If you’re looking for a television show with subtlety, Early Edition is not your best bet. To say the show likes to focus on obvious moral dilemmas would be an understatement — between the introductory theme song and the voiceover narration, we are constantly being reminded that “there is no easy answer” to the decision of what to do with tomorrow’s newspaper.
Okay, so maybe I shouldn’t expect too much from a show about a guy whose Chicago Sun-Times comes a day early, giving him the opportunity to right the wrongs and stop the disasters that are going to happen that day. Believe it or not, I really like Early Edition, its inherent cheesiness and sometimes heavy-handed approach aside.
Packaged as family-friendly entertainment (it aired between Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman and Walker, Texas Ranger, which I guess both qualify for that title) Early Edition ran for four seasons on CBS from 1996-2000. Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights) stars as Gary Hobson, a guy who is rapidly losing purpose in his life when he starts getting tomorrow’s paper dropped at his front door every morning, accompanied by a mysterious orange tabby cat.
Initially, he’s unsure whether to use the information inside for his own good or for the good of the society, but by the time season two rolls around, Gary is in full-fledged superhero mode, saving children from being run over by cars, stopping muggings, and thwarting murders.
The task makes Gary a bit of a loner, but he has two friends who also know about the paper — Marissa (Shanésia Davis-Williams), who is blind and is usually encouraging Gary, and Chuck (Fisher Stevens), who usually wants to find some way to benefit himself by using the paper. Together, they manage McGinty’s Bar and Grill, which often gets pushed to the side when the newspaper reveals that something bad will happen — and it always does.
Early Edition is at its strongest when these three characters interact — the supporting guest actors are often underwhelming and sometimes just downright bad, but Chandler, Stevens, and Davis-Williams maintain great chemistry throughout the show. Chandler’s weary hero act doesn’t deviate much, but it works well, especially with Stevens playing the often obnoxious foil who really does care deep down.
Occasionally, the show will drift into supernatural territory in season two, which is to be expected given the unusual nature of the main plot vehicle, but it’s at its best when it focuses on more human aspects of the drama.
Either way, Early Edition succeeds at solid network television entertainment that delivers exactly what its viewers want. Season two is incredibly watchable, and even when I found myself snickering at the terrible acting from bit characters or the hokey, derivative nature of some of the storylines, I still enjoyed it. Early Edition is TV comfort food for sure, but sometimes, that’s exactly what you’re in the mood for, subtlety be damned.
The Early Edition — The Second Season DVD set includes all 22 episodes on five discs. Unfortunately, this is one of those studio dump-it-and-run jobs with the only extras being the episodic promos that would air to inform viewers what was coming up next week. Even a short featurette with new interviews from the principal cast would have been nice, but I suppose no one cares too much about this show anymore. Great television it’s not, but it’s hard to not have a soft spot for a show this unabashedly earnest.