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5 Sad Truths You Realize When Re-Watching Quantum Leap

Posted on the 16 August 2013 by Weminoredinfilm.com @WeMinoredInFilm

Conversations about Quantum Leap between (WeMinoredInFilm co-writer) Julianne and I usually end with one of us invoking our re-purposed Dana Carvey joke, “But I really like Quantum Leap!”  We both grew up watching and loving the show, and it holds a special place in our hearts.  What’s not to love about a guy leaping from life to life, striving to put right what once went wrong, and hoping each time that his next leap will be the leap home?  However, the show’s now positively quaint habit of wearing its heart squarely on its sleeve makes it immensely easy to mock.  So we crack jokes, and then remind ourselves how much we love the show.

Here are some jokes we’ve noticed while re-watching Quantum Leap, some of which only reveals themselves due to the 20+ years which have passed since the show premiered in 1989:

5)     Our Definition of Physical Fitness Sure Has Changed

Back in the day, Scott Bakula was what might best be described as man candy.  His Sam Beckett was the consumate sensitive 90s male, not afraid to cry (and boy did it show) but tough enough to stand up for what’s right.  So, obviously, the show featured Bakula shirtless…a lot.  Like at least once every other episode.

5 Sad Truths You Realize When Re-Watching Quantum Leap

If you have a better suggestion for how best to do yard work while farming I’d like to hear it. Topless all the way, right?

Wait, that’s what qualified as a sex symbol back then?  Don’t get me wrong – Bakula looks good there, and is clearly in shape.  It’s just that nutrition and body shaping sciences have advanced so much that we now have constantly shirtless male stars of TV shows who look like this:

Olliver as he appeared in the show's pilot episode.

Stephen Amell from the pilot of CW’s Arrow

Advantage?  Stephen Amell of Arrow.  Well, I guess the true advantage goes to the viewer inclined to find such sights appealing as neither are in anything remotely resembling bad shape.  Re-watching an older show like Quantum Leap centered around a male sex symbol shows just how much our image of that type of person is ever-shifting in response to the advances in abdominal muscle-shaping glory.

4)     Sam Totally Ruined a Poor Nurse’s Career


In “Shock Theater” Sam leaps into a patient at a mental hospital but is administered electroshock therapy within minutes of arrival and the trauma causes him to develop multiple personality disorder, seguing back and forth between adopting the personalities of the various people he’s leapt into over the years.  So, we get to see and hear Bakula do his old black man voice (who I call Jessie Black Black-man because it’s so bad), awkward southern accent, comb his hair as if he was a woman, and finally go full-on retard when he thinks he’s Jimmy, a mentally challenged man from an earlier episode.

 To save his own life and maintain his connection with Al, Sam needs to have electroshock administered to him at a dangerously high voltage.  He, while still believing himself to be Jimmy and thus slurring his speech, manages to pull it off by desperately pleaing with the attending nurse, “If you don’t shock Jimmy Al go away.”

QL Shock Theater Reverse Shot

Sam: If you don’t shock and thereby potentially kill me my best good imaginary friend is going to go away!

QL Shock Theater nurse

Nurse: Well, you make a compelling argument.

Waaaaaaaiiiiiiiit a minute here.  I get that the historic period of the episode (specifically 1954) is meant to comment upon the early days of medicine in relation to mental health and conditions like schizophroenia.  In that way, this is Quantum Leap‘s Sybil.  So, none of the doctors or nurses truly know what the hell is going on with Sam just that they’re pretty sure they can build their careers off of it.  However, in that particular situation even though a perfectly timed dosage of electroshock is what Sam needs it’s not necessarily what the person he leapt into needs nor is it medically advisable.  The nurse administers the elctroshock while the Doctor and orderly are arguing, meaning she did it without authorization.  How do you think it’s going to go over in a Morbidity & Mortality meeting if when asked why she gave the patient a fatal dosage of electroshock therapy she replies, “He said if I didn’t do it his imaginary friend was going to go away.”?  She might end up a patient at that very mental hospital, oh irony of ironies. However, even if the dosage wasn’t fatal, she’s still likely looking at disciplinary action.  Here’s an “oh, boy” moment for you, Sam – you ruined that caring, sweet nurse’s life.

3)     Sam Was a Self-Righteous Man-Whore Cheating on the Wife Waiting for Him Back Home


Every Quantum Leap episode other than the pilot features a moment during the opening credits where we see a montage of Sam’s best kisses with woman from the show’s history to that point.  Of course there’d be plenty of kiss scenes to show – the dude got some serious action (and the show sought to appeal to Bakula’s female fanbase).  It is the natural by-product of an episodic show with a central male character who is both a lover and a fighter – he’s going to have a ton of love interests.  However, Sam’s the worst kind of sexually active – the one who can’t tell you where and who with he’s been because he quite truly cannot remember any of it, in this case due to his “Swiss cheese” memory loss.

But at least there was no woman waiting at home for him, no woman so despondent with loneliness she looks up at stars at night and imagines one of them talking back to her with Sam’s voice (no joke, that actually happened), right?

5 Sad Truths You Realize When Re-Watching Quantum Leap

Meet Donna, Sam’s wife. She works on the Quantum Leap project, i.e., the same project where they often have to help Sam nail the girl to save the day. Donna’s job is harder than most people’s.

Then the season 4 premiere “The Leap Back” happened, and we learn Sam had changed his own history on a previous leap resulting in him having now actually been a married man this entire time.  Man does that add an extra layer of creepy to all prior and future romances, considering it was an active case of infidelity even though he in no way remembered he was married (that “Swiss cheese” thing again).  However, knowing that from the get-go while re-watching makes a fun game out of, “I wonder how close Donna was to complete breakdown this week based upon Sam’s romancing of yet another woman.”   

Plus, Sam was pretty high and mighty in this area.  Al may have been quick to objectify and throw out horribly offensive phrases like “nice bazoombas” and “look at the size of those gazonkas” and other almost cartoon-character like references to sexuality. However, Al was a horndog and proud of it (score one of overactive sex drives!)  Sam?  The guy fell in love with women sometimes at the literal drop of a hat, bedded them, and them left high and dry for his next leap, all the while admonishing Al for his juvenile love of “bazoombas.”  Man, at least Al knew what he was.  Sam?  He was a total man-whore; he just didn’t know it.

2)      Al Totally Amy Pond’d a Poor Little Girl Except Even Worse

Quantum Leap Another Mother

In the Doctor Who episode “The 11th Hour,” the Doctor encounters an adorable little Scottish girl named Amelia Pond.  He promises to take her to the stars and on an adventure, but when he fails to return she had to go through years of therapy as no one believed her tale of a “raggedy doctor” who literally fell from the sky.  The thing here is that, crucially, the Doctor did eventually come back, and he never intentionally misled poor Amelia.  He just really sucks at getting time coordinates right.

So, what then, do we make of the final scene from the season 2 episode of Quantum Leap “Another Mother.”  By this point, the only thing preventing Sam from leaping is Al’s need to say goodbye to the adorable daughter of the woman Sam leapt into.  Falling into that kid/mentally challenged/animal spectrum of people who can actually see Al other than Sam, the girl had grown attached to Al and him to her.  What proceeds is a genuinely sweet scene between a young child actress who mostly flashes her big white eyes at Stockwell as he promises to come back to see her again real soon.

Liar!  Al can’t go back.  He’s not really a time traveler who can just go anywhere he wants.  He is an emergency clause, linked up with Sam’s brain allowing him to project an image of himself to wherever Sam is.  Unless Sam leaps back into the family with that little girl, Al has no way of following through on his promise.  It’s a little white lie, though, right?  No big deal?  I don’t think so.  Little kids will believe a lot of shit you tell them (e.g., my 5-year-old nephew is still convinced that bears are literally “godless killing machines).  That poor little girl probably had years of therapy after that, what with her mother growing increasingly concerned with her daughter’s stories of an invisible man from the future.

1)      A Crusty Old White Man Invented Rap Music

Remember my earlier discussion of the episode “Shock Theater?”  Yeah, there’s a whole other element to that episode that has nothing to do with Bakula’s turn for the parade of bad accents.  Nope, the reason Sam actually leapt in there in the first place was to help a patient in the hospital named Tibby who would be able to get out and have a normal life if he could learn how to read.  Sam is a bit busy being 12 different versions of himself.  So, the task falls to Al who decides knowing the alphabet equals an ability to read.  What follows is….there are no words.  Look at the horror below:

That song he “raps” actually has a name: “ABC Rap.”  Catchy and clever.  I like it except for the part where I don’t.  What’s worse, this song is actually available to purchase right now on iTunes and other retailers who sell the Quantum Leap soundtrack which included “ABC Rap” among its tracks.

What the hell were they thinking?  Well, it was 1991, i.e., the year rap started to go mainstream.  They were, sadly, not the only ones to jump on that bandwagon.  Mercifully, M.C. Stockwell’s long-awaited rap album “Gnozzles, Cigars & Bazoombas” never materialized.

However, one of the specialties of Quantum Leap was its “kisses with history,” i.e., the moments where Sam would introduce a historical concept too early or encounter a historical figure, as abruptly as little Michael Jackson just happening to be in the same bathroom as him or the fieldhand on his farm turning out to be Buddy Holly.  With Sam a bid pre-occupied in “Shock Theater,” could Al’s “ABC Rap” be their kiss with history moment of the episode?  Are they trying to say that a white man invented rap by teaching it to a mentally challenged African American in 1954?  Could Dibby or maybe his son passed down the lesson to the point where it reached people like DJ Kool Herc and The Sugarhill Gang in 1970s New York, the people, time, and place usually credited with the birth of modern rap?

QL Shock Theater Rap3

Yeah, well, you’re not ready for it, but your kids are going to love it.

But I really like Quantum Leap.

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