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June 20, 2007



By Ellen Gray

TRAVELER. 10 tonight, Channel 6.
WILL TRAVELER lives.

That I know that, or anything else, about what's going on in ABC's escaped-Yalies drama, "Traveler," just shows how easily I can be sucked in by any cockeyed conspiracy that happens to come along.

Particularly when there are piles of fall pilots and other work-related DVDs staring me in the face.

(I swear I'll watch "Cavemen." As soon as I've made it past "Hey Paula.")

It's fire-sale season on the networks, when shows that for one reason or another didn't make it - or failed to stick - to the regular-season schedule are burned off.

Which is why you can once again find "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" (10 p.m. Thursdays, Channel 10) on NBC. For two more weeks, at least.

That's probably more than enough time to figure out why Aaron Sorkin's attempt to impose "West Wing"-level meaning on the world of late-night sketch comedy didn't work, but that doesn't mean it's not still worth checking out.

For a drama junkie, any sincere attempt at storytelling, however misguided, is worth 10 "American Inventors Who Can Sing, Dance and Do Impersonations of Celebrities in Racing Cars."

Plus, there's Matthew Perry.

If you want to know how much some of us still long for scripted programming after Memorial Day, you don't have to look further than Monday's ratings for the Season 3 premiere of TNT's "The Closer," which drew 8.8 million viewers - enough to make it second in its time slot, just behind CBS, if cable ratings were placed side-by-side with those for broadcast networks.

On the other hand, the CW's "Hidden Palms," a better-than-expected teen soap/murder mystery that launched May 31, has fared so poorly in the Nielsens that the network recently decided to start double-running it to wrap things up on July 4.

So if you've been watching - or recording - be aware that tonight and next week, it'll be on at both 8 and 9 p.m.

I doubt anyone involved with the production is setting off fireworks over the Fourth of July finale, but at least the network's not just dropping the show in mid-mystery.

Some of us have now been watching "Traveler" for long enough to resume worrying about ABC's endgame.

With the show averaging a tepid 5.79 million viewers up until last week, when it drew just 4 million, it's not "Traveler"-induced paranoia to fear that we might never get to the bottom of the mystery surrounding the "terrorist" bombing of a New York museum and the framing of those aforementioned Yalies, Jay Burchell (Matthew Bomer) and Tyler Fog (Logan Marshall-Green), by the roommate they knew as Will Traveler (Aaron Stanford).

Or is it?

An ABC spokesman for the show assured me yesterday that "all [eight] episodes will air." He's seen only the first seven, though. The finale's July 18.

He then tracked down the show's creator, David DiGilio, who had this to say in a statement released through the spokesman:

"The season finale of 'Traveler' answers questions about Will Traveler's involvement in the Drexler bombing. It also ties up the emotional arc, as we learn which side of friendship and betrayal Will Traveler has ultimately chosen in respect to Jay and Tyler.

"But it would not be an episode of 'Traveler' without a serious cliffhanger. And even as we answer the driving question - 'Who is Will Traveler?' - we raise a new question about the people behind the Drexler bombing. But fans who worry about closure should not fear. The creator of 'Traveler' has promised to answer any of the show's lingering questions, even if he has to do it on his blog at TVGuide.com."

DiGilio's blog can be found at: community.tvguide.com/blog/Celebrity-Blogs/Davids-Traveler-Blog/800048619.

Some readers, I know, were alarmed when I reported in mid-May that "Traveler" was already essentially a goner based on its absence from ABC's fall schedule. Others have asked how high the ratings would have to be to justify a "Jericho"-like reprieve. (My guess: higher than they are now.)

But while DiGilio might well disagree, I don't think every show needs to run forever. Especially this kind of show.

Drama junkies and conspiracy theorists alike might be better served by serials that tell a taut tale and then get out while the getting is good. *

Send e-mail to: graye@phillynews.com.

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