Wonderlane
Blog Words : Travel rants | 09 July

What happened to the travel journalist?

Inside every D-list celeb there’s a Z-list TV travel presenter fighting to get out. Tragically, says Hazel Plush, many succeed, funded by our licence fee! Grrr...

“We’ve seen emus, kangaroos, camels – and Robin’s eaten them all! Haha!”

I’d hoped it would be good Sunday-night viewing, but Stephen Tompkinson’s ballooning antics got right up my nose. It wasn’t just weather envy or resentment of his jazzy method of transport – hell, I didn’t even begrudge him the boozy Barossa vineyard tour. No, the sticking point was this: why on earth was Tompkinson there in the first place? He’s an actor on a free jolly, not a travel journalist.

The days of enlightening, engaging travel programming are officially over – now we’re just left with jovial celebrities trotting off on free holidays. Roll up, roll up! Trevor McDonald’s off to the Caribbean! John Sergeant’s inter-railing across India! Our licence fees are funding a
plethora of extravagant holidays – and I’m finding it pretty hard to stomach.

In 1971 David Attenborough graced our screens in A Blank on the Map, a credible documentary describing a search for Papua New Guinea’s undiscovered tribes. When the small, pierced faces peered through his tent flaps, you just knew Attenborough’s qualities as a bona-fide adventurer and naturalist would see him through. His composure was
unshakeable and he escaped uneaten – but I suspect that our inelegant jet-setting celebs may have met with different ends…

No, they don’t make ’em like they used to – but the slide into thoughtless, cheap travel telly has been well greased. I blame those heady ‘noughties’ pre-recession days, when production companies’ budgets knew no bounds, and even the faintest whiff of fame was a gilded passport to a six-part travel series – with a flight upgrade and a book
deal for good measure, thank you very much.

Travel Channel’s Postcards from Paradise sits at the pinnacle of self-congratulation.Such delights! Tune in to see Vanessa Feltz mowing down clay pigeons in Scotland, Linda Barker scoffing lobster in Iceland and Anthea Turner cruising the Venetian waterways with her mum.

All very lovely – but if you think I’ll be booking flights off the back of a Z-list celebrity’s holiday diaries, you’re sorely mistaken. There’s nothing like a jammy presenter to rob a subject of its magic, and watching them milk it for a whole 60 minutes is more than enough to put me off retracing their footsteps. In fact, even if Postcards actually made it to paradise itself, you’d have a hard time persuading me to follow suit.

I’m pleased to see that Attenborough’s back on our screens this month, but I’ll be giving any celebrity offerings a wide berth. You can keep your lobster, Linda – I’ll be taking the road less publicised.
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