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Reboot doesn’t have time on its side

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Time travel will be an intriguing series concept — see “Outlander” and “La Brea” — but NBC’s reboot of “Quantum Leap” doesn’t quite capture the spirit of its predecessor.

That series aired for five seasons (1989-93) on NBC with stars Scott Bakula as time-jumping Dr. Sam Beckett and Dean Stockwell as Al, the cigar-chomping wiseguy hologram tasked with guiding Sam through his tricky missions after assuming another person’s identity — and saving the day — as he bounced forwards and backwards in time.

This new edition of “Quantum Leap” references the unique show — each Bakula and Stockwell are seen, though not as in-the-flesh characters, and the series opener is devoted to Stockwell, who died last November. So it’s not for an absence of trying. But, in a way, the references to Sam and Al only underscore the difficulties in reviving a once-popular series. The expectations are high and infrequently meet or exceed expectations — and, when all is claimed and done, “Quantum Leap” might want to make great strides with a purpose to succeed as a weekly viewing destination.

The forged of the “Quantum Leap” reboot (from left): Nanrisa Lee, Ernie Hudson, Mason Alexander Park and Caitlin Bassett.Ron Batzdorff/NBC

Photo of Dean Stockwell and Scott Bakula as Al and Dr. Sam Beckett in the original Dean Stockwell and Scott Bakula starred in the unique “Quantum Leap” series as Al and Dr. Sam Beckett.©NBC/Courtesy Everett Collectio

The setup here is comparable to the unique, with a couple of added wrinkles and a various forged. Dr. Ben Song (Raymond Lee, “Kevin Can F*** Himself”) is a superb quantum physicist who’s working for the federal government in 2022 to revive the Quantum Leap program, abandoned in 1995 when Sam Beckett “never made it home” after a time-jump. Addison Augustine (newcomer Caitlin Bassett), Ben’s true love, is an ex-Army intelligence officer working alongside him. Ben has secretly written latest code for Ziggy — the AI mechanism that triggers time leaps — and, within the series premiere, suddenly decides he needs to check his theory, for reasons only he knows, without telling anyone. He materializes into the body of Nick, the getaway driver for a Philadelphia bank robbery crew in July 1985 just because the Live Aid concert kicks into high gear (the “Ziggy” parallels to David Bowie, seen on a TV screen on the concert, are duly noted here).

Photo of Caitlin Bassett as Addison in 1985 Philadelphia. She's wearing clothing from that era and is front of a brown '80s-era car.Addison (Caitlin Bassett) arrives in 1985 Philadelphia to assist Ben within the series opener of “Quantum Leap” on NBC.Ron Batzdorff/NBC

Ben has no memory of his past life, but Addison suddenly appears as his Hologram spirit-guide to (attempt to) explain what’s happening — and to assist Ben discover the true reason he’s in Philadelphia and why he’s now in Nick’s body. (We learn that their roles were speculated to be reversed.) Addison is the just one who can communicate with Ben/Nick while, back at headquarters, the Quantum Leap support team — techies Ian (Mason Alexander Park) and Jenn (Nanrisa Lee) and their boss, Herbert “Magic” Williams (the all the time reliable Ernie Hudson) — work feverishly to assist Ben complete his mission and return home … but there’s a glitch and a surprise, which sets up the season arc.

Viewers who’ve may not have seen the unique “Quantum Leap,” and savored the chemistry between Bakula and Stockwell, won’t find an enormous spark here between Strong and Bassett — though we don’t really know their full back stories, yet — and the writing could use some oomph (there are a couple of one-liners sprinkled here and there). The supporting players, particularly Park, add a fresh element to the show, which must get going soon — or face a fate that Ben will find a way to save lots of provided that he “leaps” into the body of an NBC programming executive hellbent on saving this latest fall series from extinction.

“Quantum Leap” airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on NBC.

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