There’s no time like the past on the new ‘Journeyman’

Kevin McKidd is passed out in an alley near the corner of California and Kearny when a wandering thief nearly swipes his watch. Fortunately, Moon Bloodgood storms onto the scene, saves the day and brings McKidd up to date. But he doesn’t know what to make of what she’s telling him: He’s stuck in the year 1989.

A cable car bell dings from a passing trolley. Director Alex Graves yells “cut.” McKidd and Bloodgood exchange glances. Time for another take.

And so it goes on the set of “Journeyman,” the new San Francisco-based television series premiering at 10 p.m. today on NBC.

For McKidd and company, the show couldn’t come at a better time.

“This script was the most individual and unique because it wasn’t your standard TV show,” he says in between shooting. “It shakes the bottle a bit and plays with the imagination. Compared to a cop show, it was such an imaginative choice.”

It’s true. If “Quantum Leap” crawled into bed with a distant cousin of “Early Edition” it would have produced something like “Journeyman.”

Filmed on location over the summer months, this clever thinking-man’s odyssey finds the 34-year-old “Rome” alum playing a newspaper reporter (Dan Vasser) with a bizarre affliction: He blacks out and wakes up somewhere in the modern past. Eventually, he realizes he’s been temporarily sent back in time, possibly to make a difference in the lives of others.

The premise might win raves with viewers who appreciate some depth sprinkled over their sci-fi cravings.

“It’s not just some sci-fi show where he’s off solving something,” McKidd adds. “It’s about a normal man, who has no control over this stuff. He’s following his instincts and at the same time, he’s trying to keep his life together.”

Bloodgood, last seen in ABC’s “Daybreak,” believes the series has alot of heart.

“I love the idea of going back into your past and looking at what you could change; looking at your life and seeing what regrets you have,” she says. “I also like the idea of him being caught between two women.”

Yes, there is that.

McKidd’s character is a happily married family man in the present day. In the past, he stumbles upon with his former fiancé (Bloodgood), who he thought was dead, but apparently is in a time travel conundrum herself.

The romantic plot twist was the brainchild of creator-producer Kevin Falls, who, along with “Journeyman” director Alex Graves, served as executive producer of “The West Wing.” Falls, a Northern California native, says he specifically had San Francisco in mind when he was asked by 20th Century Fox Television to create a new drama series.

“I love The City so much,” he says. “It’s magical, mystical and just hopelessly interesting. This show is very much a love story about The City.”

Meanwhile, The City beckons.

Back on California Street, the cast, crew and dozens of San Francisco locals appearing as extras have regrouped to the end of the cable car line. Lights, cameras and a boom operator capture the attention of onlookers as another scene from the show unravels. McKidd steps off the trolley and shares a deep moment with a curious stranger he’s encountered. Then he stares off into the distance, contemplating the future.

He won’t be alone. If viewers venture toward “Journeyman,” the drama around water coolers will be all about trying to solve the show’s perplexing mystery.

Only Falls, as creator, knows the answers. But his lips are sealed. In other words: All in due time.

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