ƒ Curious Travelers Television: Globe Trekker - The Format, Fixed In Time

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Globe Trekker - The Format, Fixed In Time

Globe Trekker is one of the best travel program out there.

It's the only truly international travel program. It's got some of the best presenters, music and they spend their budget wisely; they haven't yielded to some of the cost cutting measures in other travel programs these days, where they shoot for just one week and the program, while hosted, is practically all voice over such as Rick Steves' Backdoor Productions. They spend time in the pre-production, production and post and always come up with a first class product, although some of their presenters are weak and the programs suffer as a result.

And it has the format down. In fact the format hasn't changed from the first episode with Ian Wright in Rio. Each episode begins with an impressive animated logo.

Then a tight close-up of the presenter, who says something about the destination, followed by a pull back to reveal the location.

Then a montage of the location with scenes from the program with the theme music in the background.

Cut to: Title of the production, followed by a map with some information about the geography of the city or country (countries) covered in the episode.

Then the presenter enters the location, usually arriving at a bus stop, train station or walking down the street to his/her hotel. There is a scene at the front desk, usually with some humor if the presenter is trying to speak a foreigner language, then a scene in the hotel room.

After that each episode covers the following items, as if in a guidebook:
1. Visits to tourist sites - churches, museums, battlefields, etc
2. Something about the transportation, often done with amusing scenes.
3. Always a scene(s) involving food/eating, often with the presenter dining on survivor type foods, such as bugs or unpleasant part of an animal.
4. Some shopping, usually in a bazaar or flea market
5. If it is a country, some traveling by bus, van, train with road shots
6. Participation in a physical activety, such as playing basketball, soccer, wrestling
7. Always at least one popular festival.
8. If appropriate, some scene on night life in the destination.
9. Sometimes it ends with climbing a mountain and reaching the top.
10. A visit to something "off the beaten track" such as the slums in Brazil or New York or to a local tribe.
11. Several interviews with tourists and sometimes an expat.
12. Some history of the destination, usually no more than a minute
13. Final conclusion about the presenter thinks about the destination, as the theme music returns

This format is based on guidebooks, in particular the original alternative travel Lonely Planet, as opposed to travel writing, as the new Discovery Travel Channel programs, such as Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations" and Cash Peters "Stranded". It has a certain dated quality and certain limitations, as it must cover all the sections in a guidebook: history, tourist/historic sites, accommodations, food, transportation. The voice over narration often seems to be right out of a guidebook.

Individual presenters bring something different to each program. Ian Wright creates comic scenes and situations and goes into physical comedy with pratfalls, Justine Shapiro brings a certain smug attitude to the show and Megan McCormick excudes a quirky personal charm. When they interview people or deliver their own observations the shows come to life. When they have to read the guidebook narration, often in the post production, the show falls flat.

Visually the show settled on a definite style from the first program, a mixture of Super 8 shaky home movie footage and high quality betacam footage. This gives the programs a definite look, while also probably allowing the filmmakers to capture some scenes with a very low profile.

The music in the programs are all original for each episodes, often including scores with instruments and melodies unique to the locals.

Globe Trekker found it's niche in the travel programming universe early on and has kept to its very strict format, visual and aural style. Hey if it works why change it?