Empty10-11 p.m., Thursday, May 10
I'm admittedly a bit flummoxed by the implausible premise and peculiar rollout plan for this new ABC action drama about clean-cut American grad school students who suddenly find themselves thrust into the role of accused terrorists running from the law. But first, a word about the scheduling.
The network is giving "Traveler" a sneak peek behind "Grey's Anatomy" tonight at 10 (fine so far) and then -- with the momentum officially built -- puts it on the shelf for nearly three weeks, launching a weekly Wednesday-night run May 30 by running the pilot a second time. It's the kind of passive-aggressive strategy that seems to fairly scream, "We're not really sure what to do with this thing." So the hour gets a big post-"Grey's" splash, followed by summertime purgatory, which is nothing if not a tad schizophrenic.
Meanwhile, "Traveler" itself plumbs post-Sept. 11 paranoia (and not in the good way) as something of "The Fugitive" meets "24" meets "Enemy of the State": an adrenaline-fueled thrill ride that supplies a feast for the gut while leaving the brain mostly malnourished. You have to suspend an awful lot of disbelief to buy into this premise, and even at that the protagonists aren't nearly compelling enough to care a lot about.
Imagine "24" transplanted to New York minus Jack Bauer and the ticking clock, and you have a rough idea. There's an excess of hyperventilation and pulse-pounding music, a dearth of authenticity. I mean, suddenly the ethnic profile of choice is footloose white grad students in their early 20s? Someone perhaps forgot to forward us all a copy of that memo.
As the show opens, Jay Burchell (Matthew Bomer), Tyler Fog (Logan Marshall-Green) and Will Traveler (Aaron Stanford) have set off on a road trip to Gotham. They've been best pals and roomies the past two years. All is cool. Then Will helps Jay and Tyler hatch what initially appears to be an innocent prank: Rollerblade through a historic art museum while Will videotapes it.
But as soon as the bladers are out of the building, Will floats a cell phone call where he apologizes for what's about to happen -- whereupon the museum is rocked by a bomb. Quicker than you can say "Dude!" Jay and Tyler (whose dad happens to be a wealthy public figure) are the chief suspects after being caught on the museum security tape. As for their pal Will, it looks like he set them up. But why? And did he die in the blast?
Over the course of the ensuing 45 minutes in creator/co-exec producer David DiGilio's opening teleplay, we're treated to a series of unlikely events.
The least-plausible scenario unfolds at every turn to keep the boys out of custody (trust me, noting this doesn't really spoil anything). But even at that, the element that's wholly confusing surrounds why a couple of guys on Rollerblades should be considered the chief suspects, anyway. If you were going to blow up a building, would you be sure to draw maximum attention to yourself by racing through your target of choice a minute before detonation?
The production style is all very quick-cut and shaky to convey maximum chaos. Exec producer/director David Nutter and director of photography Peter Menzies are adept at pushing out the heart-in-your-throat vibe. But again, it's difficult to take seriously much of what's going down in "Traveler" because it so insists on making sure that common sense rarely enters the mix.
The Jinks/Cohen Co. in association with Warner Bros. Television
Executive producers: Dan Jinks, Bruce Cohen, David Nutter
Co-executive producer: David DiGilio
Producer: John Starke
Associate producer: Tom Keefe
Teleplay: David DiGilio
Director: David Nutter
Director of photography: Peter Menzies
Production designer: Scott P. Murphy
Costume designer: Tina Nigro
Set decorator: Rich Devine
Editor: Paul Karasick
Music: Blake Neely
Sound mixer: John McCormack
Casting: Nikki Valko, Ken Miller
Jay Burchell: Matthew Bomer
Tyler Fog: Logan Marshall-Green
Will Traveler: Aaron Stanford
Kimberly: Pascale Hutton
Agent Jan Marlow: Viola Davis
Agent Guillermo Borjes: Anthony Ruivivar
Fred Chambers: Steven Culp
Carlton Fog: William Sadler
The Porter: Billy Mayo