“Now and Again” is a wonderful TV show that was unfortunately cancelled after only one season. But at least it got to last for a full season, with a full 22 episodes to its credit. If nothing else, those of us who appreciates a well-made TV show, with just the right combination of fantasy, science fiction, romance, and human drama, can say that we saw 22 really great episodes of something special.
“Now and Again” was created in 1999 by Glenn Gordon Caron (“Remington Steele”), and is about Michael Wiseman, a middle-age insurance salesman who is killed in a subway accident. Although Michael’s body is dead, his brain is still “alive”. Enter Dr. Theodore Morris (Dennis Haysbert), the mastermind behind a government project to create the perfect supersoldier. Having genetically engineered a perfect human body that is stronger, faster, and can instantly heal itself (as well as generate new organs!), Morris now needs a brain to “power” the body. Enter Michael’s brain.
Pre-superhuman Michael is played by “Roseanne’s” John Goodman, who appears in various cameos, mostly during flashbacks, while Eric Close (“Dark Skies”) plays the superhuman version. Margaret Colin (“Unfaithful”) plays Michael’s loving wife Lisa, the woman he can’t get over even after being “reborn”. You see, although Michael looks nothing like his old self (he’s even younger!), he’s still him. And Michael Wiseman is still painfully in love with his wife Lisa and his teenage daughter Heather (Heather Matarazzo). Unfortunately he’s not allowed to see his family again, and the government will kill him, and then his family, if he ever exposes himself. Yikes!
And so Michael has to find ways to see his beloved Lisa while doing secret missions for the government. Missions like stopping a killer who uses eggs to poison people, a “bug man” who can control bugs, and other assorted bad guys. Not that the movie is all about wacky villains, because the “secret agent” part of “Now and Again” is basically background noise. The real story is Michael’s attempts to return to his old life, while the show constantly returns to Lisa and Heather as they soldier on with life as single mother and teen daughter. Don’t think we only see Lisa and Heather in cameos. In many episodes, the mother and daughter actually get more screentime than Michael!
The best moments of “Now and Again” are its romantic interludes. Maybe I’m just a sucker for romance, but Michael’s attempts to re-insert himself into Lisa’s life, while at the same time keeping the government and Dr. Morris at bay, makes for terrific TV. Of course the show has to resort to plot contrivances to keep the “secret identity” gimmick in place, but the series is simply so well done that even some episode’s ludicrous situations just seem to roll off without consequence.
Eric Close plays Michael Wiseman with all the right combination of emotions. His glibness is perfect for a man who has essentially been reborn with a whole new body; while his seriousness comes through whenever he’s around Lisa. As the love interest, Margaret Colin is simply wonderful, charming, and endearing. Although Colin is obviously older than Close, the chemistry is there, and their scenes together shines.
The supporting case is a small one, consisting of Dennis Haysbert (“24”) as the (sometimes too) serious doctor who learns to care for his supersoldier. The show humanizes Haysbert’s Morris, making him more than just an exposition man. Heather Matarazzo (“Scream 3”) is perfectly cast as the daughter. The actor’s oddball personality is a perfect fit for the troubled teen. Gerrit Graham rounds out the short list of regulars as Michael’s former co-worker and family friend Roger.
The fate of “Now and Again”, a critically acclaimed TV show that was shamefully ignored by audiences, convinces me that it just doesn’t pay to try something new on network TV. With its unpredictable storylines and plot elements, the show went against the tide of cookie cutter shows dominating the airwaves. It was refreshing, fun, romantic, and just generally inspired in its ability to surprise. I guess if the show was more “regular” it might have fared better. Alas, it was the show’s brilliant mixture of genres and style that did it in. How sad is that?
The cancellation of “Now and Again” is doubly irritating because the show offers up one of the most intriguing season-ending cliffhangers in the history of TV. In the final minutes of the final episode, Michael realizes that he can no longer keep the secret from his family, and escapes his government handlers. The episode ends with Michael going on the lam with his family, and Morris appearing at the Wiseman home with an army of federal agents. Needless to say, I would kill to see a resolution to the show. How about a series of original movies of the week, guys?
Hello? Anyone out there?
Glenn Gordon Caron (director) / Glenn Gordon Caron, Rene Echevarria (screenplay)
CAST: Eric Close …. Michael Wiseman
Dennis Haysbert …. Dr. Theodore Morris
Margaret Colin …. Lisa Wiseman
Gerrit Graham …. Roger Bender
Heather Matarazzo …. Heather Wiseman
John Goodman …. Michael Wiseman