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Pilot Inspektor: ABC's "Traveler"

Ah, May. It's the busiest time of the year, between season finales of your favorite series, the network upfronts, LA Screenings, and the massive culling of series chaff.

Yet this year, networks are launching several new series at the end of the month. Some will be little more that warm weather burnoff while others make me salivate (CBS' Pirate Master, for example). Then there are the ones that I'm curious enough about to want to watch more than a single episode. ABC's new series Traveler definitely falls in the latter camp. (Originally intended to air last fall, ABC cut back the action series' episodic order from 13 episodes to 8 and pushed the launch to summer.) Traveler isn't perfect but it is intriguing, offering a respite from mindless reality shows, drama repeats, and whatever the hell VH-1 is airing.

For those of you up not to speed, here's the skinny. Three best friends, newly freed from the shackles of grad school, girlfriends, and student housing, decide to have one last hurrah before joining the productive members of society in the so-called Real World and organize a road trip. Jay Burchell (Tru Calling's Matthew Bomer) is a future lawyer whose task is to try to keep the group from getting arrested. Tyler Fog (The OC's Logan Marshall-Green, nearly unrecognizable with a foppish blonde haircut) is the son of a shady multi-billionaire who was convicted for conspiracy during the Iran-Contra affair. And then there's Will Traveler (X-Men 2's Aaron Stanford), the enigmatic final member of their impossibly good-looking troika who seems to be the mastermind behind their road trip. As a prank, he urges Tyler and Jay to rollerblade down the stairs of the Drexler Museum (filling in here for the prestigious Metropolitan Museum of Art) as he videotapes their harmless fun. During their high-speed exit from the building, the fire alarms are pulled and everyone is forced to exit the building. Once outside, Tyler and Jay call Will, who apologizes... and promptly detonates a bomb inside the museum.

Jay and Tyler are caught on CCTV footage that instantly appears on the news (just how did the footage get leaked that quickly?) and return to their hotel to discover that Will's stuff is gone, their car is gone, and they are wanted by the FBI in connection with the blast. Hot on their tails are Agent Fred Chambers (Desperate Housewives' Steven Culp) and Agent Jan Marlow (Viola Davis)... and some other people who seem to want the friends silenced permanently. As Jay and Tyler try to make their way out of Manhattan, they are drawn deeper and deeper into a vast web of conspiracy that may involve everyone they know. Their only choice is to discover the true identity of Will Traveler (who seems to have never existed) and prove their innocence.

Sounds fun, no? It is, to some extent. Much of the action requires a willing suspension of disbelief as I do find it somewhat improbable that in a vigilant post-9/11 Manhattan no one would notice the two punks currently on TV everywhere who may have blown up the Presidential Art Collection at a beloved museum. And who have made zero effort to disguise themselves (not even a baseball cap, until the very end) or blend in (well, Jay does pop the collar on his denim jacket). Additionally, we're led to believe that Will Traveler may have been planning this bombing (or been involved in the planning) from before the threesome even met; a "coincidence" leads all three Cubs fans to end up in the same student housing on the first day of grad school and they quickly become firm friends.

Matthew Bomer is largely sympathetic as Jay Burchell, haunted by the scandal-laden death of his soldier father, while Logan Marshall-Green seems a little too washed out in this role. (He's normally much more charismatic and memorable as a bad boy rather than a rich boy with a Black Card.) Still, it's Aaron Stanford's Will Traveler who adds enough mystery and suspense to keep this thing kicking.

There's something big going on here, which involves expert timing not to mention a large bankroll; it also involves Tyler's dad Carlton Fog (William Sadler, pitch perfect as always) and a bribe-accepting hotel bellhop who initially seems to be channeling the spirit of Bagger Vance. Someone got very rich from the blast and someone has pinned this on these two playboys for a reason.

It's a fun ride, one filled with dozens of intriguing concepts and questions and conspiracy theories, but the smartest thing ABC may have done with the series is to postpone it to summer, in an effort to remove the slick Traveler from the glut of failed serialized dramas that ABC tried out and dumped earlier this season (ahem, The Nine, Day Break, Six Degrees). Even if much of what happens tests your belief, I do think it's a perfect summer show, a tasty trifle of suspense and action that requires a lot less brainpower than, say, the most recent episode of Lost.

Which isn't a bad thing. I'll be tuning in this summer to see just who Will Traveler really was and what this whole conspiracy is really about. And if, for some reason, Traveler doesn't make it to its 8-episode climax, it still will have been more entertaining and suspenseful than the entire current season of 24.

"Traveler" gets a sneak peek May 10th at 10 pm, before officially launching May 30th on ABC.

What's On Tonight

8 pm: NCIS (CBS); Dateline (NBC); Gilmore Girls (CW); George Lopez/George Lopez (ABC); American Idol (FOX)

9 pm: The Unit (CBS); Law & Order: Criminal Intent (NBC); Veronica Mars (CW); Dancing with the Stars (ABC); House (FOX)

10 pm: CSI: New York (CBS); Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (NBC); Boston Legal (ABC)

What I'll Be Watching

8 pm: Gilmore Girls.

I've given up on this once-great drama, but for the few of you out there still watching (there's potentially 13 more lousy episodes next season!), here's what's going on. On tonight's episode ("Lorelai? Lorelai?"), Lorelai tries to cheer up Rory by taking her for a day of shopping and invites Luke to join them at a karaoke bar. Yawn.

9 pm: Veronica Mars.

Finally! Veronica Mars returns from its way-too-long hiatus next week with a brand new episode ("Un-American Graffiti"), in which a Middle Eastern restaurateur hires Veronica to discover who has been vandalizing his restaurant, while Papa Keith, now acting sheriff, begins a program in which his deputies conduct ID checks in all of Neptune's bars.

Comments

Anonymous said…
I saw two versions of this pilot. The first one was pretty enjoyable. But the more recent one I saw was much heavier on the cheese factor. They recast Jay's girlfriend, for example, and the new one is awful. Really bad acting.

Overall, it's an interesting concept but you really have to suspend disbelief. Like you said, there's no way that no one would recognize these two kids running around Manhattan, looking crazed, when their pictures are plastered on every TV set in connection with a terrorist threat.

I also had a hard time believing that they wouldn't just turn themselves in, in hopes of straightening out the whole mess. I think the set up needed to be better so that these two really looked guilty. As is, it just kind of looks like they were at the wrong place at the wrong time. The evidence was just circumstantial.

But, as a summer show, I might give it another chance and see how the mystery unfolds. Hopefully, they'll surprise me.
Anonymous said…
Re: the horror of Gilmore Girls... I still don't understand how this potential half-season is still up in the air. Haven't they already filmed the season finale? It airs in two weeks.
Anonymous said…
Jay and Tyler? Methinks someone over there is a Wonderfalls fan.
The CineManiac said…
I was already all over this show then you said two words that filled my heart with joy and guaranteed a spot on my TiVo: William Sadler, a man in both the Shawshank Redemption and Death in B&T's Bogus Journey!
And since Sadler was also in Wonderfalls I'd have to agree that someone loves that show!
Anonymous said…
The actor looks nothing like he did when he was Trey on THE OC. He looks like a completely new person in fact. Are you sure he just got a haircut? Maybe a face transplant too? Skin grafting?
Anonymous said…
I just watched the pilot and it was great I want to see where this one is going. All the actors are great and I love the look and the acting of Jay's girlfriend. The show was fast paced with many a turn along the way. Seems to be a good fit with the times. I need to see where this one is going.
the Bookwacker said…
Completely agree re: the disbelief factor. Reality would have had these two in custody and jail before the end of the hour, and then ABC would have to find a new show to fill the timeslot.

Unrelated, I think that Logan Marshall-Green looks exactly the same as he did on the OC. He has a uniquely dopey/pouty face that will always stand out.
Anonymous said…
I don't know why ABC hasn't aired this series earlier, but I'm glad that we have it to fill the summer void.

I'm totally hooked on the series.

http://redlightnaps.wordpress.com/tag/television/traveler/
Anonymous said…
WE LOVE "TRAVELER" and can only HOPE ABC doesn't pull the plug on this one before we can find out "who done it?" P-L-E-A-S-E!
xabistuff said…
Will Traveler is a great show with great humor and story. but sadly the 8th season will be its conclusion. we cannot allow this to happen, lets ask the people behind this show not to put an early conclusion. one way of making of voices be heard is by signing the petition at this link, help me out Will Traveler's fans!
http://youchoose.net/pledge/save_will_traveler/from/xavierr

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