New CBS Hit ‘Tracker’ Breaks Viewership Records with Nostalgic Appeal


In recent years, hit shows on cable news networks like CBS have become increasingly “woke,” leading to a decline in viewership for even popular series like “FBI” and its spinoffs. This trend may be due to the incorporation of political messages in the storylines.

These shows often feature activist agendas in their writing and casting, prompting many viewers to turn to streaming services for better entertainment options. However, the new show “Tracker” broke this mold last season, becoming the most-watched show on television in its debut season, with 7 million live viewers tuning in for its finale in May.

The show’s premise is straightforward and brings to mind older TV series. The protagonist, Colter Shaw, refers to himself as a “rewardist,” a term he coined to describe his profession of tracking and collecting reward money by locating missing persons and items.

Each episode features the gun-wielding hero, played by Justin Hartley, responding to calls from those in need and finding the missing person or item by the episode’s end. Shaw’s proactive attitude and lone crusade against wrongdoers evoke the original “MacGyver” series. In addition to the episodic missing-person plots, there is a captivating subplot involving Shaw uncovering troubling family secrets. The show blends contemporary style with a nostalgic charm.

“Tracker” sets itself apart from typical CBS shows with its unique elements. Instead of being set in urban centers like New York or Chicago, Shaw traverses small towns on the West Coast and in the Midwest, towing a vintage Airstream trailer. Each episode showcases beautiful scenery and small-town aesthetics.

The show also features a distinct cast of characters. Parents, military veterans, small business owners, and other small-town residents are portrayed sympathetically, a departure from the characters usually seen in CBS programming. While the show doesn’t always strive for complete realism, it does present a wider array of motivations and personalities.

“Tracker” addresses complex relationships with a mature perspective. Shaw’s father is mentally unstable, which influences his decisions and impacts other characters. This mental instability creates familial rifts that drive an ongoing subplot. Shaw speaks candidly about his dysfunctional family, extending his parents the benefit of the doubt and refraining from speaking ill of them. In a culture that often encourages adult children to criticize their parents, Shaw’s ability to acknowledge issues while offering forgiveness is a refreshing change.

The show also depicts the tumultuous relationship between Shaw and his siblings. Shaw’s decision to reconnect with his estranged brother adds another layer of forgiveness and reconciliation.

The absence of intense romantic relationships among the main characters in “Tracker” is notable, especially given the prevalence of such themes in modern media. The pilot episode featured a player mentality, which was later discarded in favor of highlighting the negative impacts of such relationships. With only the first season released, future seasons might change these dynamics, but the current mature take on familial and romantic relationships is a highlight.

A standout feature of the show is its commitment to the triumph of good over evil. This clear moral compass is often hard to find in other CBS shows, which struggle to define evil and frequently justify unlawful behavior. In “Tracker,” the heroes assist the vulnerable, avoid corruption, strive to do right, and return home to their families. The villains are involved in drugs, prostitution, human trafficking, and violence.

Shaw aims to resolve conflicts verbally when possible but resorts to physical action reminiscent of old Westerns when rescuing the helpless. This straightforward approach may not win the show awards, but it ensures a loyal audience of viewers who appreciate clear distinctions between right and wrong and enjoy watching a hero who stands for truth and justice.

Although “Tracker” wasn’t created to challenge modern entertainment norms, the show’s cast includes a diverse array of characters without veering into activism. Shaw’s assistants and friends include a lesbian couple, a disabled black man, and an Asian woman, reflecting America’s demographic diversity authentically. The people he helps come from various ethnicities and lifestyles, presented onscreen rather than woven into the plot with political agendas. There are no lengthy sermons on DEI initiatives or gender roles, and no political affiliations are pushed. The first season suggests that the focus is on the story, not an agenda.

“Tracker” is a surprising offering from CBS given its similarities to older TV shows and traditional American values. The first season drew enough viewers to secure a second, and many fans are eagerly awaiting to see if the next season will continue to deliver the same charm and excitement.

Jessica M. Allyn
Jessica M. Allyn
Digital Reporter. Jessica lives in Michigan where she enjoys reading theology, old-fashioned romances, and fantasy series. She is the author of the book No Place of Long Abiding: A Granger Academy Novel.

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