Case Number 14019

EARLY EDITION: THE FIRST SEASON

Paramount // 1996 // 1031 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Dylan Charles (Retired) // July 9th, 2008

The Charge

What if you had tomorrow's news...today?

Opening Statement

I'm the worst kind of young person; a disaffected, jaded, cynical youth who rolls his eyes at anything even remotely warm and fluffy. Puppies? Eye roll. Tiny Tim? Eye roll. Those Chicken Soup for the Soul books? Huge eye roll. By the time I had finished the first season of Early Edition I had rolled my eyes so thoroughly that I strained a muscle and now one of my eyes is permanently lazy. Thanks Early Edition, thanks a lot.

Facts of the Case

Gary Hobson (Kyle Chandler, Friday Night Lights) is an unhappy (and unlucky) stockbroker on the verge of a divorce when a mysterious cat shows up on his doorstep with a copy of the Chicago Sun Times. Turns out that this is no ordinary cat and this is no ordinary paper. It's tomorrow's paper and with it, Gary is able to prevent crimes, accidents and heart transplants gone wrong. His friends are their by his side to give him the guidance he needs. Marissa (Shanesia Davis) acts as his conscious, guiding him to do the right thing, while Chuck (Fisher Stevens, Lost) would just be happy with the sports page, winning lotto numbers and a peek at the financial section.

This set contains the entire first season, spread across six discs.
Disc One
* "Pilot": Gary gets his first copy of next day's news and tries to decide what to do with his newfound "gift."
* "The Choice": Gary must decide to save either a little girl or stop a plane from crashing.
* "Baby": It looks like Chuck is doomed to deliver a baby under stressful circumstances, while Gary is distracted by a pretty lady.
* "The Paper": Gary tries to figure out where the paper comes from and tries to save reporter Meredith (Leslie Hope) from getting rubbed out.

Disc Two
* "Thief Swipes Mayor's Dog": Title gives away the whole episode. A thief tries to take the mayor's dog.
* "Hoops": Rising highschool basketball star suffers from a medical condition that might kill him if Gary doesn't convince him to give up the dream.
* "After Midnight": A woman plans to abandon her baby and it's up to Gary to convince her otherwise.
* "Gun": A divorced woman is in danger from her jealous husband and keeps a gun for protection. But that gun might do more hurt than help if Gary doesn't intervene.

Disc Three
* "His Girl Thursday": Meredith returns and she and Gary try and have a normal relationship, but the paper does its best to ruin everything for the pair.
* "The Wrong Man": Gary must try and stop a former co-worker from killing himself, while dealing with the fact that his ex-wife is getting married.
* "Christmas": Gary tries to stop a string of bombings, while Chuck deals with the greatest Santa Clause ever while in jail.
* "Frostbit": During one of the coldest days in Chicago history (and I guess that's saying something), Gary must save a homeless boy from freezing to death.

Disc Four
* "Mob Wife": Chuck finds true love at last in the form of a mobster's girlfriend. Wacky hijinks ensue.
* "The Wall (Part 1)": Gary stumbles across the startling fact that his predecessor tried to stop the Kennedy assassination and learns he might soon be in the same position himself when the current President's life is threatened.
* "The Wall (Part 2)": The thrilling conclusion to The Wall.
* "Bat Masterson": Gary and Chuck come across a man who claims to be Bat Masterson, the sheriff of Dodge City who was a friend of Wyatt Earp.

Disc Five
* "The Jury": Gary gets called up for jury duty and is stymied in his efforts to prove a man innocent by a cantankerous judge and his bailiff.
* "Psychic": Gary joins forces with a fraud psychic (Kathy Najimy) who might be more than she seems.
* "The Cat": The cat is sick and needs a trip to the vet, where Gary finds an old flame of his predecessor.
* "Phantom of the Opera": In spite of the paper's best efforts, Gary seems to have found true love again.

Disc Six
* "Faith": Gary meets a girl in dire need of a heart transplant and can do nothing to save her.
* "Dad": Gary's dad (William Devane, Payback) comes to town and wants to help Gary do his paper thing.
* "Love is Blind": Marissa's psychology professor is in danger from a killer and she also gets a "study buddy."

The Evidence

First Edition has an interesting concept, one that's reminiscent of Quantum Leap, just without all the time travel. I was excited to see what they could do with the idea, having vague recollections of the show when it was on the air.

This season suffers from the same problems all shows have during their freshman year however. The actors aren't yet comfortable with their characters and it shows. The acting from the three leads is at times painful and clunky. Shanesia Davis is the oddest offender here. I completely believed she was blind, even going so far as to check on IMDb to see if the actress really was blind. But the rest of her acting leaves a bit to be desired. It felt like all the world like they pulled a random blind woman off the street and set her up in front of the camera. But, by the end of the season, all of the main actors seemed more comfortable in their skins and had developed a good chemistry betwixt each other.

My big problem with Early Edition was the treacle factor. It can be sanctimonious, insubstantial fluff at times which gets unbelievably grating. Take Chuck, for instance. Chuck spends a good deal of time trying to get Gary to make some money off the paper. Which Gary refuses over and over again. Gary's reasons for this aren't exactly clear however, just vague admonishments about how the paper isn't meant to be used that way. Which is weird, cause Gary has no clue why the paper is coming to him in the first place. In fact, the show seems to delight in crushing Chuck's joy. His girlfriend gets plugged by the mob. His car is constantly be stolen, impounded or sucked up into tornados. He gets thrown into near-freezing lakes. He gets electrocuted by psychology students. And this comeuppance is apparently for the sinister crime of being kind of a jerk.

The plots are also cringe-worthy at times, trying desperately to tug as many heart strings as possible. There's the story of the precocious, little girl who needs a heart transplant who teaches Gary a lesson about having faith. Or the other little girl who hits her head and spends the episode being so damned cute and cloying that Gary risks letting 190 other people die just so she won't be alone. Or the time a nun wins the lottery and donates all the proceeds to charity. Or the guy who tries to kidnap the mayor's dog because his own dog died chasing a poodle.

And then there are the lack of consequences. In two separate episodes, they tackled the idea of the difficult decisions Gary must make between who he must save and who he has to let die. And in both cases, the problem is resolved for him, no matter what choice he makes. It doesn't make for very good drama when you know there's a safety net.

This is more than a little annoying because when Early Edition drops the sugary treacle, it can actually be damned entertaining. The "Christmas" episode with M. Emmet Walsh as the greatest Santa Claus ever is a good example of this. Anytime Santa tells someone that he's going to cough up blood because of disbelief is a damned fun time in my opinion. And "The Wall," Early Edition's answer to Oliver Stone's JFK, actually proves to be an exciting mystery that ties together the actions of the past with what's going to happen in the future.

Paramount hasn't given much in the way of extras. In fact, the only things on these discs are the promos for each episode. Shame on Paramount.

Closing Statement

With a harder edge and less treacle, Early Edition's first season could have made full use of its premise and really delivered an interesting provocative show. Instead, we get watered down Quantum Leap with more whining. If syrup doesn't bother you, than Early Edition should be fine. Otherwise, steer clear.

The Verdict

Early Edition is guilty of treacle in the first degree. This judge recommends death.

Review content copyright © 2008 Dylan Charles; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 90
Audio: 90
Extras: 25
Acting: 80
Story: 80
Judgment: 75

Perp Profile
Studio: Paramount
Video Formats:
* Full Frame

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)

Subtitles:
* None

Running Time: 1031 Minutes
Release Year: 1996
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Episodic Promos

Accomplices
* IMDb
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0115163/combined