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New Serial Thriller Should Heat up Summer Television


May 30, 2007

By Alex Strachan, CanWest News Service

Traveler, the new serial thriller about two grad-school students falsely accused of a museum bombing, practically seethes with urgency in its opening scenes. It's driven by a sense of anxiety and deep-rooted dread, but it's framed like a TV thriller: It's The Fugitive for the post-9/11 age.

It's always hard to judge a series based on its first hour, but Traveler is off to a rousing beginning.

Matthew Bomer and Logan Marshall-Green play Jay Burchell and Tyler Fog, respectively: young, vaguely immature roommates from Yale on a cross-country road trip. They form a tight bond with a third roommate, Will Traveler, played by Aaron Stanford.

The three visit one of New York's oldest art museums. Traveler talks them into pulling off a silly prank involving roller-blading around security guards. The prank seems innocent enough -- until a bomb explodes and destroys nearly everything inside. When the smoke clears, Traveler has mysteriously vanished and Burchell and Fog are left holding the bag, figuratively if not literally.

The FBI fingers the duo for the crime, based on video from the museum's security cameras. They go on the lam, labelled as homegrown terrorists by the authorities, their pictures and physical details paraded across TV on the nightly news.

They're desperate to find Traveler, as only he can exonerate them -- but they realize with a shock that they can't even prove he existed. It's implied that Traveler was behind the bombing and set his pals up, but they have no way of proving it.

It's a compelling premise for a TV thriller, and Traveler's early moments have a lively, brisk snap to them. Whether viewers buy in, especially during the doldrums of summer, is another matter: Summer is usually a time for TV game shows and reality programs not good enough to make it onto the fall schedule.

Traveler was originally supposed to debut in midseason but its parent network lost faith in it -- for whatever reason -- and decided to burn it off during the summer. Perhaps it's that Traveler is the latest in a long line of serial thrillers, many of them quite good, that tried to find an audience this past season and failed.

Traveler is not in the same league as The Nine, Kidnapped or Day Break, but it is better than Vanished, another conspiracy serial thriller that arrived with high expectations last fall and then vanished.

If you're in the mood for a TV drama and are looking for something a little more challenging than a rerun of a show you've seen already, give Traveler a try. You may be pleasantly surprised -- provided you don't set your expectations too high.

10 p.m., CTV, ABC

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