Tuesday, May 28, 2024
HomeLaura PerrinsA Quantum Leap into childhood TV gold

A Quantum Leap into childhood TV gold


I VERY much enjoyed reading your memories of warm childhoods with mother at home

So much so that I thought I’d continue on the trip down Memory Lane. Indulging in some nostalgia now and again does no harm. In fact, as TCW’s Harry Hopkins points out, it can be beneficial to your mental health. 

It should come as no surprise that it is conservatives who like a daily dose of nostalgia, as it links us to our past. As conservatives we don’t believe everything in the past was bad – perhaps there were even some good moments and not everything must be destroyed to make progress. I am willing to accept that there is some cherry-picking – we do perhaps focus on the warm moments, those times we felt comforted and fussed over, but I would rather this than wallow in self-pity. Reforming traditions so that others can flourish is an honest endeavour, wading around in pools of self-pity (like Prince Harry) to draw attention to yourself or simply to make money is shameful.

Anyway, my little moment of nostalgia comes in the form of recalling my favourite TV programmes from my childhood. Now of course it is not the TV programme really that evokes the memory – it is where and with whom you watched it that counts. My favourite memory is without a doubt watching Quantum Leap with my brother.

Quantum Leap was an American TV programme that aired at about 8 or 9pm on BBC 2 from 1990. The fact that this American programme was beamed into Irish homes via the British Broadcasting Corporation tells us a lot about the power ofAmericana. It concerned a time traveller called Sam who went ‘leaping from life to life striving to put right that which once went wrong, and always hoping that his next leap would be the leap home’ (they are the exact words of the opener, and I know them by heart). His only guide on this journey was a cynical old Vietnam vet called Al, who appears as a hologram informing Sam of what his task was in order to make the next leap – save a life, stop a black man from being lynched in the deep south, things like that. Looking back, it was a very political programme, but I loved it.

The best episode was the one where Sam went back to his childhood self, a farming family in the Midwest, I think. Sam is overcome with emotion as finally he has a chance to right wrongs committed against his own family; his younger sister who elopes with an alcoholic, his older brother Tom who is killed in Vietnam, his father who has a heart attack from smoking.

Sam tries to warn his family members of these future tragedies, but they don’t believe him and he ends up ruining his second chance to spend some time with his family as a boy. Al points out that Sam has a chance to do something no one gets – to see his family again, to experience some small part of his childhood once more. Sam is ruining this moment instead of enjoying it.

At the end of each episode, we are told how Sam succeeds in changing someone’s life. So as always, at the end of this one, we are told that Sam saves his sister from her tragedy, but Al must tell Sam that his beloved older brother Tom still dies in Vietnam. This is the moment when Sam leaps. Well, you know where Sam leaps to.

I remember very clearly watching the next few seconds of what would be next week’s episode – Sam leaps into a platoon under fire in Vietnam. And not just any old platoon, of course, it is Tom’s platoon. Well, dear reader, I do believe myself and my brother were just frozen to the spot on that one. It remains the greatest TV moment I’ve ever experienced. How we managed to wait an entire week to watch the next episode I do not know.

And that’s the thing about TV in our day, dear reader. As you know you had to be in front of the box at 9pm on Tuesday, tuned into BBC2, to see if Tom survived or died because you would never, ever see that episode again.

There was no playback, there was no iPlayer, you couldn’t watch three episodes on the commute to work. Sure, you could perhaps ‘record’ it but that almost never worked. If you weren’t there, you were either told what happened the next day by the kids in school or you never did find out. These days, I must jump on the remote controls to stop the next episode from rolling on for my kids to devour. No wonder they are so impatient.

As it turned out, fictional Tom was saved in Vietnam, unlike the other 58,000-odd American men sacrificed to General McNamara’s ‘body count’ war tactics, and whose names are now etched on an overwhelming black granite Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC. We were not told whether Tom lost a limb, or indeed his mind, on his return, like so many other Vietnam vets.

Yes, my brother and I enjoyed many an hour of this classic programme. There were a lot of cliff-hangers, a lot of excitement and dare I say it, quite a few lessons learnt. It is certainly something I look back on with great fondness. So once again, what are your warmest TV moments from your childhood? I am sure you never spent them alone.

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