THAT WAS THEN lasted only two episodes on ABC in the Fall of 2002. It deserved a lot better as it had one of the more interesting premises.
Travis Glass (James Bulliard) was, essentially, a thirty year old loser. His life hadn’t turned out the way he wanted. The girl he was in love with all his life (Kiele Sanchez) had married his brother, and they have a son together.
One night, he is listening to his headphones, to a song that was popular in his high school days ("Do It Again" by the Kinks) when his house is struck by lightning. When this happens he is immediately transported back to high school 15 years before, and gets to relive his life.
The twist comes that every time he hears that Kinks song, he is transported back to the future, to see how the changes he has made in his high school days have impacted the present. He can’t make too many changes, like end up with Sanchez, because that would mean that his nephew doesn’t exist.
Maybe it was because I was pretty much the same age as the lead character, and the high school scenes, with all the eighties references, really worked for me, but I loved this show. I’ve always been intrigued by this sort of premise, how if you knew the outcome, would you make any changes to the past.
ABC buried it on Friday nights. It aired on September 27th and October 4, 2002 but, even though it was advertised to be aired that next week, I tuned in only to find a different show. It was canceled.
James Bulliard, the star of the show, hasn't done much since, only a couple TV episodes and a supporting role in an independent film. Kiele Sanchez would go on to star on a few episodes of LOST and has a supporting role on SAMANTHA WHO. So, ABC has had enough faith in her to keep working with her. Tyler Labine, the lead character’s goofy sidekick, would go on to star on INVASION and is currently on THE REAPER.
The parents in the show were played by Jeffrey Tambor and Bess Armstrong. Tambor must have been happy this show was cancelled as it meant that he could go on to star in ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT.
One of the strange things about the series that may have contributed to its demise was the fact that the WB had a similar series called DO OVER that had a 34 year old going back in time to when he was 14 in 1981. That show also wasn’t given the chance it deserved, although I believe THAT WAS THEN was a better show.
I don’t know if THAT WAS THEN could have continued for many season. It had such a great premise. Sometimes I wish that the creators would have turned it into a film.