Couch Potato Roundup: Five Interesting and Offbeat Travel TV Shows

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 An Idiot Abroad Season 2 and  An Idiot Abroad Season 3 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.

You can watch episodes in HD on the Jet Set Zero site. Interested in joining? They’re looking for new cast members.

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.

Do you have any favorite offbeat travel TV shows or movies that you love?

8 Responses

  1. Chrystal McKay

    This my friend is an excellent round up of travel television! I’ve watched all of them except vice guide. I shall download the minute I get home. Looks great – and thanks for the *not at work* advice otherwise I would of hit play! haha

    • Micki Kosman

      Chrystal, Vice is great. Very gritty, but it’s nice to see travel TV that’s so out of the ordinary. I love checking out the pretty beaches and nice hotels on other shows, but Vice is a really interesting alternative.

  2. Darlene Jones

    Not a travel show, but I have to say I really like watching House Hunters International for the “travel” aspect. Viewers get to see inside homes and bits of daily life from a whole new perspective.

    • Micki Kosman

      Darlene, I’m so with you on House Hunters International. You’ve hit on my secret addiction. I know there’s controversy about it being faked, but really it doesn’t matter to me. I pretty much though it was all staged anyway. I’m just watching to see the tidbits of life in another country.

  3. Simon P

    I haven’t yet had a chance to watch Last Chance to See (see what I did there?) – but I’ll always make time for Mr Stephen Fry, a very likeable television personality indeed.

    • Micki Kosman

      Hi Simon,
      I’m with you on Stephen Fry – he’s such an entertaining guy to watch. Definitely check out Last Chance to See!

  4. ExpatAussie In NJ

    Thanks for the great tips! As someone still new to US TV and the zillion choices available, I will look out for these. Luckily we do watch BBC America frequently, and An Idiot Abroad is one of the family faves! I still cringe for Karl when I think of the things that Ricky kept organizing for him to do:) Also watched a bit of House Hunters as above and also found it fascinating!

    • Micki Kosman

      There’s a lot of great travel TV out there. I’m a fan of a lot of the more mainstream shows as well, like The Amazing Race, which is quite addicting!


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