Thursday, May 31, 2007

Traveler: Needs More Running

Getting invested in serial dramas this season has, for the most part, meant nothing but heartbreak. I was burned by the losses of Kidnapped and Day Break, while Liz was jilted by The Nine. Meanwhile, there's a whole Peanut Brigade that won't let Jericho go without a fight. I wondered, before I tuned in to Traveler, whether it would even be worth it to watch. Why get drawn in, if only to get hurt? As it turns out, I shouldn't have been worried.

The premise: three guys who want to pretend to be Kerouac for a while before they have to become working stiffs start a road trip in New York City. Will (the eponymous "Traveler") comes up with a plan for the lamest prank ever – rollerblading through a museum, like, way to stick it to the man – and, when his buddies Jay and Tyler have bladed out, the building explodes. Suddenly, and inexplicably, Jay and Tyler are all over the news as suspects in the bombing, the FBI is after them, and there's no evidence that Will ever existed. It's all part of a shadowy conspiracy, probably a shadowy government conspiracy, if Neal McDonough's appearance as a nefarious Homeland Security agent is any indication.

The exploration of what can happen when you're on the wrong side of the anti-terrorism laws is certainly interesting, and hits a nerve in these times; every time Jay mentioned something that they government could do to them, like declare them enemy combatants and send them to Guantanamo Bay or kidnap them abroad, rather than going through extradition, I felt the tension. Because that, I can believe. But I didn't feel any tension during the action scenes. Even with all the running, and the running, and the more running, and the exploding, and the car chasing, it seems like the show drags on forever. Probably because there's a lot of running. A lot.

The best part of the show is Stephen Culp, as the world's most hard-assed FBI agent, who won't even let his subordinates chew gum and who refuses to entertain any possibility that the guys weren't responsible for blowing up the museum. In fact, part of the problem may be that I'm rooting for him rather than the two doinks running around blindly. It's good to see him again; it's been too long since he left Desperate Housewives.

Oh, and while I'm thinking of it, ABC promo department - why did you promote last night's doubleheader as the "sneak preview" and the "series premiere"? How can the second episode be a "series premiere"? I understand why you called the pilot a "sneak preview" when you first aired it a couple of weeks ago, but it's not a "sneak preview" anymore, not when there's another episode on right after it.