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'Traveler' needs to move on; readers get some answers

(c) Inside Bay Area

May 10, 2007

By Susan Young

'TRAVELER" IS ONLY passing through.

ABC, just to fill some space that would be better suited to the return of "Men in Trees," has decided to pop in a "special preview" of this show. Or you can just wait until it repeats for the May 30 "premiere."

The network didn't even have enough faith in the show to hawk it during the January TV critics press tour. After seeing tonight's pilot, it's easy to understand the lack of confidence.

Jay Burchell (Matthew Bomer), Tyler Fog (Logan Marshall-Green) and Will Traveler (Aaron Stanford) are three grad school roommates who decide to take a road trip to New York after graduation.

They are going to do nutty things before settling down to be lawyers, venture capitalists or whatever. One of those nutty things is in-line skating through the city's stodgy art museum.

Wow, give us that rebel yell.

While Will videotapes them, Jay and Tyler make like 13-year-old hooligans zipping past unsuspecting elders and school children. They pull the fire alarm, making everyone evacuate.

Once outside the building, those silly boys get a call from Will who simply says, "Sorry I had to do this" right before the big ka-BOOM as the museum blows up.

Now Jay, a young man from modest roots, and Tyler, son of a powerful rich man, find themselves on the lam when the FBI marks them as domestic terrorists.

The two discover something else: In two years of party shots, they never once got a good picture of Will. Hmmmm. Who is Will Traveler? Was he the mastermind of the explosion or simply a pawn? Better yet, just how clever did the writers think they were in naming this series about a character named Traveler and that our protagonists will now spend their time traveling around the country trying to track down the Will mystery?

Oh, there are plenty of tangled webs involving family and friends being woven in this first episode, but we really didn't care. In fact, it was difficult to tell Tyler and Will apart because the actors look so similar.

Not that it mattered much.

Former "Desperate" househusband Steven Culp, who is currently starring in ACT's "Blackbird" in San Francisco, plays the dogged FBI agent determined to take the boys down, despite fellow FBI Agent Jan Marlow's (Viola Davis) doubts about their guilt.

Veteran character actor William Sadler ("Roswell") once again turns in a solid performance as Tyler's dad, who may either be setting up his son or helping him out.

And then there's this strange character known as The Porter (Billy Mayo), who keeps popping up to save Jay and Tyler - and warns them to trust no one but each other.

Talented director David Nutter ("The X-Files," "Roswell," "Without a Trace") wrings as much drama as he can from this tepid script by Dan Jinks and Bruce Cohen ("American Beauty").

The pilot's problem is that it never allows you to believe. While Jack Bauer can save the world in "24" hours, or "Heroes" can suck us into the fantasy of super heroes, "Traveler" just leaves us cold.

And if you decide to pass on "Traveler" tonight - and yes, that's my recommendation - ABC is offering the pilot again at 10 p.m. May 30 to begin its summer run.

We're thinking more like a crawl to oblivion.

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