The Quantum Leap Reboot Trades Al And Sam's 'Bromance' For A Romance

The central conceit of Donald P. Bellisario's hit sci-fi series "Quantum Leap," wherein Dr. Sam Beckett (Scott Bacula) involuntary time travels around the second half of the 20th century to right historical wrongs, was genius in its simplicity and brilliant in its execution. Over five seasons, viewers tuned in to see where Sam would end up next — always wondering, in the back of their minds, if this leap might bring him closer to home (or at least fill in one of his memory blanks).

The one constant throughout Sam's temporal journey was Admiral Al Calavicci (Dean Stockwell), the doctor's best friend, who appears as a hologram to help his buddy work out the purpose of his mission. Their banter-filled relationship was the show's most endearing element, thanks both to the writing and the natural chemistry between the two actors. It was what we call in 2022 a "bromance." 

It is also a dynamic that cannot be easily replicated, so perhaps it was wise for Martin Gero, showrunner and executive of the 2022 "Quantum Leap" reboot (which takes place in the same universe of the original series) to change things up by turning the central bromance into a full-blown romance.

A leaping love story

The new "Quantum Leap" premiered September 19 on NBC, and stars Raymond Lee as Dr. Ben Song, the lead physicist on the title project, who, like his predecessor, is getting hurtled from one point in time to another while suffering partial amnesia. The key difference here is that Ben's Al, Addison Augustine (Caitlin Bassett), is more than his best friend. She's his lover.

This, obviously, adds a tricky new wrinkle to the series, while raising the stakes considerably. As Lee explained to TV Line, "Buddy comedies are great, but why not see a romance instead of a bromance? I think this is a great opportunity to dive into different dynamics of what these leaps can feel like, especially if there's more at stake than just a friendship." Gero added, "It's just a really neat twist on what is ultimately the worst long-distance relationship, like truly different time zones in a way that I don't think anyone has experienced."

Lee elaborated on this narrative twist in an interview with /Film, particularly as to how the amnesia factor complicates matters. He also cites an Adam Sandler comedy as inspiration.

"Like Dr. Sam Beckett, Ben Song has Swiss cheese memory, and he doesn't remember the love of his life. As he begins to piece that together, him possibly dying takes on a whole other meaning, because there's somebody that he needs to get back to. So it's a dynamic that is really fun to play. It's also really fun to essentially do a '50 First Dates' as well, so there's a lot of fun themes that play with having a romantic hologram partner."

Don't get bogged down in the time traveling details

It's encouraging to hear that the "Quantum Leap" '22 team is as reverent of the original as they are determined to reinvigorate that basic conceit — though, judging from the irritatingly cluttered pilot, they have yet to figure out how to make it sing. This is the problem with many series nowadays: they frontload the initial episodes of their first season with exposition, limiting the degree to which viewers can get attached to the characters. It's especially strange with a show like "Quantum Leap," which is powered by a simple plug-and-play concept.

While it's understandable that Gero and the executive producing team of Steven Lilien and Bryan Wynbrandt are keen to tether this revival to the beloved Bakula run, they need to cut way down on the scenes involving the Leap team, and hand the keys to the appealing Lee/Bassett duo. It wasn't the science that earned "Quantum Leap" a devoted following. It was the heart.