TV Review: Traveler
June 07, 2007
|By Ray Ellis
Admittedly, summer is not the optimal season for television viewing. It's the time of year when our attention turns to outdoor sports, barbecues, swimming pools, tanning and, in general, playing chicken with skin cancer. It's always been sort of an unspoken rule that TV sleeps through the May sweeps, not to be awakened 'til the ballyhoo of the fall season.
Those rules are changing. Partly because cable has altered the landscape of programming, and partly (and perhaps more importantly) because the Internet has made traditional scheduling much more fluid, the networks are venturing into summer programming that would have been unthinkable even a few years ago. Granted, most summer fare consists of mindless game shows and third-tier reality series, but now and again a series like "Traveler" comes along that makes you realize summer isn't all fun and games.
For Jay Burchell (Matthew Bomer) and Tyler Fogg (Logan Marshall-Green), it's a summer they certainly weren't expecting. I wrote about it here when the series had its sneak peek premiere 10 May. Three grad-school buddies embark on what is supposed to be a cross-country last-hurrah road trip before entering into their workaday futures. But when one of the trio, Will Traveler, convinces Jay Burchell and Tyler Fog to rollerblade through an iconic art museum in New York City, the first leg of the road trip takes a very twisted turn. An explosion rocks the museum, and Jay and Tyler suddenly find themselves prime suspects in an act of domestic terrorism. Worse, they gradually realize that their friend Will Traveler set them up to cover up his own involvement in the bombing.
I'm not going to recap every scene in the two hour premiere that debuted 30 May — you can see all two hours of it at ABC.com. But I will tell you this: "Traveler" is the most frenetic series you'll see on prime time this summer. The more the plot unwinds, the more twisted it becomes. What begins as a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time morphs into something much more insidious, in which nothing is as it seems on the surface. All we know for certain is Burchell and Fog are the only innocents in what is a shadowy conspiracy involving the top levels of government. We only get pieces of information in tiny fragments, and even those are not to be trusted. In fact, we can't even be certain that Fog or Burchell are the innocents they appear to be.
The last moments of the premiere tell us that Homeland Security is involved in some way in that plot, but we still have no idea what exactly the plot is, or why Burchell and Fog were set up to take the fall for it. As convoluted as it is,"Traveler" moves at such a frenzied pace that it's impossible to be bored with it. It taps into our collective paranoia in a wildly entertaining way, and only gives us time to think about plot holes days after viewing the episode. Even when we do consider such inconsistencies, we're inclined to think they're just another trick of the conspiracy.
"Traveler" is the most provocative series of the network summer fare. Period. Originally scheduled to have a 13 episode run, ABC pared it back to an eight-episode run. True, it doesn't have the best time slot (10 PM EST, Wednesdays), but it's a series that deserves a chance. Watch it, or be a part of the Conspiracy.
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