July 14, 2014

THE SKED Series Premiere Review: “Backpackers”


BACKPACKERS:  Monday 8:30PM on CW – Change the Channel

BACKPACKERS feels like a student film project, although it isn’t one.  Instead, it’s another example of the walls coming down between entertainment platforms:  a Canadian digital series–written and directed by British talent–that aired on CW’s website and has now been picked up for air (along with the equally new Seed) on the network, albeit as a throwaway, low-cost summer series.  Some of the episodes are re-edited versions of the web content, while others have been newly produced for the network.

That backstory is more interesting than the show itself, which is like a raunchy teen comedy without any sex (or profanity, or drugs, or even much drinking).  There’s no real plot, just a situation:  Ryan (Noah Reid), recently engaged to Beth (Meghan Heffern), and backpacking with her and his buddy Brandon (Dillon Casey) through Europe, is convinced by her that they shouldn’t get married without having sown their respective wild oats, and thus they should separate for the rest of the trip.  Almost instantly Ryan regrets this decision, but Beth is gone, and he drags the more hedonistic Brandon through Europe to find her.

Brandon and Ryan are the only real characters, and they’re familiar types (20 years later, they’d be played by Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau–except that would be a lot funnier).  In the initial episode, written by Adam M. Reid and Max B. Reid (no apparent relation to Noah Reid) and directed by Josh Levi, they have random encounters with a variety of hot women, all of whom seem quite ready to bed our heroes, but they never get the chance, because Ryan is constantly on the run to catch his lady love.  Although the production values suggest indie film, there’s none of that kind of spontaneity or any simulation of real life–it’s just an inexpensive, silly summer exploitation movie without the exploitation fun.  Content is king, as they say, and cruddy programming is the same no matter on what platform it began.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."