Weekend Binge: Travel TV Shows for the Quarantine

Now that you have time, why not enjoy the vicarious thrills of watching Anthony Bourdain or Stephen Fry on the road?

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A still from Ugly Delicious. Photo courtesy: Netflix

Anthony Bourdain (Parts Unknown, No Reservations, A Cook’s Tour, The Layover)

Bourdain broke the mould of travel television, and nobody seems to have been able to fill the cowboy boots that once roamed this world to their own beat. The shows weren’t just about food, but dug deep into the culture, history, and sense of place in every destination the chain-smoking, steak-slinging, rock’n’roll loving legend explored.


Ugly Delicious

If there’s one show which doesn’t glorify food, and makes it approachable, it is David Chang’s Ugly Delicious. The Korean-American chef travels the world in search of not just food, but to understand how it shapes culture, and evolves in each place. Handmade pizza or Domino’s? Homemade tacos in Mexico or Taco Bell? Here, you get both.


Chef’s Table

David Gelb’s knockout documentary series into the world’s defining culinary movements is nothing short of art. Each meticulously crafted episode not only profiles leading chefs, but the places that inspire and define the fine food they make.


Gordon Ramsey: Uncharted

In this series you won’t see Gordon Ramsey making some poor sod cry in the kitchen. Instead, he travels the world, immersing himself in indigenous cooking techniques and ingredients from around the world. Each episode culminates in a cook-off with a celebrated local chef who doubles as Ramsey’s guide to the destination he visits, although sometimes the chefs work together to provide a meal that does justice to the local palate.


Travel Man

The unrepentantly English and nerdy host of this unconventional travel series, Richard Ayoade, travels the world with celebrity guests to provide a 48-hour guide to the given locales. It is quirky, hilarious, and more often than not, strangely informative. It’s the kind of series where you’ll see Paul Rudd go to a Helsinki Burger King for beer and sauna…meaning, there’s nothing quite like it.


Top Gear (until 2014) & The Grand Tour

They’re British, they’re grown men who behave like boys, and while they manage to upset half the world with their childish antics, the rest of the world loves them for being the unapologetic petrol heads they are. Perhaps the most popular aspect of the series are the road trip episodes, which not only bring out a new level of boyish buffoonery in the hosts, but offer a host of intriguing destinations explored in new and entertaining ways.


Conan Without Borders

Conan O’Brien’s late-night shtick relies on one thing: he commits wholeheartedly to any premise. In his travel remotes to countries such as Germany, Cuba and Ghana, he and his unshakeable pouffe take absurdity to new heights. Whether he is playfighting in the snow with a monk or smoking hookah with a Palestinian, the lanky Irish jester is a universal punchline.


The Wine Show

There is no dearth of lavishly shot wine shows but a booze programme with two leading men of television—Matthew Rhys and Matthew Goode—giggling uncontrollably under the influence sounds like the ideal quarantine watch. To set the perfect mood, curl up, decant wine into glass and press play.  


The Long Way Down

This 10-episode series is for viewers who prefer their road trips to be more earnest and serious than Top Gear. Friends and gearheads Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman take a really long tour from Scotland, through Europe, to South Africa. Along the route, they battle breakdowns, unexpected delays and falls but as with most riders, the spirit rarely ever flags.    


Stephen Fry In America

It’s not often that America gets the exotic treatment. But in this show, the erudite Englishman journeys across the States seeking out eclectic communities, from fisherman to voodoo practitioners and Mormons. Fry’s curiosity about the American ways is insatiable and, even in settings most alien to him, the witty host’s humanity forms a lasting connection.


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