New York Daily News Online
by David Bianculli

'Now and Again' a Joy Ride Full of Surprises

Writer-producer Glenn Gordon Caron, whose "Moonlighting" demonstrated how deftly and originally he could approach a weekly TV series, returns to TV with "Now and Again," a new CBS comedy-drama that's a hybrid of several laughably incongruous prototypes.

How incongruous? Try this:

"Now and Again," which guest-stars John Goodman as a down-on-his-luck insurance salesman, is part "Death of a Salesman," part "La Femme Nikita," part "Damn Yankees," part "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." and part "Six Million Dollar Man."

Not even Dr. Frankenstein tried to cobble together anything using such mismatched parts — but the astounding thing is, "Now and Again" works.

It works as comedy, it works as drama, it works as sci-fi, it works as a spy story and it works as romance.

Any lengthy description of "Now and Again" runs the risk of making it sound less interesting than it really is. It's better, I suspect, just to tune in, strap yourself in and go along for the ride.

It's not ruining anything, though, to say that this enjoyable TV ride begins with a ride of another sort — a ride aboard a Japanese subway train, with an observant little boy watching with glee as an elderly, male passenger exits the car, leaving four unbroken eggs behind on his seat.

As the train rattles toward the next stop, the eggs dance on the concave seat — rolling wildly, almost giddily, yet miraculously remaining unbroken. The boy's eyes and smile widen with every moment, until the inevitable occurs. After that, though, nothing about "Now and Again" seems inevitable, or easy to predict. Just the opposite.

Caron, by the way, opens this series with music that serves notice of his symbolic and playful intentions. It's "I Am the Walrus" by the Beatles, a song with lyrics that apply both to the mysterious Japanese subway passenger ("I am the eggman") and to the show's eventual focus on multiple identities ("I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together").

Normally, as an old fogy Beatles fan, I've resisted and resented all efforts to incorporate their music into TV ads and shows, but this time it's so appropriate, and sets the tone of the series so perfectly, that it's not only excusable, but embraceable. (The Carpenters' "Close to You" and Janet Jackson's "Got Till It's Gone," sampling an old Joni Mitchell song, are used, too, to equally clever effect.)

What else can be said about "Now and Again" without spoiling its surprises?

That Goodman's Michael Wiseman, at work, has more credibility and ethics than either his broken-spirited best friend (Gerritt Graham) or his young, ruthless new boss (Chad Lowe). That at home, Michael loves, but feels increasingly disconnected from, his wife (Margaret Colin) and teen daughter (Heather Matarazzo). That just when he thinks his life can't get worse, it does.

And finally, that when he reports to a new boss (Dennis Haysbert), whose principal employee is played by young hunk Eric Close, nothing in Michael's life will ever be the same.

Other that that, you should tune in for yourself. Trust me: You'll enjoy the ride.

September 24, 1999