Put your feet up, pop some popcorn and indulge in some great offbeat travel TV shows with us.
This installment of our couch potato roundup features largely undiscovered gems. All of these TV shows are darn entertaining, and range from enjoyable and educational (Last Chance to See) to downright disturbing, but fascinating (Vice Guide to Travel).
Last Chance to See
This series follows likable Stephen Fry and zoologist Mark Carwardine around the world to get what may be one of our last looks at animals on the edge of extinction. Based on the Last Chance to See book by Douglas Adams (author of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), BBC’s Last Chance to See is more cerebral than most travel TV. You can buy the DVD or Blu-ray on Amazon.
In this episode, a rare Kakapo parrot attempts to shag zoologist Mark.
Vice Guide to Travel
The show follows Vice employees as they travel to places that most of us would never dream of going. Episodes range from the radioactive ruins of Chernobyl to the bombed out ruins of Beirut, and are often both disturbing and thought provoking. In one episode, company co-founder Suroosh Allvi travels to the largest illegal arms market in Pakistan.
The show was filmed in 2006, but it’s so offbeat that it’s worth a look. This is ballsy travel TV.
You can watch the Vice Guide to Travel on Vice Media, YouTube or Netflix.
Check out the trailer. This is not safe for work or kids. The f-bomb is dropped and drugs, guns and bombs are discussed. I love it already.
An Idiot Abroad
The brainchild of Ricky Gervais, An Idiot abroad follows the bumbling, reluctant wanderings of Karl Pilkington, a former radio show colleague of Gervais’. Pilkington’s since written a book, called An Idiot Abroad: The Travel Diaries of Karl Pilkington. You can buy Idiot Abroad seasons 1 & 2 on Amazon and Season 1 and Season 2 on iTunes. An Idiot Abroad airs on the Science Channel.
Karl tries out Mexican wrestling in the clip below.
Jet Set Zero
Jet Set Zero is unique in that it follows a team of people who travel the world with a restricted budget. I love the premise: The adventures of a jet set life are possible for a tiny budget, if you’re willing to take risks.
Folks on the show fund their trips through three months of work in the U.S. (which can’t pay more than $10/hour) and live life on the road like a local, and spend at least three months in one place.
The trailer for their Thailand adventure is slick, pretty, and makes me want to join up.
Don’t Tell My Mother…
Host Diego Buñuel (grandson of legendary surrealist filmmaker Luis Buñuel) goes on a behind-the-scenes journey through regions with bad reputations. Buñuel goes far off the beaten path, whether he’s spending the night in the slums of São Paulo, Brazil or dressing in drag in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Diego seems to have a permanent smile plastered on his face, no matter the crazy situation. I admire that. Then again, if I had his gig, I’d be smiling all the time too. You can catch episodes on National Geographic Adventure channel.
In this episode, Diego takes a turn drag racing through Johannesburg, a city known for violent crime and apartheid.
After all of this research, what have I learned? Wait for it… I watch way too many travel TV shows.