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'Traveler' set for short trip

(c) Contra Costa Times

May 9, 2007



By Chuck Barney, Times TV critic

WATCH THE OPENING episode of ABC's paranoia-fueled action drama, "Traveler," and you might ask yourself, "Exactly how well do I know my friends?"

And then you might ask yourself, "Do I really want to want to get locked into a series with a harebrained concept, wooden acting and an end game that may never materialize in a gratifying manner?

In "Traveler," we are introduced to three grad school students -- Jay Burchell, Tyler Fog and Will Traveler -- who, on the surface, seem to be the closest of pals. Just before embarking on a cross-country trip, they decide to play a prank at a stodgy New York art museum by skating through its hallways.

But by the time Jay and Tyler make it out of the museum, Will is nowhere to be found. Then comes an ominous cell-phone call: It's Will saying, "Sorry, I had to do this" just as the building goes "blammo!"

In the wake of the explosion, authorities spot Jay and Tyler on the museum's security videotape and blame for the attack immediately focuses on them. Believing their so-called friend may have set them up, they high-tail it out of town, frantically dodging the FBI as they go.

With its "Fugitive"-like qualities, "Traveler" feels very much like some of the dark serial-action dramas that flooded the airwaves last fall and then quickly performed a flaming death spiral in the ratings. Those failures are undoubtedly the reason ABC is relegating "Traveler" to a summer run. After Thursday's "sneak preview," the series doesn't resume until after sweeps, on May 30.

If a network doesn't have faith in its own show, why should you? Already this season, millions of fans have been burned because they invested themselves in shows with continuing story lines, only to see them abruptly yanked from the schedule before a suitable resolution was provided.

"Traveler" could be different, but don't count on it. Forced to spew lots of starchy dialogue, lead actors Matthew Bomer and Logan Marshall-Green never quite succeed in bringing their characters to life. Meanwhile, some of the plot developments are more ridiculous than riveting.

Consequently, this is one "Traveler" that might not get all that far.

Chuck Barney is the Times TV critic. Reach him at 925-952-2685 or cbarney@cctimes.com.

SERIES DEBUT
WHAT: "Traveler"
WHEN: 10:01 p.m. Thursday
WHERE: Channels 7 and 10
GRADE: C+

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