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Review: 'Traveler'


May 9, 2005

By Rick Porter

When ABC unveiled its 2006-07 lineup nearly a year ago, a lot of folks left the upfront presentation curious about a show called "Traveler". The clip ABC showed was intense, and the premise -- two friends on the run after a third frames them for a terrorist act -- was intriguing.

The network slotted the show for midseason. Then came the great Serial Drama Massacre of 2007-08, with plot-driven shows (including ABC's own "The Nine "and "Day Break") dying off left and right. Word came that ABC had reduced the show's order to eight episodes, and then the network didn't schedule it until after the official end of the season. It seemed that "Traveler "would become a victim of circumstance, doomed to an anonymous summer burnoff through no fault of its own.

All that may, in fact, be true. But it's also true that "Traveler" -- which gets a one-time, in-season airing after "Grey's Anatomy" on Thursday night before beginning its regular run on May 30 -- just isn't a very good show.

That premise is still engaging enough. Following the end of grad school, three friends -- Jay Burchell (Matthew Bomer), Tyler Fog (Logan Marshall-Green) and Will Traveler (Aaron Stanford) -- head off on a road trip before starting their adult lives. In New York, they decide to have a bit of fun in an art museum: Jay and Tyler lace up their in-line skates and race from the top floor to the bottom, while Will (ostensibly) videotapes their antics.

Except when they get outside -- chased by security guards and following the tripping of a fire alarm -- Will's not around. Jay calls him, Will asks if they got outside, then says "I'm sorry I had to do this." Then, boom goes the museum. It's a well-executed, attention-grabbing moment (which ABC has played numerous times in promos), and things look promising for the show -- this just might be a well-executed, attention-holding thriller.

Unfortunately, things go south pretty quickly from there. Based, apparently, on nothing more than a piece of surveillance-camera footage from the museum, Jay and Tyler are the prime (the only?) suspects in the bombing, which has also wiped out a presidential art collection. And Will? Well, no one is sure he even really exists.

There are, of course, hints of Nefarious Forces at work, but the leaps in logic the pilot asks a viewer to make are Mike Powell-sized ones. Would the FBI, having not a scrap of physical evidence, really finger two suspects based on a piece of videotape that shows them doing nothing more serious than disturbing the peace? And wouldn't our advanced degree-holding heroes maybe make an effort to, you know, at least change clothes or something before going on the lam? And how do you not know "Will Traveler" is a fake name?

And, of the three principals, the most interesting actor -- "X-Men "co-star Stanford -- is the one with the least screen time. Marshall-Green ("The O.C.") and Bomer ("Tru Calling") don't hold the screen the same way, and, at least in the pilot, good actors like Sadler ("Wonderfalls") Viola Davis ("Disturbia") and Steven Culp ("Desperate Housewives") are underused, the latter two in fairly stock FBI-agent roles.

When the history of the 2006-07 TV season is written, "Traveler" will probably be listed among the serial-drama casualties. The record should show, though, that a number of its wounds were self-inflicted.

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