Can Miss: 1000 Places to See Before You Die

Caution: Acerbic TV show review ahead.

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I had really high hopes for The Travel Channel‘s 1000 Places to See Before You Die. I’m not sure why. Before its debut, all I knew about it was the nifty commercials featuring a young guy or girl visiting one of the world’s most recognizable landmarks and pushing a red map marker pin into the ground in front of it. “Only 999 more to go,” the narrator would chime in. But then, I’m a sucker for any slickly produced TV commercial for a new travel show.

I don’t mean to unfairly judge the couple, the Ulles, on this show – they seem nice enough. However, they’ve wandered into the public eye and to me that makes them and the show fair game for criticism. To be fair, I recognize that any faults in the show are those of the producers. And right upfront, let me say that I personally don’t have a commanding presence for video or for speaking off the cuff and on my feet. Let’s just say that I’m better suited for blogging where I have time to collect my thoughts into something resembling coherent sentences. But I wasn’t picked to “host” a travel show; they were.

I’ve watched a couple episodes so far and the best way I can sum it up is by saying that they just don’t have it. “It.” You know: “it”. Globetrekker’s Ian Wright has “it”. Tony Bourdain has “it”. Granted they’re both professional hosts with years of TV and media experience. But even previously unknown-to-TV Man vs. Wild‘s Bear Grylls has “it” too. The Travel Channel couldn’t find just two more people with his onscreen presence and charisma?

One of the most glaring problems is the distinct lack of chemistry between the Ulles. There’s no sense the two of them are really enjoying the trip together. At times, it’s awkward. I mean painfully so. Watching them in Alaska, sipping wine picnic-style on the side of a mountain was like watching the Clinton’s play the ‘happily married couple’ bit for the press core.

There’s also the odd “Good job!” they give each other every time they try something new. I’ve never said this to a significant other and frankly it’s a bit condescending. It reminds me of a kindergarten teacher giving kudos to a six year old student who’s just finished his first coloring book without straying too far outside the lines.

The husband is well-spoken enough and better able to communicate his reactions to their new experiences. The wife, on the other hand, not so much. It’s as though the show’s producers are paying her based on how many ways she can work “This isn’t what I expected.” into a single forty-four minute television appearance. Some of her worst throwaway lines spawn from the Alaska episode. While on a canoe trip through glacier-riddled waters:

Because you know how cold that water is … it’s like maybe 32-35 degrees … and you see ice all around you. And I definitely didn’t want to fall out of the boat.

I think we can file that away in the goes without saying folder. And during a helicopter tour above glacier-riddled waters:

I don’t think I had any idea how diverse Alaska was gonna be. The mountains are very, very green. And then it’s like dark, craggy … rocks. And then it’s like white, beautiful glacier. And then it’s … blue water. … I don’t know what I expected.

I’m not sure what she expected either. Yes, the rocks in Alaska are dark and craggy. And the water is blue. It’s also wet. And watery. Again, she’s not a professional travel host; but it makes for yawn-inducing television nevertheless.

When the couple isn’t on camera, the show runs like standard Travel Channel fare: wide b-roll shots of grand landscapes and slow 360 degree visual tours of hotels and restaurants are voiced-over by an excitable and impeccably well-voiced narrator. I suppose the show’s best moments are when the Ulles aren’t on camera.

To sum up: I like the concept and substance of the show. Hell, what’s not to like? It’s about travel! But there’s nothing fresh or groundbreaking here. The presentation is pretty rough around the edges and I’m not sure this lucky couple has the charisma or onscreen presence to give those edges the polish they need.

For a few more takes on, and more discussion about, 1000 Places to See Before You Die, check out GoBackpacking.com’s Would You Accept A Sponsored Trip Around The World? and Tim Leffel’s 1,000 Ways to Finance Your Travel TV Show.

Founding Editor
  1. Nice review. I’ve noticed the wife also spends a lot of her commentary talking about how she’s scared of stuff, heights in particular, only to go handgliding, helicopter riding, and walking over the Sydney Harbor bridge.

    This may go without saying, however I’m sure a big part of why they were chosen is tied to their good looks and race (caucasian).

    I’ve lost interest in the show, though am still watching in case I get some ideas about what I want to do in the future.

  2. I’m as masochistic as you, Dave. I watched the Australia episode last night. And I kept thinking the whole time: “She’s afraid of heights, I get it! Enough already.”

    I’ve lost interest in the show, though am still watching in case I get some ideas about what I want to do in the future.

    I think that’s why I watch most of the shows that I do watch on the Travel Channel.

  3. We have a few of these saved on our DVR, perhaps we’ll get through them very quickly! I also agree with your assessment of both Ian Wright and Anthony Bourdain (reading his book, The Nasty Bits, right now, in fact).

  4. You know, I haven’t read The Nasty Bits yet. And shame on me for that. What’s your take on it?

    I’ll have to grab it from Amazon this weekend. Thanks for reminding me, Leandra!

  5. Nice of me to check back two months later. (sorry!)

    I really liked the format of the book (I didn’t read Kitchen Confidential, so I’m not sure how that one was set up), but this one has nice snippets perfect for reading a few at a time. Some of the stories get a little repetitive because they are taken from independently published essays, but overall it’s entertaining. :)

  6. Yup, they are a very young couple with no mileage under their belt.
    So, with little chemistry and hardly any maturity what are we to expect.

    My favourite was her “mexico” fishing comment “get it, get it your a big strong man”.
    Augh!?

    A 5 year old could do better commentary.

    Another one is the South Africa-Mandela Prison Tour when they are shown how messages were transfered by a mis-hit on the tennis court and she says “how smart”.

    It’s unfortunate that what may be sincere awe and inexperience comes off this way.

    And actually given that I grabbed a few ep.s for viewing in 1080 HD on my new LCD TV, the worst aspect of this show is the footage.
    There is better HD content out there, where the camera people aren’t tied down to following 2 boring people around.

    OK some of the travel content is good, but overall this could have been much better.

    Anyone know a episode rating site for this show? I can’t find one, and I refuse to watch any more unless they’re rated as worth watching.

  7. I just finished their Cambodia episode and I was sure they were hosting the show because of some nepotism connection. So I googled and I found this posts and I am cracking up. Mike, your review is dead on and super funny, as everyone else’s comments.

    But now, to my question, why are these two hosting the show?

  8. I’ve watched the Cambodian episode, the Australian episode, and yesterday I saw the Hawaiian episode. I have to agree the chemistry seems strained between the couple and between the couple and the camera. Like you said, they are inexperienced but many of us had/have high expectations for this show, after all, they must be under a lengthy contract for 1000 trips, right? I want to see the show continue as it’s a fascinating concept, however a change of hosts wouldn’t hurt my feelings.

    I appreciate your tactful review. Have a great day, Mstoby
    M

  9. Haha!!! What’s funny about your post is that I just wrote to Travel Channel my EXTREME disappointment in their uneducated and unappreciative hosts for “1000 Places to See Before you Die”.

    It angered me with their idiotic reactions and comments during the show I had to vent to the network. So I was searching to see who the hell these people were and how the hell they were picked to do this and ran into your site, and find relief that I am not the only one that feels this way.

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