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Our review of Early Edition: The Second Season, published August 10th, 2009, is also available.
What if you had tomorrow's news…today?
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.
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.
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.
Early Edition is guilty of treacle in the first degree. This judge recommends death.
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