Third-episode verdict: Traveler

Carusometer for Traveler2-Partial-Caruso

I previewed Traveler an awful long time ago: it’s been nearly a year, in fact. Since then, the mini-Fugitive has been sitting on a shelf at ABC, waiting to be picked up. We’re now up to episode three and I’m actually quite surprised that it’s taken so long to get out. It’s a masterpiece of modern television compared with, say, The Nine and Six Degrees, all of which ABC hyped and died a horrible death after causing mass outbreaks of yawning among their audiences.

The show is essentially a mini-Fugitive upgraded for our modern, CCTV-infested age: if you were falsely accused of terrorism, how hard would it be to escape from the law and prove your innocence before you got a one-way ticket to Guantanamo? Is it at all possible?

For it to be truly great, it would have had to have had an element of plausibility about it. Unfortunately, our protagonists are two relatively wealthy, white Yale students fitted up by the government and/or art lovers. So from the outset it’s been hobbled by the same conspiracy theory nonsense as the now-deceased Vanished, from which it’s also stolen some scene-break graphic concepts.

We’re talking about pretty boys with nice teeth facing enemies with peroxide hair, not working class Middle Eastern Muslims who are victims of mistaken identity and an over-zealous Fox News.

Nevertheless, it’s reasonably tense, more so when it’s working on the mind instead of falling back on making metaphors literal (being ‘on the run’ interpreted as ‘running a lot’), as our heroes try to work out who’s trustworthy and who’s not, how to get money, food, clothes, etc, while avoid being recognised thanks to all the relentless news broadcasts. It’s occasionally smart, undermining some of the standard clichés of the genre while still upholding a load of others (such as the subordinate cop who’s smarter than the boss and knows they’re really innocent). The lack of real acting skills among the leads isn’t a problem since William Sadler and Steven Culp are doing fine over-acting elsewhere. And the episodes have been getting increasingly better, albeit somewhat sillier, since the slightly muddled pilot.

It’s diverting, I give it that, and at only seven episodes, it’s going to be a nifty little mini-series with a reasonably intriguing premise. UK and US viewers alike can watch the first ten minutes on the ABC web site to get themselves better acquainted with it.

The Medium Is Not Enough has great pleasure in declaring Traveler a two or Partial Caruso on The Carusometer quality scale. A Partial Caruso corresponds to “a show in which David Caruso might volunteer to cameo. However, since ‘real men don’t run: they walk slowly, with bent knees’, he will refuse to do anything that would require him to exert himself. Instead, various stage hands will be forced to move the scenery backwards quickly to create the illusion of David Caruso running”.