30 Day Challenge Day Twenty: What series would you recommend to anyone?

If you’re interested in participating in the Geek Out Challenge, read this post here! Each day I will be posting a question for that day for the next 30 days. Follow along each day with your own post or feel free to wait until the entire challenge has been released and take it on when you like! Be sure to link back to the master post at the end or link back to each post for each day.

Day Twenty: What series would you recommend to anyone?

With individual taste and circumstance, and a vast wealth of media to consume across the digital divide it’s a challenge to identify a series that has broad general appeal. Having covered an underrated gem yesterday in The Expanse, there was a strong temptation to pivot towards either a game or book series that I would heartily recommend, on both accounts I would struggle to identify or promote a series that is close to my heart. On the gaming front, my current penchant is towards smaller narrative driven titles such as Firewatch which, singular in nature remove them from consideration. Equally, my reading habits are at best, intermittent and not a reliable source for recommendation. So I return to the small screen and try and consider what shows and series I enjoy that have broad general appeal. To narrow the options down, anything which aims to be ‘divisive’ is gone, anything show filtered into a specific genre can equally be a challenge to promote or recommend. Ultimately, there is the possibility of only being able to recommend somewhat mainstream media to appeal to the biggest target base as possible. To defy expectations, I am going to discuss a show and series that had a significant impact on me personally, which whilst having a possible source of contention in its host is a great series and one I would recommend.

The former politician Michael Portillo has in recent years forged a career following his departure from Parliament, in travel using the trains first at home in the UK then further afield. I never watched when broadcast his British railway journeys, the episode length and titles somewhat off putting, I didn’t see the appeal, I couldn’t comprehend why anyone would find them interesting. Then by chance, I happened to catch his continental railway adventures which in turn opened my eyes to the wealth of the continent. As an insight, despite Europe being very much on my doorstep for a long time I had always maintained a somewhat, isolationist stance to visiting my European neighbours, I adored Italy and would visit repeatedly but beyond that America was my default, travel destination. Then I met my partner who was a keen travelling enthusiast, two entirely opposing mindsets when it came our time together. It was with good fortune we happened to watch an episode of the Great Continental Railway Adventures, a beautifully shot and produced travel documentary by the former Conservative member of parliament as he followed a series of rail routes across the continent, each journey over the course of the week taking in a number of cities and stops, enjoying the culture and history of each city and town on his way.

Each episode and series see’s the host guided by a Bradshaw’s or equivalent travel guide, a series of books written around the end of the 19th century for tourists and travellers to destinations around the UK and further afield. There is something wonderfully charming hearing these historical descriptions of the cities he visits, realising how things have changed significantly or on occasion, not at all. One of the issues I’ve long held with travel programs comes from the entirely subjective notion of a host selling themselves as a brand, to promote themselves with the destination as a backdrop. Why I buy into and accept this particular series, you never have the feeling he is doing this for any other reason than a love of the railways and history. His 10, to date, UK series are an incredible exploration of history in my country as he journeys across the land mass as well as Ireland using a form of travel accessible to anyone. It’s inspiring, and as alluded to in my opening comments, it did inspire my partner and I to take a continental railways journey holiday a couple of years ago travelling from London all the way out to Budapest and back using nothing but train.

Does it hold broad general appeal? the obvious contention is around the host and the political party he represented. Politics isn’t at the forefront of the program in any way shape or form. On occasion he visits palaces and parliament buildings on his travels abroad and as an aside will make mention of his previous career. But two strong forces at the moment dominate mainstream discussion in the UK, Brexit and politics, creating a very polarised environment to work within. Through his talks which I attended two years ago and various media appearances you can probably surmise he was on the side of leaving the European Union. Equally, he can be described as a moderate conservative, which to some will be a source of contention and resentment. For me, I’ve approached this writing project with a mindset of moderation, following a centrist methodology in my engagement and discussion. As a series, this a wonderfully shot and produced travel program, with an intelligent and knowledgeable host who clearly enjoys what he is doing and finds great passion in uncovering the historical past of the places he visits. He was also once a conservative minister. I would gladly recommend his travel programs to anyone with even a vague interest in travel and history, whether you can resolve your political animosities is a decision I will leave for you to decide.

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