Quantum Leap – Good Morning, Peoria [2.6]

Sam leaps into Chick Howell, a radio deejay at a rock & roll radio station in the 1950’s.  The station is under great pressure to discontinue playing rock & roll, which some see as a bad influence, but owner Rachel Porter insists on following her dream to own the number one radio station in her town, and sees rock & roll as a way to do it.  When the music is actually outlawed by the local town council, Sam and Rachel barricade themselves in the station and continue playing their music, in an attempt to win a victory for free speech, while also responding to their attraction to each other.

Written by Chip Rupenthal. Directed by Michael Zinberg

Previous Episode: Blind FaithNext Episode:  Thou Shalt Not…

Comments:
Good Morning, Peoria is a decent episode of Quantum Leap, without being anything particularly special or memorable.   It’s a light-hearted story of Sam fighting for the right of the current generation of teenagers to be able to enjoy rock & roll music, something under threat because of a gang of stuffy conservatives.  Of course, this being Quantum Leap, the stuffy conservatives are shown to have heart as well, as indeed it’s the ringleader’s very own words about freedom, written at the end of World War II, which help him to realize his cause is a lost one.

This rock & roll radio-protest story is full of fun music, and is decently told, with Sam’s arguments against his adversaries being reasonably thoughtful.  But it’s also a bit heavy on the glitz and ultimately a little silly (with Sam and Rachel inspiring dancing in the street and so on).  What’s a bit more interesting if you take the time to look at it is the way that Sam throws himself into his role as Chick Howell.  When he starts to cut loose as a deejay (taking inspiration from Robin Williams’ portrayal of Adrian Cronauer in Good Morning, Vietnam), it’s almost like he changes personalities.  Sam acknowledges this at one point to Al, and we see it in action by the fact that the sit-in is actually his own idea, and not something Al urges him to do, which would have been more common for the show.  Indeed, Al tries to get him to stop.  This episode takes this aspect of Sam identifying with his counterpart to a much further degree than we’ve seen before.

Presumably this also feeds into Sam’s romance with Rachel, which is one of the main ways that Sam really “becomes” his own version of Chick.  The connection isn’t as deep as say when he was playing at being just married to Alice McBride–it seems more founded on passion than genuine love–but it really feels like it’s actually Sam’s relationship, and not just a role he has adopted.   Even Al is strangely invested in it, in spite of the fact that at no point does anyone connect this with what Sam is there to do.

Anyway, all this makes for an interesting subtext to the story, which keeps it from being simply a superficial romp.

Cast Notes:
• Patricia Richardson plays Rachel Porter.  She co-starred in the series Home Improvement, and had a recurring role as Arnold Vinick’s campaign manager in The West Wing.

• Todd Merrill plays Brian.  He was Gleason on a couple of episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation

• Chubby Checker plays himself, some thirty years younger than he really was!  He of course is famous American rock & roll musician of the era (and the ensuing decades).  I have only just realized that he is still living, as of this writing.

Who and Where is Dr. Sam Beckett?
Sam is Chick Howell, a radio deejay in Peoria, Illinois, from September 9-11th, 1959.

What does Sam have to do?
Sam has to save Rachel Porter,whose life fell apart after her radio station, WOF, falls apart once rock & roll music is banned in Peoria.

What do we learn about Sam Beckett?
Sam is familiar with The Second Coming, a poem by W.B. Yeats.  He has also apparently watched Good Morning, Vietnam.

What do we know about Al?
Al obviously loves classic rock & roll, including Chubby Checker’s The Twist.

What about the experiment?
This isn’t explained, but for some reason Al starts glowing blue when he stands too close to the radio antennae.   Al recognizes the effect as similar to leaping, and Sam doesn’t seem surprised by this (as if he knows what he looks like when he leaps).

God or Time or Something
Sam references “god” as an expletive when he first arrives, and Al does as well when he sees Chubby Checker.  In neither case are they really referring to the idea of God, the deity.

“Oh Boy”
The catchphrase is used when Sam realizes that the radio station is no longer broadcasting.  At the end, he says, “Oh vey.”

Sam’s Complicated Love Life
Sam seems as genuinely smitten with Rachel Porter as he has with anyone over the course of the series so far.

The Many Loves of Al Calavicci
I think for the first time in the series, that aren’t any references to anything.  Unless I missed something?

Other Observations
• It really seems to take Sam a long time to figure out he’s a deejay, and at first he’s pretty terrible at it.

• There’s some good snappy dialogue at different points to the story:

Rachel:  Do you know why my father started this station?
Sam:  As a tax dodge?
Rachel:  Because he loved music.

and

Rachel:  Three words.
Sam:  “Chick, you’re fired?”
Rachel:  Your records ending

and

Brian:  Just do your sign-off and get out of here.  I got a shift to do.  Mouths to feed.  Cars to pay off.  Homes to repair

• Sam misremembers the Beatles as being active at this point–possibly because he was just in the midst of them in the last episode?

• Sam references Apple computers.

• Sam is inspired in this episode by the film Good Morning Vietnam, a movie which came out about two years prior to this episode airing.  Or about nine years prior, from Sam’s perspective.  Or twenty-years from the show’s current perspective.  All based on events which happened about six years after the episode was set…

• There are some cute moments between Sam and Rachel, like when she says, “My hero,” to him having her answer the phone.  Or when they are dealing with the generator in the basement.

• However, it’s a dopey moment when Rachel actually thinks that Sam has manipulated all this just to get her alone.  It makes her sound like a fool.

• And maybe my pick for a favorite moment of the episode, except that really it comes from the next episode, is Sam’s line at the very end, when he’s cheesy grin gives way to concern with a “Oy vey, I’m the Rabbi.”

Sam Leaps To
Thou Shalt Not…

Favorite Dialogue
Well, not surprisingly the best is probably when Sam quotes W.B. Yeats:

And everywhere, the ceremony of innocence is drowned.  The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.

Pretty moving language, even if I’m not entirely sure of the meaning.

Special thanks, by the way, to this site for the episode transcriptions.

The Best Moment
There is some fun rock & roll editing at the story’s climax, as it cuts back and forth between inside and outside the station to the rhythm of Chubby Checker.

Previous Episode: Blind Faith • Next Episode:  Thou Shalt Not…

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