Quantum Leap: A Little Miracle (1990)
Quantum Leap, for anyone who doesn't know, was a fairly ambitious show with a premise that is somehow both over- and under-explained. The main character, Sam, 'leaps' through time, but only within his lifespan. He inhabits the body of another person, and helps fix something about their lives. He is helped in this by a Al, guy with a high-tech remote control computer that allows him to project himself to whenever the main guy is and provide advice and guidance, like Jiminy Cricket in an ugly 80's suit.
The downside is that it seems all this intriguing sci-fi set-up is just in the service of overblown melodrama.
In this episode, Sam leaps into the body of the butler of a super-rich development mogul on Christmas Eve. Raise your hand if you already know it's the plot of A Christmas Carol again!
Said mogul, named Blake, is very, very rich, and very, very cranky and callous, and very, very set on demolishing a downtown Salvation Army Mission by New Years to make way for a new high-rise plaza. Conveniently, the person making the case for the mission is a pretty girl who goes by Captain Donovan.
Sam and Al decide to open go for the Scrooge plotline, and initially go about it in a low-tech way. Sam snoops in a box of old photos and then 'accidentally' brings Blake to the neighborhood he grew up in on the bad side of town. He's handed an amazing coincidence: Blake finds out that his childhood friend died in a drunken accident after being laid off from a company that Blake automated (thereby firing all the employees). Sam is a terrible Spirit of Christmas stand-in, though; he doesn't even seem to realize what a stroke of luck that news is, or that it's pushing Blake in the direction Sam wants him to go until Al spells it out.
For Christmas Present, Sam brings Blake to the mission for some choir singing. The sound designers gave a mighty effort to strike a balance between the sound of the professional chorus and the visual of a bunch of random people singing relatively extemporaneously. They fail, of course, and the singing just sounds like what it is: a professional chorus with a few extra people and kids told to shout or sing off key, but only at the end of the line, so as not to spoil the harmony.
Here's when my favorite part happened. Erin and I had just finished rolling our eyes at the Dickensian-styled urchins in the 1962, clearly present to provide the proper tone, when Blake declared that the whole thing was a set-up, and he was not going to be taken advantage of. Hey, he's not an idiot!
Sam and Al finally pull the gambit you can see coming from the start. Early in the episode, it's revealed that Blake's unique brain means that he's on the same 'wavelength' as Sam, or something, so he can see Al. So Al puts on a get-up like some kind of zombie-witch-doctor and proceeds to use his holograms to scare the shit out of Blake. See your future, grave, etc, blah blah... The actor playing Blake does an impressive amount of scenery chewing, really wringing every drop of overwrought emotion out and finally he stumbles to the mission (following an unexplained star, even) to be helped to salvation by a pretty girl. Mission Accomplished.
The main thing to know regarding all this running about is that it was boring. And when it wasn't boring, it was distasteful, as with Al leering at the buxom maid. There was no resolution with a lot of plot threads that seemed to be happening early on. It's all so ridiculously pat, as well, because as I said at the beginning, the opponent to the big developer is a conventionally beautiful, single woman. *insert eyeroll here* There was no reason to care at all about the outcome.