We sit down with the cast and crew of cult classic television series “Time Jump” and learn just what went wrong.
After unearthing the infamous scripts from the 1989 failed television series Time Jump, PressureLife sat down with series creator Garland Echoes to talk about the show, its legacy, and why it never made it to air.
PRESSURELIFE: “Thanks for joining us Garland and giving us exclusive insight into the series. Time Jump followed the adventures of Johnny Akron and Professor Wooster, Johnny’s college history teacher, as they travel through time fixing the past in order to save their future. This is what you pitched to the president of NBC. He signed on for 13 episodes, but the show never saw air. What happened?”
GARLAND ECHOES: Scott freaking Bakula happened, that’s what. No one could have seen it coming. It was the perfect storm. That was the summer of Bakulamania, don’t forget. They stole the idea.
PL: “How can you be so certain?”
GE: I was in Boca Raton for a Member’s Only convention when I overheard Leap’s head writer coming up with his idea with a group of friends. He and the bassist for Duran Duran came up with the whole thing that night; a handsome time traveler, pivotal moments in history, an older sidekick used as an excuse to dump a bunch of dialogue, the whole bag. I had the network on the phone while they were still in the hotel bar trying on windbreakers.
PL: So Time Jump is a Quantum Leap rip-off?
GE: Well… yeah, but Quantum Leap was just a Highway to Heaven rip-off.”
PL: You handled time travel differently in your show. Johnny Akron travels via the dreams he has in the back of Mr. Wooster’s history class as opposed to anything more science-based like in—
GE: Enough about Quantum Leap.
PL: Back to the Future
PL: Moving on. Time Jump was going to see Johnny Akron affecting pivotal moments in Ohio’s history in hopes to return to the future he left behind. You could have written about anywhere in the world. Why Cleveland?
GE: Why not? I’ve lived here my entire life. This place is weird, still is, always was.
AN EXCERPT FROM TIME JUMP: EPISODE ONE “FOR THOSE ABOUT TO NOT ROCK?”
INT. DAY – CLEVELAND ARENA; AMPHITHEATER STAGE
JOHNNY AKRON wakes from his sleep in the back of history class to find himself on an amphitheater stage. He looks down, puzzled at the cargo he is transporting along with other members of a stage crew.
CAPTION: Cleveland, 1952
JOHNNY AKRON (still dazed): What is this? Where am I?
STAGE HAND (gruff): In the way. Move it. We got to get the stage ready by five.
JOHNNY AKRON staggers out of the rest of the crew’s way, watching as they unload a retinue of mic stands, drum kits, and, most attractive to Johnny Akron, guitars. He gravitates toward what appears to him as a ‘classic’ model electric guitar. The pristine instrument is enough to momentarily distract JOHNNY AKRON from his displacement.
JOHNNY AKRON (picking up guitar with reverence): Whoa… is this an actual original Rickenbacker?
STAGEHAND: You know how to tune those things?”
JOHNNY AKRON (eager to play): Sure. Standard or drop D?”
STAGEHAND: Just Drop D funny business and hurry up. Mr. Freed doesn’t like to be kept waiting.
JOHNNY AKRON starts tuning the guitar with modest academic practicality. The more he strums, the more he gets into the feel and can’t help but play, simple at first but with increasing passion and intensity. He plays iconic rock guitar riffs from the ‘60s and ‘70s. His style of playing exceeds what people of the 1950s are prepared for. For them, this is a squealing abomination.
CUT TO stagehands cup their ears, wincing from the sonic assault.
CUT TO JOHNNY AKRON jamming through the opening riff for “Smoke on the Water” before looking up and realizing he’s made for a bit of an awkward scene. He sheepishly takes off the guitar as a gruff voice booms across the empty amphitheater from behind the sound booth. Allan Freed, producer of the concert they are preparing for, has been watching the impromptu guitar recital.
ALLAN FREED: Tell me, what do you call that… sound?
JOHNNY AKRON: Sound? Well, I mean rock, I guess.
JOHNNY AKRON: Yeah, Rock ‘n’ Roll, man.
FREED (with smug scorn): Rock and roll, hmm? So that’s what to call this disgrace. If I have to make it my life’s work I’ll see to it that rock and or roll will never live!”
CUT TO: JOHNNY AKRON realizes he’s put his foot in it and pans to camera for money shot.
JOHNNY AKRON: (down the camera lens): Oh boy.
GE: That was going to be the show’s catchphrase. We had a whole line of ‘Oh boy’ tee shirts, mugs, flip flops every color of neon you could imagine. We had him say it in every episode, whenever he screws up history and has to fix it, ‘oh boy.’ In hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have printed them off before we aired.”
PL: The network cast Chase Charles Chad as Johnny Akron, but did you originally have anyone in mind to play Johnny Akron?
GE: We needed a strong leading man, a real Bakula type. I remember running lines with a few hot actors of the time – Robert Blake, Mel Gibson, Kevin Spacey. We ended up doing a screen test with O.J. Simpson. He tested really well.
PL: Um, those actors are all…
GE: Terrible. Yes. I am incredibly fortunate we never made this show.
INT. NIGHT – HOTEL ROOM
JOHNNY AKRON talks with his history professor, Mr. Wooster. For this episode, Wooster is in his Arctic Assault outfit with detachable action-ready harpoon. The two mull over the incident at the amphitheater and the fallout from a disgruntled Allan Freed. Wooster is high strung, concerned with the ramifications to the timeline. JOHNNY AKRON is still coming to grips that someone out there doesn’t like rock music.
JOHNNY AKRON: So you’re telling me just because I scared away some uptight DJ with my sick licks rock ‘n’ roll never exists?
WOOSTER: That’s precisely what I’m saying. And that wasn’t ‘some uptight DJ,’ that was Allan Freed, the man some call the father of rock ‘n’ roll. He was responsible for bringing the genre into living rooms and thereby into the mainstream.
JOHNNY AKRON: If he’s such a fan why’d he run from what he heard earlier today?
WOOSTER: He appreciates music from his own time. There haven’t been whole generations of artists evolving the art form yet. You’ve put things out of order this afternoon. He wasn’t ready for what he heard today. Time follows a flow, one thing after the next. You’ll have to set this right, young man.
JOHNNY AKRON: Hey, this isn’t the classroom anymore, old man.
WOOSTER: You’re right, Johnny. This isn’t a classroom, this is all in your mind and if you ever want to get back to where you left I’d advise you make sure you have a future to come back to.
JOHNNY AKRON: what’s that supposed to mean?
Music swells, dramatic close up on WOOSTER as he sells the stakes of the series.
WOOSTER: You’ve changed the past, Johnny. That means you’ve changed the future, your future. Freed is already changing the billing of the Moondog Coronation Ball to an easy listening soiree instead of the first rock concert ever. If you don’t save the birth of rock ‘n’ roll you’ll be stuck here forever.
CUT TO: Johnny Akron’s dramatic close up. The stakes have never been higher.
JOHNNY AKRON: Whoa. No Van Halen? That’s heavy.
CUT TO BLACK.
PL: If I can jump in here for a moment. Johnny’s college history professor Mr. Wooster followed him along in his adventures through time. I’m a little confused. Why the harpoon?
GE: Harpoon? Oh right, the harpoon. That was a merchandising idea. We were going to dress him up in a different action outfit every week. You know, Arctic Assault, Sahara Strikeforce, Cotillion Casual. To be honest, we came across a couple crates of some botched G.I. Joes and we were just kind of working backwards from there.
PL: How did you keep coming up with ways to explain that week to week?”
GE: Our timeslot would have been going up against a guy who talked to his car. We didn’t have to think things out back then. We just did them and had a stack of cardboard boxes explode on a dock, roll credits.
INT. DAY – LOBBY OF WJW AM 850 STUDIOS
JOHNNY AKRON is being confronted by WOOSTER in the lobby of WJW AM 850 Studios where Freed hosts his radio show. JOHNNY AKRON is attempting to meet with the heads of the studio, WOOSTER is attempting to reason with him.
CAPTION: WJW AM 850 Studios
WOOSTER: You can’t do this.
JOHNNY AKRON: Sure I can. They just need to know what to call it, how to market it. I’ll tell them all about the musicians they should play. If they have a guitar around I’ll even play them the riffs so they know what to listen for. Who needs Allan Freed anyway? Anyone can call it rock.
WOOSTER: That’s not how it works. History happens how it happens for a reason. It takes more than a single moment in time. When Freed visits Record Rendezvous over on Prospect Avenue, the owner Leo Mintz pushes several black R&B artists like Ruth Brown and Fats Domino. It’s Mintz’s suggestions that push Freed to play the forerunners of the genre on his radio show and not the white cover acts like everyone else was at the time.
JOHNNY AKRON: And if I go in there and cut him out of the process everything afterwards falls apart?
WOOSTER: Now you’re learning.
JOHNNY AKRON: If we can’t just tell them then what do you suggest?
WOOSTER holds up a concert bill for the impending Moondog Coronation. In this iteration, because of JA’s meddling, it is now billed as a jazz and casual listening event.
WOOSTER: I have a plan.
INT. NIGHT – CLEVELAND ARENA; AMPHITHEATER
It is the night of the Moondog Coronation Ball. A few hundred tight buttoned up tight patrons mill about sheepishly.
CAPTION: MOONDOG CORONATION BALL, March 21, 1952
CUT TO: Off stage, behind the curtains. JOHNNY AKRON holds a guitar and is talking to WOOSTER who is giving him last minute instructions.
JOHNNY AKRON: Man, this place is packed.
WOOSTER: Overpacked. We need to recreate the conditions as best as possible so I counterfeited an extra 10,000 tickets. There was always a debate whether it was a printing error or counterfeiting. I guess we have our answer now.
JOHNNY AKRON: I’ve only ever played in garages before. Are you sure this is going to work?
WOOSTER: Just go out there and play a few songs from the era. We just need to rekindle Freed’s interest enough so that he’ll take Mintz’s advice when he visits his record shop. History will take care of the rest.
JOHNNY AKRON: What about Freed? He seemed pretty upset the last time he heard me play.
WOOSTER (waves his harpoon as he slips away): You let me worry about him.
CUT TO: Stage. Alan Freed introduces the night’s first act.
FREED: …so pleased to have all of you wonderful Moondoggers here tonight. We’ve got a really great show. So without further ado, allow me to introduce our first act. They’re smooth, they’re agreeable, they’re the kind of music you can kick back and build a ship in a bottle to, ladies and gentlemen, please welcome The Vanilla Pleasantries.”
Modest applause from the crowd as Freed leaves the stage. The curtains part and JOHNNY AKRON is alone with an electric guitar.
JOHNNY AKRON: “Um… Hi everybody. I’m, uh, I guess I’m Bill Haley and the Comets.”
JOHNNY AKRON begins to play the Bill Haley and the Comet’s “Rocking Around the Clock,” aka, the Happy Days theme. Pan across the crowd for reaction shots of a dawning appreciation for the electric music. They begin to smile, bob along, clap and dance. Easy listening was a fog they were under. Audio of performance continues as we–
CUT TO: BACKSTAGE. The actual Vanilla Pleasantries and their matching cardigan sweaters have arrived via back door; upset that they are late. They run into Allan Freed who is confused as to how they can be in two places at once and begins to suspect he’s been made a fool.
VP LEAD: Hey who’s that up there? That’s our spot.
FREED: That’s The Vanilla Pleasantries.
VP: But we’re The Vanilla Pleasantries.
FREED (beginning to put it together): But if you’re… and if he’s… then that means…
CUT TO: CROWD. JOHNNY AKRON has finished “Rocking Around the Clock.” The crowd loves it and are cheering exuberantly. They want more. JOHNNY AKRON realizes he doesn’t know any other ‘50s songs and goes into “Rocking Around the Clock” once more. The crowd is a little confused and disappointed. They still cheer, but less so, and with more uncertain murmuring.
CUT TO: BACKSTAGE. Freed is leading the real Vanilla Pleasantries toward the stage with a head of steam. He realizes he has been tricked and is out to end this charlatan. Suddenly, he and the rest of the VP hit hard on their heels and put their hands up. We reverse POV to reveal WOOSTER holding them at bay at the end of his detachable Arctic Assault harpoon.
CUT TO: STAGE. JOHNNY AKRON has flop sweat under the bright lights. He’s worked the crowd up and now they’ve grown restless. They begin to jeer and turn rowdy.
JOHNNY AKRON: Wow, that’s a really short song it turns out. Okay guys. I hear you. Something to change the pace up a bit—
JOHNNY AKRON goes right back into “Rocking Around the Clock” for the third time in a row and the crowd wildly disapproves.
CUT TO: Crowd. The crowd is a teeming mob, screaming, thrashing anything they can get their hands on and preparing to storm the stage. At the same time, Freed and the VP are rushing the stage only to be cut off by a swarming mass of teenage rock ‘n’ roll converts. Have the camera hold for a beat on their reactions before they’re swallowed up by the pandemonium.
As the crowd overtakes the stage WOOSTER calls out to JOHNNY AKRON from a door backstage that leads to an exit.
JOHNNY AKRON (looking around in the chaos): Professor?
WOOSTER: Johnny! Quickly, this way!
Johnny spots his exit and fights his way through the crowd towards the door. Wooster and JOHNNY AKRON escape out the back as the actual Bill Haley and the Comets version of “Rocking Around the Clock” plays overdubbed for the rest of the scene. The Moondog Coronation is a full-blown riot. The camera pans across the melee of teens which continue to roughhouse and riot as we FADE OUT to commercial break.
EXT. DAY – PARK BENCH
It is the morning after. JOHNNY AKRON and WOOSTER sit on a park bench still wearing their clothes from the night before. Neither have had a chance to shower or sleep yet. Both men have been roughed up in the melee; couple torn collars, maybe a black eye or a busted lip. WOOSTER is reading the morning issue of the Plain Dealer. From the way he holds it we can read the front page headline “ROCKY DEBUT FOR MOONDOG SHOW”
WOOSTER (reading from the article): “…The first ever Moondog Coronation Ball hosted by Allan Freed ended with a riot after the teenage crowd went wild at the sound of, what the DJ termed, rock ‘n’ roll.” Just like it always had… more or less.
JOHNNY AKRON: With a little luck, Freed will see how popular the genre is and play it on his radio show like he did in the first place.
WOOSTER: Not bad for a day’s work.
JOHNNY AKRON: If that’s so what are we still doing here?
WOOSTER: Don’t ask me. It’s your dream. I’m just a mental projection along for the ride. Or a ghost. Or a robot. Or a robot ghost.
Tight frame on JOHNNY AKRON as he winces and pinches his nose in exasperation.
JOHNNY AKRON: Stop. I’m just getting my head around time travel.
STRANGER: What’s that?
JOHNNY AKRON: I said, I just got used to- oh…
JOHNNY AKRON lifts his head. As he does the camera pans out to reveal—
EXT. DAY – BOAT; CUYAHOGA RIVER
JOHNNY AKRON has jumped in time once more in the blink of an eye. JOHNNY AKRON is on a small fishing boat on the bleak, highly industrialized Cuyahoga River. Late ‘60s rock plays on the transistor radio. JOHNNY AKRON finds the stench immediately repugnant. He sits in the boat alongside an angler he does not recognize. A cooler of beers sits between them.
CAPTION: Cuyahoga River; 1969
The boat passes a sign along the bank that reads “Please Keep the Cuyahoga Clean.” Trash and indefinable sludge piles up along the bottom of the sign and across the banks. Litter floats along the oil-slicked surface of the water.
STRANGER (cigarette dangling from mouth): Nothing like some fresh air and the open water. You got a light?
CUT TO: On JA’s reaction to camera. Money shot.
JOHNNY AKRON: Oh boy…
PL: You had each episode end with a cliffhanger that led into the next week’s adventure. With the next episode entitled “Death River” it sounds like you were ready to tackle some serious issues.
GE: I wanted to explore the idea that just because its history doesn’t mean it’s a good thing. If we were going to have Johnny Akron recreating the past we were going to have to get his hands dirty. And I couldn’t think of anything dirtier than the Cuyahoga River in the late sixties.
PL: Join us next time when we’ll be talking with the show’s prop master Irwin “Kinky” Kincaid about the controversial exploding pigeon scene featured in the next episode of Time Jump, “Death River.”
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Robin Adam is a fiction writer and messy painter. With a background in journalism and psychology they’ve researched UFOs, Bigfoot, and other unsolved mysteries which have featured in PressureLife. They know more about Twilight Zone and R.E.M. than is actually useful. Robin Adam has created Smear and Splatter Studio, a line of original paintings, art prints and apparel. They also produce Strange City Digest, an independent arts and fiction digest with contributors from around the world. To check out Strange City Digest, visit: Facebook and Instagram @strangecitydigest Keep up with Robin and their ongoing projects, including Smear and Splatter Studio art and apparel, on Facebook and Instagram @smearandsplatter // email: firstname.lastname@example.org