10-11 p.m. Monday, Sept. 24

Whoa. It's like the makers of "Journeyman" have been living with me for the past 10 years and taken copious notes. The story is this: A newspaper journalist keeps disappearing for days at a time, missing deadlines and blaming it on the fact he is continually slipping into some odd time warp that flings him back and forth between various points over the past 20 years. I can't tell you how many times this same thing has happened to me and caused me to be late with stories, yet my annoyed editors never seem to buy my tales no matter how earnestly I tell them -- even when it's clear I've convinced myself of their inherent truth.

But enough about me. This new NBC time-travel drama is fairly mind-blowing and harrowing, laying out a preposterous scenario that it makes feel nonetheless believable. The pilot premiere, penned by creator/executive producer (and "West Wing" alumnus) Kevin Falls, sets a compelling table that -- while leaving plot holes and questions aplenty -- has us fairly pining to find out what's in store.

Our hero here is Kevin McKidd, late of HBO's "Rome." He's a San Francisco newspaperman named Dan Vasser who is minding his own business having a nice life with a vivacious wife, Katie (Gretchen Egolf), and adoring son, Zack (Charles Henry Wyson). Then, out of nowhere, he travels back to 20 years before to watch a guy standing in the middle of the street commit suicide by cable car. It's either a Rice-A-Roni commercial gone very, very wrong, or he's losing his mind -- or perhaps both. He returns to the present day just as quickly as he left, with a bright light and a whoosh. So now Dan is good and freaked out, especially when he goes back through the wormhole or whatever it is again, this time to the mid-1990s.

It starts to dawn on Dan that he's being shot back to the past for a reason: He can alter the course of events, though he's unfortunately too late to stop, say, the creation of Wham. He might be able to stop the suicide of the guy who killed himself with the cable car if he can figure out what triggered it emotionally. His house is still there in the past, but Dan isn't sure whether he lives there or if there's another guy residing there who has a baseball bat and isn't afraid to use it.

But there's an even further complication: He keeps seeing Livia (Moon Bloodgood), the impossibly gorgeous young woman who was his fiancee before she died in a plane crash and led him to marry Katie instead. He continually runs into her on his yesteryear travel junkets. But if he can stop her death before it happens, does that mean his son doesn't exist? And isn't changing the past in any way supposed to screw up everything for everyone forevermore into the future and stuff?

Oh, the agonizing questions. And there are others, of course. Everyone's convinced that Dan is drugged out and/or lost his mind with his time-bending stories, including his cop brother (Reed Diamond), yet he's able to keep his job? Why is there no explanation for the phenomenon he's experiencing? Is it considered cheating on your current wife if you have sex with your dead fiancee 15 years before? And of course, since he's already in San Francisco, can Dan intercept that steroid shipment before it reaches Barry Bonds?

No doubt answers to all are forthcoming in the trippy and well-acted "Journeyman," which has been handed a favorable time slot after the sophomore sensation "Heroes." If it can maintain the absorbing energy of the pilot, it could be a schedule sticker -- that is, if NBC doesn't send it careening through time (periods) itself.

20th Century Fox Television
Creator-teleplay: Kevin Falls
Executive producers: Kevin Falls, Alex Graves
Producer: Neal Ahern
Associate producer: Megan Mascena
Director: Alex Graves
Director of photography: Annette Haellmigk
Production designer: Mayling Cheng
Costume designer: Linda Bass
Art directors Jack Taylor, Bruce Buehner
Editor: Caroline Ross
Music: Steve Bramson
Sound mixer: Thomas Brandau
Casting: Robert J. Ulrich, Eric Dawson, Carol Kritzer
Dan Vasser: Kevin McKidd
Katie Vasser: Gretchen Egolf
Livia Beale: Moon Bloodgood
Jack Vasser: Reed Diamond
Zack Vasser: Charles Henry Wyson
Hugh Skillen: Brian Howe