*Well, a week.
It isn’t a good sign when a show inspires more interest in the production meetings that the content. Such is the case with the Travel channel’s dopey and yet oddly addictive attempt to connect with the youth market, ‘5takes’. (Note hip lack of spacing.) The premise is simple, yet overinvolved: take five attractive young people, outfit them as backpackers and send them on a trip around the Pacific rim, on a budget of fifty dollars a day (plus thousands for plane tickets, but that doesn’t seem to come up). Add a website (see above) where viewers can go to tell them what they should do, and have a camera crew film them doing it. (The original plan seems to have been to have them filming it themselves, which resulted in classic scenes like the completely black screen with a couple of spots of light, and five people talking about how completely amazing this view of the night skyline is. Hence, professionals.) It’s kind of like Road Rules without the drunken one-night-stands or the girl with the eating disorder.
The hosts are called ‘travel journalists’, though none of them seem to have any journalism experience, or ‘tj’s for short. (I can just imagine the producers coming up with that one: “It’s like DJ! Or VJ! The kids these days love acronyms! LOL!”)They all have their own little labels, like Spice Girls- nightlife guy, culture girl, etc. The problem is, they aren’t necessarily experts at their assigned areas. The extreme sports guy can barely surf, and the food guy is grossed out by vegemite, driven to puking by worms and has never seen a rambutan before. (It doesn’t help him that the show is on directly before Anthony Bourdain’s, who can eat a raw seal eyeball with only mild disgust.) In general, they seem to have been picked more for their abilities to speak clearly to the camera and look good in a bathing suit than for any special qualifications.
I have to wonder, am I the intended audience for this show? It’s true, I am well out of the hostelling stage of my life; these days I prefer my rollerbag and en suite accomidations to backpacks and flip-flops in the shower. And even though all of the ‘tj’s’ are in their mid-twenties, the thing has the feel of something that would come on late saturday morning, maybe around eleven, after Saved By the Bell.
In fact, in spite of all its studiously-attempted hipness, the real appeal of the show is in how endearingly square it is. Everything these guys do, they approach with complete sincerity and a total absence of cynicism; their confessionals (and isn’t it odd how standard a part of TV that has been come?) are almost overwhelmingly earnest. They seem genuinely happy to be where they are, doing what they’re doing, and it can be fun to get carried along in their enthusiasm and imagine what it would be like if you were doing the same.
A wholesome guilty pleasure, if there is such a thing.
Best thing: When they gathered for a picnic on the roof of their hostel in Sydney, eating fish caught and cooked by two members of the group and talking about friendship in a way that only people who met a week ago on a trip can.
Worst thing: When the Culture girl went on a cringe-inducing side trip to a kind of aboriginal theme park, where several thousand years of native history is reduced to a couple of dance numbers and a boomerang throwing lesson.
Tivo status: season pass