Early Edition: Season 1
People have always wanted to be able to tell the future. We are forever in the present and can remember the past but the future has always been one of the ultimate mysteries of the universe. Over the course of history many people have made claims of being able to divine future events but ultimately most all have been shown to be unable to accurately predict events yet to happen. People read horoscopes and go to mystics and fortune tellers but the results are highly dubious. But what if you had a way to know exactly what would happen in the future? Even if this was only the events of the next day it would certainly be a great and important matter. This is the simple premise of the television series ‘Early Edition’. According to the plot a regular guy, Gary Hobson (Kyle Chandler) is delivered tomorrow’s newspaper one day early. It takes just a moment to begin to consider the possibilities of having tomorrow’s paper. Naturally there is the obvious; stock prices, race results and the out come of sporting events. But this show, while acknowledging this, goes beyond to the ways such precise knowledge could be used to help others. This is a series that was one of the highlights of television. It was smartly written, well performed and directed better than most others. It did experience some pitfalls in later seasons but the first season is considered by many fans to be the best. It is available on DVD released by Paramount-CBS.
The series was created by a trio of creative people with little on their resumes as far as hit television shows goes; Ian Abrams, Patrick Q. Page and Vik Rubenfeld. Thankfully, they managed to get some studio executives interested and the series was first aired on September 28, 1996. It rapidly became a cult favorite, capturing the imagination of fans. It had the feel of such gentle TV classics as ‘Highway to Heaven’ and ‘Touched by an Angel’ but without the overt spiritual overtones. All these shows had one theme point in common; a single man can make a difference in the world. Instead of an angel sent by God Gary mysteriously receive the Chicago Sun-Times a full day early. Every morning, usually just after 6:30 a.m., he would hear the familiar thud of a newspaper hitting the door and a distinctive meow of a cat. He would open his door to see an orange tabby cat sitting on the newspaper from the future. There were no instructions as to how to use this information. It was up to Gary to figure out just want to do with this advanced knowledge of the day ahead.
As the series begins Gary is an average man just trying to make his way through his life. One day he comes home and his wife Marcia (Rya Kihlstedt) is busy throwing him out of their home. She wants out of the marriage and Gary is left with no where to go. He winds up taking a room in a less than upscale hotel. It is there that the cat and newspaper make its first appearance. Gary doesn’t even notice that the date on the paper is tomorrow. He goes about his day stopping to say hello to his friend who runs a newsstand. He goes to his job at a stock brokerage firm and meets up with his best friend Chuck Fishman (Fisher Stevens). Gary notes that winter wheat should be a sell since it peaked yesterday at 30, something he saw in the paper. Chuck reminds Gary that yesterday was Sunday just as the board shows wheat hitting that very number. They realize that Gary has tomorrow’s paper. Chuck immediately wants the sports page but Gary won’t let him have it. Gary soon gives up his job since he no longer knows what to make of his life. Another of Gary’s close friends at his former workplace is Marissa Clark (Shanesia Davis-Williams). She is blind and $15,000 short of being able to purchase a Seeing Eye dog. Gary goes to the off track betting parlor and uses the paper to win the needed money for her. In confides in her about the paper and she urges him to use the knowledge to help others. Gary is always caught between the avarice of Chuck and the giving nature of Marissa. It reminded me of all the old cartoons where the hero has an angel on one should and the devil on the other. Chuck isn’t really bad he just wants to make money and live well. To his chagrin Gary never goes along with his ideas. For example if Gary does use the paper to win a cash prize in the lottery he turns around and gives the money to a needy family. At one point Gary is overwhelmed with the new responsibility and moves to a remote cabin in the woods hoping to get away from the mysterious delivery but the next morning he hears the familiar thud and meow.
One of the first chances Gary has to use the paper for good is when he reads that an unemployed man went into a bank after being refused a loan and killed eight people and then committed suicide. Gary at first refuses to interfere but Marissa is very insistent. She tells him that someone has to try to stop this. When Gary sees the head line has changed from nine dead to ten he realizes that Marissa must have gone to help. He had tried to tell the police but they looked at him as if he was crazy. He knows he has to try to save his friend and goes down to the bank. Once there he does manage to talk the man out of using his gun. Not all the uses Gary finds for the information in the paper are so dramatic. In a few cases they are fast and easy to do such as when he shouts ‘stop’ on a crowded street just before a piano being hoisted up to the top of a building falls to the pavement. Sometimes there is just too many choices between whom needs Gary’s help. In one episode he is forced to choose between keeping a plane from crashing and saving the life of a young girl. There is just so much bad news in the paper that Gary finds himself in a difficult moral dilemma week after week.
In this first season there was really no attempt to explain the appearance of the paper each morning; it just happens. This was one of the strong points of the series that something or someone has selected Gary to be the instrument of vital changes in people’s lives. The cat was a great touch and added just the right amount of whimsy to the show. The cast was excellent here. Kihlstedt plays Gary as the ‘everyman’ who can immediately connect with the audience. There is nothing special about him; he has no super powers, just the desire to help others. He is a descent human being, something sorely lacking in so many television heroes today. Fisher Stevens is just an incredible character actor. He portrays Chuck as a basically decent person that just wants more out of life and has enough of a lazy streak that he sees the paper as a fast way to obtain his goals. In contrast to him is the way Shanesia Davis-Williams explores the character of Marissa. She is blind but sees more in people than anyone around her. She believes that the paper is given to Gary for a very important purpose and he can’t waste it.
This is a gentle, family friendly series that is not only entertaining but provides a moral lesson in a subtle fashion. It is never didactic or overpowering. It just shows that there is decency in people if we only open our eyes to it. Get this DVD set and enjoy it. It is certain to become a favorite.