HOW QUANTUM LEAP RUINED MY LIFE
I had every episode on videotape, labelled and filed.
One day I discovered my brother had used one of the tapes to record a football match and the beating he received from me that day is the stuff of family legend.
Quantum Leap was my show. It came along at a perfect time in my life, a time when I was short of solvent male role-models and hair had started growing in the strangest of places. Sam Beckett’s travels through time taught me about history, morality, politics and self-sacrifice. I’d attended church for the first eleven years of my life and though I was never a believer in the faith, I wanted to believe in something and, even though I know how silly it sounds, I believed in Sam.
I sat crossed-legged in front of the TV for years enjoying every one of his adventures. He showed me what it was like to be a victim of racism, a victim of sexism, a pregnant woman and a kid with downs syndrome. When he leaped into a person, you leaped into a person. You wore their shoes for an episode and got to look at the world from a different perspective and live a different life for one night a week.
When I heard the final episode was coming, I had mixed emotions. On one hand my favourite show was ending and I was upset but I was also happy. After all his trials and tribulations, it was finally going to happen. Sam was going home.
I mean he had to be, right?
He had to be…
I only recall bits of the final episode. The bartender might have been God, characters that appeared in the show came into the bar as different characters and Sam ended up reuniting Al with his wife. He’d done what he needed to do and now he was going back. He was definitely going back. Any moment now, here it comes…
I’ll never be a good enough writer to adequately explain how I felt when the screen went black and those words appeared. Friends of mine have passed away and I’ve been party to plenty of tragic events but none of them have come close to affecting me as much that tacked on end card.
I know how stupid that sounds, believe me, I do, but I was young, my skin hadn’t become hardened to the world and the moment hit me right in the heart, a bullet of pure betrayal fired casually from the gun of some anonymous executive who decided the show wasn’t worthy of a proper ending.
Quantum Leap wasn’t aimed at kids, it often had strong adult themes but millions of kids watched it and I know for certain that I’m not the only child of that era who remembers the devastation. Last year I was on a train home with my with friend Rosy and for some reason the ending came up in conversation and she started to cry. Now Rosy is a tough broad, not one for turning on the waterworks, so Christ knows how traumatic the finale was for those of a more sensitive disposition.
Looking back over twenty years later, that was the moment I stopped believing in anything and from then on I was destined for a life of pessimism, the shield you have to put up in order to protect yourself from the crushing blows of life’s disappointments.
Sure, it was just a TV show, and unless you remember the incident and felt it as strongly as I did, it’s going to be difficult for you to care, but something went wrong in the universe that day. What should have happened, didn’t happen and we’re currently leaving in this parallel world, a world that changed for the worse in that one, insignificant and long forgotten moment. I like to think there is another world out there, a world of resolutions and happy endings, a world full of faith and eternal optimism. A world were a boy turned the TV off that day with hope in his heart and a smile on this face. A world in which Sam, finally, returned home.