May 30, 2007 | Comments ()

By Seth Freilich | TV | May 30, 2007 |


These days, it’s pretty rare for me to come into a new show relatively blind. I follow so much of the trade news (now that it’s kinda-sorta my job, and all) that I usually know more than I care to about any show before it ever premieres — who’s in it, what it’s all about, the positive or negative buzz, etc. But with “Traveler,” I didn’t know anything beyond what I had seen in the commercials — two buddies are framed by a third pal, the dubiously-named Will Traveler, to look like terrorists who blew some NYC shit up. So I was really coming into the show’s first episode with only slightly more than a blank slate, which was kind of refreshing for a change. And what does that slate look like now, you ask?

Well “Traveler” isn’t a great show. No bones about that. However, it’s also not a terrible show. If it were airing in the fall, among a throng of old standbys and some new shows full of potential — (mother fucking) “Cavemen” is of course not in that category — “Traveler” would be a one-and-done for me. But because it’s airing in the dregs of the summer, I’m actually going to stick with it for now since, upon first blush, it appears to be a perfectly adequate summer diversion.

As I mentioned at the top, the basic premise of the show focuses on Mr. Traveler and our two protagonists, Tyler and Jay. They were all roommates for a year at Yale and, having just finished up their respective grad school programs, they’ve decided to set off on a last-hoorah summer roadtrip before starting into the long, dark night that will be their professional careers. First stop … New York City! While visiting the fictional Drexler Museum of Art, Will convinces Jay and Tyler to take part in a prank. Of course, things go a bit awry for our duo when the museum goes kablooey (replete with quite terribly rendered CGI fire and smoke — while the show is generally well staged and shot, it seems the special effects purse was kept a bit tight). Things then go from bad to worse when Tyler and Jay become the prime suspects of the explosion, and have to make several close-call getaways from the Feds.

One episode in, it’s not entirely clear what direction the show will take, though the main plot thread will obviously focus on Tyler and Jay trying to figure things out and prove their innocence. This will involve them having to delve into the who’s and why’s of the explosion, since we’ve learned that it was motivated, at least in part, by financial gain, and there appears to be some par-for-the-course powerful people behind it all. And one of the exhibits at the now charred Drexler will surely come into play at some point, as the episode went out of its way to conspicuously show, twice, signage for “The Presidential Collection — American Art from the Shears Family Foundation.”

As with most serial action dramas these days, some suspension of disbelief is required. For example, Tyler and Jay make a rather unlikely getaway from the Feds, who have them supposedly locked-down in a hotel. Their getaway also makes a later comment by the Chief Fed all the more ludicrous — he says that he wants Manhattan locked down so the pair can’t get off the island. So he can’t keep them in a hotel, but he thinks he can keep them on Manhattan? As I say, suspension of disbelief (though this is more like Season One of “24” suspension, not the lobotomy that this past season of “24” required).

And the overall theme of this review seems to be “adequate but not great.” This certainly applies to the actors — the dudes playing Tyler and Jay are both good enough to carry their roles, but nothing to write home about (although it is a little fun to see Logan Marshall-Green, who we last saw being killed by Marissa on “The O.C.,” in the role of Tyler). An exception here is William Sadler, who plays Tyler’s filthy-rich father — I’ve always loved Sadler, and as long as he doesn’t phone it in, he should be fun in this role (particularly as he’s playing a dude who previously pled guilty to being involved in the Iran-Contra affair, which gives him that nice “powerful bad guy” background). And we surely haven’t seen the last of Will Traveler, played by Aaron Stanford, and it could be fun to see Stanford chew some bad guy scenery (I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that Traveler didn’t die in the explosion, particularly since Stanford played Pyro in the X-Men sequels — his fire power surely allows him to survive an explosion, right?).

Carrying on with this theme, the show’s writing is also adequate but not great. There are some decent bits of dialogue, but there are also some atrocious moments as well. The standout bad dialogue from the premiere episode has to be this laughable mini-monologue, which simply mandated being written down verbatim: “My father died because someone in the government betrayed him. That didn’t make me hate my country, it made me want to fix it. But if I’m going to fix this, whatever is truly going on, I need to figure out who Will Traveler really is.” Indeed.

So as I said in the outset, if you’re looking for a serviceable summer diversion, I think “Traveler” is up to the task (it airs on ABC, Wednesday nights at 10 p.m., and the network will be re-airing the premiere tonight at 9 p.m. before the second episode’s airing). But I’m not going to urge anyone to watch it, either, because those who skip it probably aren’t missing any great shakes (not to mention the fact that, even though it’s the summer, ABC may end up yanking the show before it runs its course if the ratings aren’t to the network’s liking, which is a distinct possibility).


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Seth Freilich is Pajiba’s television columnist. While he loved William Sadler in
Die Hard 2 and The Shawshank Redemption, his favorite Sadler role comes in the “The Man Who Was Death” episode of “Tales from the Crypt.”

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Have Space Suit -- Will Travel

"Traveler" / The TV Whore
May 30, 2007

TV | May 30, 2007 | Comments ()



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