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Quantum Leap (10 p.m., WFLA-Channel 8), which has developed a reputation for tackling offbeat themes with sensitivity, takes a step in a different direction with a story about a dying American Indian.Time-traveler Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula) leaps into the body of a young man who, in 1970, is helping his stubborn old Shoshone grandfather (played by guest Frank Sotonoma "Gray Wolf" Salsedo) to escape a nursing home and return to die with dignity on the reservation where he was born. En route in a stolen pickup truck, the

pair is jailed but manages to escape with the old man's granddaughter (Indian actress Gloria Hayes) in pursuit. Quantum Leap producer Chris Ruppenthal says the character of Joseph Whitehorse, the dying man, was based in part on his own 87-year-old grandfather and on a South Dakota cattle rancher. Aiming for authenticity in language, customs and traditions, Ruppenthal consulted with Indians in Oklahoma, Idaho, California and Nevada.

- JON BURLINGAME, TV Data

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