scrapped because of Angela Lansbury’s disapproval) and In the Heat of the Night (currently being shopped to cable networks) so they can achieve success based on the power of name recognition and our endless nostalgia.

Of course, that leads to the ultimate question – what’s next? There are obviously hundreds of titles that networks could choose from for their reboots, remakes and continuations, and at this point I’m starting to get a little offended that they’re not picking some of our favorite cult classics, like Quantum Leap, which aired from 1989-1993 on NBC. I’m bringing the story of time traveler Sam Beckett up for two reasons: 1) Today is Scott Bakula’s 60th birthday, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to pretend that I even like the fact that he’s starring on a lame NCIS spin-off, let alone watch it; 2) While it had a series finale, it was still forced, because NBC basically canceled Quantum Leap over creative differences with showrunner Donald Bellisario. So realistically, this show should be a prime candidate for a continuation, or at least a reboot.

It’s not the worst of ideas – I’m pretty sure that honor still goes to a Say Anything… sitcom that breaks up a happy ending just to make it happy again – especially considering how wonderfully goofy Quantum Leap was in the first place. Hell, just four years ago, as the show was being celebrated at Comic-Con, Bakula teased the idea of a Quantum Leap movie – albeit with minimal involvement from him and Dean Stockwell – and last time I checked, my eyeballs have not witnessed any further adventures of Sam, Al and all of the interesting people they helped along the way. So what’s the hold up, Bellisario? Do you need someone to do a little PR legwork for you and roll out some reasons why a network should be looking at a new Quantum Leap*? I’ll be that man.

*I assume Bakula won’t leave NCIS: New Orleans, as he gets to say cool things like, “This is my town” and “Try the gumbo.” Haha, New Orleans has a lot of gumbo!

While the fifth season of Quantum Leap was filled with some ridiculous scenarios – long rumored to be at the behest of NBC, which wanted the show to buck its “rules” and send Sam on the wildest, cameo-filled adventures with popular famous people and events – the show’s creative liberties with minor historical points and personalities offered a sort of cherry on top for each episode. Just catching up with some of the better episodes of Seasons 1-5 this week on Netflix (they’re missing a bunch, but Hulu has the rest if you can stomach the commercials), I was reminded of these “cameos” and how humorous they were, no matter how ridiculously inaccurate they were. For example, Sam briefly bumped into a teenage Woody Allen, as well as a young rock band known as the Beatles, as they left the Ed Sullivan Theater. Sam once enlisted the help of Jack Kerouac to save a girl from becoming a biker gang’s mama, and he even watched as a young Bill Clinton took the stage to play saxophone. Hell, the guy teleported into a secret service agent’s body and saved Jackie Kennedy from being shot by Lee Harvey Oswald, who was, as it turned out, the lone gunman.

But those were hardly my favorite moments from Quantum Leap, as I would have written a little more about them. Instead, even if you disagree with my wild idea to reboot Quantum Leap, let’s celebrate Bakula’s 60th birthday with my favorite historical interference from this wonderful series. After all, it was either this or another 2,000 words about how there’s no way he could have played QB for a college program in his 30s, with both the offense and defense playing both ways. Simply preposterous.

“Star-Crossed” (Season 1, Episode 3)

If only Sam was a little younger, or Donna (young Teri Hatcher, YOWZA) was a little older, they’d have had a shot before they had a shot to grow up and fall in love with each other. Or something like that. What matters is that their snooping around to find Donna’s dad led the security guards to call the cops and let them know that there had been a break-in… DUN DUN DUN *slide whistle* at the Watergate Hotel. In case you didn’t know, that’s the place where some dudes did something bad for President Nixon and then Deep Throat became a household name. Oh what it must have been like to live in 1972.

“How the Tess was Won” (Season 1, Episode 5)

Sometimes the missions weren’t always exactly clear for Sam and Al, as they thought it was their job to make Tess for Doc, when she was supposed to be with Wayne the whole time. The confusion almost ended up getting Sam killed, as he thought that riding Widowmaker would win Tess’s heart for sure. But what Sam didn’t win in Tess’s heart, he made up for by suggesting to a young and surprisingly stupid Buddy Holly to change the name of the lyrics from “Piggy Sooie” to “Peggy Sue.” It’s also worth noting that Holly would have never died in a plane crash if those were the lyrics, because he would have never been famous enough to fly. Nice work, Sam.

“Camikazi Kid” – (Season 1, Episode 8)

This episode was the best for a number of reasons, but for the sake of this trip down memory lane, it’s how Sam taught Michael Jackson how to Moonwalk. Sure, Michael was only 3 in 1961 and the Jackson 5 didn’t technically form until 1964, but I don’t care about that. He could have traveled back to 1942 and taught Shakespeare how to beatbox and I’d have thought it was awesome. Reason No. 2 this episode was awesome? Check out Sam’s hood slide to punch combo to nail the dude he just beat in a drag race…

And check out how the dude’s bro, played by Jason Priestley in the most righteous sleeveless shirt, reacted once he’d been punked…

Tell me this series shouldn’t be back on TV.

“Double Identity” (Season 1, Episode 6)

Any good mafia hitman knows that it’s a bad idea to have an affair with the crime boss’s main squeeze, so when Sam leaped into the body of Frankie LaPalma, he not only had to figure out why, but he eventually had to stop Geno, the mob boss, from killing him. Also, Sam might have had a chance to get back to his body if he could make everything happen exactly as it was supposed to happen on that day, so he also had to talk two of his fellow mob goons into driving to Buffalo and causing the great blackout of 1965 with a hair dryer. While the whole northeast went black, Sam kept bouncing.

“Good Morning, Peoria” (Season 2, Episode 6)

Not only did Sam leap into a little Squaresville known as Peoria, but he did it right at a time when a crusty, old politician was trying to make it so that no rock music would ever play on a radio station in his town. Sam fought the power, fell in love with his female co-host (Patricia Richardson from Home Improvement), met Chubby Checker, taught him the Twist and made him a huge star in the process. Not a bad day’s work for a guy who didn’t even know who Chubby Checker was until Al freaked out like a teen girl at a One Direction show.

“Thou Shalt Not…” (Season 2, Episode 7)

It wasn’t all about influencing the greatest rock stars of a generation for our hero Sam. He also gave a man named Henry Heimlich a nice push in the right direction for saving lives, once he performed the – you guessed it – Heimlich Maneuver on him. What bothers me about this and all of the other instances, though, is that none of these people had a problem with stealing these ideas. Like, Dr. Heimlich basically just claimed ownership of the maneuver that saved his life and pretended like the rabbi never introduced it to him. That’s some BS.

“Leap of Faith” (Season 3, Episode 3)

This is probably my favorite scene of all, and it’s just stupid that Netflix doesn’t have it. Regardless, Sam showed up as a priest in August of 1963, and he had to stop an older priest from being murdered. That’s neither here nor there, because that older priest was teaching some kids how to box, and one of the teens had to leave to work at the local butcher shop to make some extra money. Sam, remembering the training session from the movie Rocky, told the kid to practice punching slabs of beef. That kid’s name? Sylvester Stallone. BOOM! Sam inspired Rocky. I LOVE THIS SHOW SO MUCH.

“The Boogieman” (Season 3, Episode 5)

Any time that people talk about this brilliant Halloween episode, they always bring up the “curse.” Fans of Quantum Leap actually believe that “The Boogieman” was haunted and that it’s bad luck to even type the name of the episode, let alone say it. Well, I’ve typed it twice and – OH MY GOD, I’M A 30-SOMETHING BLOGGER! DAMN YOU, DEVIL AL! As for the inspiration, Sam played a horror writer named Josh, and his assistant was a young man named Stevie. As in Stephen King. As it turned out, the experiences that Sam described to his acquaintances in this episode would inspire Stevie to write Christine and possibly Carrie. Of course, he already had a dog named Cujo.

“Goodbye Norma Jean” (Season 5, Episode 17)

This one isn’t so much an inspiration as it was just straight up delaying the inevitable. As a chauffeur named Dennis Boardman in April 1960, Sam’s job was to protect the one and only Marilyn Monroe and keep her from dying. It’s a shame that he couldn’t keep the job for – oh, I don’t know – another two years and five months. Perhaps another leaper could do that job a little better on a new series. But this time he’d protect Kate Upton. I’m just spitballing here.

“Memphis Melody” (Season 5, Episode 20)

The second to last episode of the series was set in Memphis, obviously, on July 3, 1954, which was two days before a young musician named Elvis Presley would be “discovered.” As it turned out, thanks to that whole demand from NBC for Quantum Leap to use more famous names, Sam was the King, but there was a catch. Not only did he have to help guide a female musician in her career, but he also had to make sure that Elvis became a god. It’s probably a good thing that Sam’s next leap was the end, because they didn’t get much tougher than this.

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