The CW's new Web series Backpackers, now in its third episode, starts out with an interesting premise. Ryan and his fiancé Beth make a pact to separately backpack through Europe during the few weeks leading up to their wedding, looking for one last hurrah before a lifelong commitment.
Ryan takes his best friend Brandon along for the ride to ensure a good time. But despite Brandon's best efforts to help Ryan let loose while in Paris, Ryan realizes that he can't and doesn't want to go through with the pact and diverts the trip to go find Beth somewhere in Europe.
However, despite its promising setup, Backpackers—one of a handful of originals shows launched as part of the CW's Seed project—falls flat in execution. The show's writing is solid. It offers some witty dialogue and a handful of clever comedic moments. My favorite was in Episode 3 when Ryan has a problem while rubbing sunscreen onto two girls' backs.
This particular moment succeeds because of the strength of the script, the acting and the framing. But moments like these are few and far in between.
For the most part, it's hard to connect with the characters on Backpackers, They're likeable but lack real depth. Most of them come across like caricatures rather than real living human beings. This is particularly true of Ryan's suave, ladies man sidekick/wingman Brandon, who never really amounts to much more than serving as a generic plot device.
Backpackers does exhibit high production values for a Web series. It looks great and makes strong use shooting on location in Europe, while not letting the setting overpower the story. And the episodes—clocking in at a sitcom-esque 22 to 25 minutes each—are all well paced, often feeling much shorter than their TV-episode-like length. However, the overall story lacks heart.
Although Ryan's realization that he does not in fact want to party his way through Europe before his wedding is quite romantic and heartfelt, the series fails to capture the adventurous spirit common to real-life backpacking through Europe, or going on a quest to find one's true love for that matter. Hopefully, the series will find its voice and its heart in the next few episodes because the potential is definitely there.