When I was growing up television (all three networks of it) embraced the idea of entertaining everyone, not just a target audience. As a result, we had a variety of shows that pretty much everyone could enjoy. True, there was the usual glut of one genre over others, but overall there was some balance in what you could find on the schedule.
Unfortunately, as time went on and the Powers That Be decided that folks didn’t watch such-and-such programming, the audience found itself pretty much stranded unless it invested in expensive cable or satellite networks.
PBS does an amazing job of providing a plethora of programming that covers that wide array of genres that the regular stations have decided that no one wants to watch. Funny, but I’ve never seen PBS shows among the ratings lists that come out daily or weekly. I have a feeling that the numbers just might prove the Powers That Be wrong.
Recently I discovered some gems that allow armchair travelers like myself the opportunity to explore new places with beautiful vistas and pleasant travel companions.
Explore The English Countryside
Recently I discovered a wonderful four episode documentary on Acorn TV that was hosted by the wonderful and funny Julie Walters. You might know her as Mrs. Molly Weasley from the Harry Potter films.
Said documentary, Coastal Railways with Julie Walters, is available through Amazon Prime, Acorn TV and YouTube. It is a wonderful travelog of Britain that takes the viewer across the country and into nooks and crannies that the average traveler might miss.
The premise is based on Ms. Walters love of the coast. Each of the four episodes covers a five day journey in which she experiences the landscape and the people.
Now, For Something A Little Different
Also found on Amazon, Acorn TV and YouTube, Penelope Keith’s Hidden Villages takes us on journeys into the English country where we experience life in small country villages. There are three seasons available of this great series.
If you want a slightly different taste of English life, Ms. Keith has also done an excellent series, At Her Majesty’s Service, which takes viewers behind the scenes at Her Majesty’s royal residences. We get a chance to meet the people who keep the traditions alive.
Out and About
Another rather unusual discovery were Escape to the Country and Escape to the Continent, which were found on Netflix and YouTube. The former documents one couple’s search for a new home in the English countryside. Each episode takes us to a different part of the U.K. providing not only spectacular vistas, but some great local history and a chance to get to know some of the locals.
Escape to the Continent takes the escaping British couple to a country on the Continent. While the search for a new home is interesting (the homes themselves run the gamut from ordinary to OMG), the ability to see the country and meet the residents is the best part of the show.
I admit I enjoyed each show for a different reason. The Escape to the Country series allowed me to see various parts of the U.K. and get a feel for what I preferred and what I didn’t. I also discovered some interesting aspects of life in that country (cast iron cook stoves) that I had not know about.
Escape to the Continent allowed me to look back and ponder what life might have been like for the moving couple in light of evolving political states.
The trains, villages and such that were provided by Ms. Walters and Ms. Keith introduced me to some beautiful vistas, but more importantly, some amazing and wonderful people. At the end of the day, it is their stories that make the travel so much more than a ride on a train or in a car.
Last year I stumbled across Better Homes and Gardens from Australia on YouTube. While the home improvement projects caught my eye, it was the ability to see the country that kept me coming back for more.
Even if you are not inclined to travel, sampling these shows provides an amazing opportunity to learn more about an area or a country than can ever be gleaned from a book or magazine. And you don’t even need to pack a bag to have an adventure!