by DICK CHENEY
creator Brad Wright
In the United States, Will & Grace was just a show about a woman who had decided it was more important to have a man around than to have a man who could return her love. It was an incredibly mean-spirited situation on both of their parts. In Canada, however, Will Truman was a sensation that instructed all of the people of that great nation that a gay could be acceptable to their sensibilities if he wasn’t actually portrayed by anyone gay or American: namely Canadian actor Eric McCormack.
Despite his run on one of the most successful and educational comedies on a major network, McCormack was banished to a basic cable wasteland after casting directors heard his off-set accent. In addition, he has a disconcerting mole on the right side of his face that he should probably get checked out. Stargate SG-1 creator Brad Wright has parlayed Hollywood’s loss into his own gain.
Netflix’s Travelers stars McCormack as a man from the future who inhabits the body of FBI agent Grant McLaren. Set in the Pacific Northwest, the show makes great pains to suggest that all of this could potentially be happening in Canada and never exactly nailing down any of its locations. McLaren has no kids to complicate matters, but he does have a wife (Leah Cairns) who is slowly noticing her husband suddenly does not eat meat or have intercourse with her.
The Canadian vision of the future is quite bleak. We only get hints of it, but starvation looms large, everyone has Holocaust-esque tattooing and has returned to their natural hair color. In order to avoid this situation entirely, McLaren and four other randoms (a heroin addict, a single mother, a high school quarterback and a developmentally disabled woman) have their bodies similarly possessed before the moment of their natural passing.
Try not to think too hard about this premise. Instead of simply taking over the body of one very powerful person, the time travelers just become basics who are immediately out of place in the unforgiving world that surrounds them. Since the Canadian prime minister has no way of stopping a dangerous asteroid headed for the Earth’s surface, Wright has been forced to set these events in the U.S., where the team befriends a scientist (Kyra Zagorsky) who looks like an even older Olivia Munn.
Even though they have inhabited completely new bodies, and some of the Travelers have even swapped races, the adjustment to their new lives is relatively seamless. At the FBI, McLaren misses a variety of meetings and even forgets the password on his computer, his partner Walt (Arnold Pinnock) suspects nothing. This situation we are in of naming black characters Walt has to stop, and this is not the only way that Travelers seems to be echoing its artistic progenitor, Lost.
You see, these castaways are stranded in new lives, where they try to forget about the island. I keep waiting for Matthew Fox to scream, “We have to go back!” and actually Fox would have been a welcome addition to this show. Spending most of every episode disappointed and upset with his new life does not suit McCormack’s strengths at all – he is a lot better when he has the funny lines as opposed to being the straight man, and he has no one to play off of here at all.
Most of the comedy on Travelers comes from far away the best part of the show – the life of Traveler 0115, Trevor (Jared Abrahamson). Slipping in and out of his Canadian accent, Trevor immediately quits the football team and snitches on his girlfriend for bullying another student. His abusive father tells him not to worry about his grades and to focus on his football. Even though Trevor has a trained scientist inhabiting his body, he still has to complete his homework.
Also entertaining is Canadian actress and ingenue Mackenzie Porter’s romantic storyline where she leads on her love-sick social worker. There is just something warm and comforting about a man and a woman living together when only one of them wants to have sex with the other.
The only one who gets to have sex on the show is Eric McCormack, who not only gets it in with his second-in-command Carly (Nesta Cooper), he also is forced to satisfy his wife. In these scenes McCormack makes all the requisite noises of passion, but you can see his heart is not really into it. He immediately turns around his romantic partners, facing them away from the disturbing mole which mars one side of his face. Entering from that angle, he could be fucking anyone.
Travelers feels like a show from the Will & Grace period. Everything is done on a considerable budget, and half the locations are a massive warehouse with high ceilings – at one point it was used to represent three different places in consecutive episodes. We are fortunate that Canada is filled with inexpensive acting talent, since the show’s gifted cast keeps Travelers from feeling entirely cheap. You can almost forget that none of this makes any sense.
Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording.