It took long enough, but the Travel Channel has actually become an interesting channel for people who like to travel. Anthony Bourdain and that fat guy who eats beating cobra hearts without flinching, in particular, introduce us to the people, customs and flavors as real travelers, finally hitting upon the happy medium between slide shows from Patty and Thelma and 300-mile bike trips through deserted patches of the Andes. Samantha Brown, however, is a throwback to the era of “travel” shows, first airing on PBS, which aim at the vulgar tourist with a “Pig in the Poke” itinerary stapled to a fanny pack containing seven sets of backup batteries for his pocket translator. These are the shows where an ignorant host wanders about buying Panama hats, riding gondolas and telling us exactly how much to give a cab driver so we don’t overtip. I forget the name of the bespectacled penis who handles this gig for PBS now, but Samantha Brown is obviously a graduate of his seminars, having mastered such courses as “India: Bring a Fork!” and “Which Countries Can I Fart In?”
Brown’s current series, “Passport to Latin America,” is just as embarrassing as it is maddening. Brown reacts to the Panamanian custom of renting out moving buses for parties by saying “Oh … My … Goodness!” Yes, “Goodness!!” Then she adds, with her typical wit, “I bet there aren’t any seatbelts on this bus!” You know she got that party rocking. She’s not even hot: 40s, plain, Hillaryesque and with freakishly large hips. I like a womanly figure, but this bitch, while otherwise skinny, looks like she could give birth to a wookie.
It’s not just that Brown approaches travel with the sophistication and savvy of a BYU cheerleader and is repulsive. She’s an ignant motherfucker, too. Firstly, how in the shit do you hire someone who doesn’t speak Spanish to do an entire series on Latin America? And how do you shamelessly accept the gig without jumping straight into a six-month crash course in Spanish? I guess the idea is that by being clueless and lazy, she will be a good proxy for the typical American tourist. But do such people really go to places like Lima anyway? It is this perspective that allows Brown to make statements such as, “South America has a staggering diversity of culture and nature.” Yeah, what did you expect of an entire fucking continent? If the Travel Channel can’t muster a host who isn’t awestruck by the fact that countries that are thousands of miles apart have different cultures and natural landscapes, even though they are both populated by spics, they should at least manage to dig up someone who is fun to watch, as they bungle through the jungle. I’ll check back in when it’s “Bushwick Bill’s Passport to Latin America.”