Reviewing 3 new TV shows that focus on travel, including one from 'Walking Dead' star Norman Reedus
The best new televised travel series isn’t a real travel series, and it isn’t on television. But don’t despair, traditionalists; we’ll get to 1.5 actual travel programs before this article is through.
“Hidden America With Jonah Ray”
The enjoyable newcomer is “Hidden America With Jonah Ray,” which made its premiere June 2 on the streaming service Seeso. It’s a parody of all those travel shows that pretentiously explore un-touristy destinations and are determined to make anyone who takes a mere ordinary vacation feel like an idiot.
In nine episodes, Ray, a comedian and occasional actor, visits San Francisco, New Orleans, Seattle and six other U.S. cities and gives a tongue-in-cheek assessment of their ambience and personality.
“Sports — as American as misinterpreting the Bible — is alive in Boston,” he says by way of introducing a not-at-all-complimentary segment on that city’s devotion to its various teams.
In Chicago, the improv scene draws his attention.
“Comic hopefuls have been forcing their friends to see shows on these stages since the days of Alan Arkin,” he says in true travel-show style.
Various guest stars turn up in hilarious cameos of all sorts as Ray does his best to ensure that he’ll probably never be hired to do a real travel show. Although, frankly, he would liven up virtually any of the drab conventional series on the air.
“Secrets of America’s Favorite Places”
If Ray gives us fake hidden sides of cities and attractions we thought we knew, a series coming up on Discovery Family does that for real. The show, “Secrets of America’s Favorite Places,” begins July 3 with an episode on — what else? — the Statue of Liberty. It relates the always interesting story of how the statue came to be but also examines less-well-known aspects of the great landmark, like what that tablet Lady Liberty is holding was originally supposed to be and whether Masonic symbols are lurking on the statue.
Later episodes give the same treatment to Mount Rushmore (July 17), Grand Central Terminal (Aug. 7 — ever notice all the acorns in the architecture?) and other often-visited sites. The show makes a dandy accompaniment for a family trip to any of them.
“Ride With Norman Reedus”
Then there’s the new series that’s sort of a travel show, sort of a motorcycle-worshipping show. It’s “Ride With Norman Reedus,” and it began June 12 and airs Sundays on AMC, where Reedus is already a familiar presence: He plays Daryl Dixon, the motorcycle-riding hunter, on “The Walking Dead.”
“I have a cool job where I get to ride motorcycles and kill zombies,” he explains in the premiere. “On weekends, I just ride motorcycles.”
The first episode finds him riding up the Pacific Coast Highway to Santa Cruz, California, pausing a few times along the way for side excursions in a halfhearted effort to make the show seem travel-ly. (Later episodes include rides through Death Valley and on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Appalachia.)
Really, though, the point is to give Reedus a chance to ride motorcycles, caress motorcycles and talk about motorcycles, and to give “The Walking Dead” fans a chance to see him doing so. If you have no use for “The Walking Dead” or motorcycles and were tuning in hoping for an interesting travel show, this self-promotional series will be a disappointment.