I don't watch much television, but last evening I caught about fifteen minutes of a PBS show called, Globe Trekker. Said programme featured a kid traipsing his way across Tunisia and Libya (prior to the recent events, obviously) and (here's the part where I'm probably not a very nice person) the first and only thought that came prominently to my mind was, "Wouldn't it be great if he met some Paul Bowles-ish (The Delicate Prey, A Distant Episode) fate out there in the desert?"
The kid hosting the show seemed like he had been waiting in the dock for some petty robbery offence, and they gave him the option of military service, the clink, or doing a travel programme. Had he not been saddled with so dreadful an accent he makes Billy Bragg sound upper class, I might have been able to absorb some of the historical facts the writers wanted conveyed to the viewers-but I couldn't (or rather, "coo'unt"). Yes, I know, I am not a very nice person. Truthfully, there wasn't a whole hell of a lot of historical fact being presented anyway. This show is focused on getting sweeping shots of sand dunes, and locals in ethnic dress. "Oooh look everybody-a fellow in a turban! exotic."
When I thought it couldn't get any worse, the kid dramatically strips off (to a pair of baggy trunks anyway) to go bathe in an oasis exposing his pale, flabby body for the viewers... for what? Certainly not enjoyment, probably not amusement either. This isn't like the time Michael Wood lay stark naked at some bronze age Mycenaean spot with nothing but a well-placed copy of The Iliad over his manhood. Really? You don't remember that?
Seriously for a moment, what really struck me about the presentation of the show is the disrespect it has for the local culture. I mean, that's a large part of what a travel show is expected to do, is it not? Pretending to take a shit at a Roman Bath, stripping off and leaping into the water...it all seemed so, "Colonial master takes a holiday in exotic locale." Do you know what I mean? As though the people are there for the Westerner's amusement. The snarky, too-clever commentary, the arrogance, maybe even perhaps the youthfulness of it (as in immaturity) really left me bewildered by the decline in quality shows on PBS these days.
Now get off of my lawn while I go think about Michael Wood in the buff. Er, I mean read Edward Said. Just get the hell off of my lawn, OK?