2009, TV

Charley Boorman: Sydney to Tokyo by Any Means (2009)

This is the ostensible sequel/second season to Charley Boorman: Ireland to Sydney by Any Means. It’s not exactly a sequel for a couple of reasons, but it is roughly the same idea: Charley Boorman travels from Sydney to Tokyo trying to use multiple different kinds of transportation.

The first reason this isn’t a proper sequel is because Russ Malkin, producer of the first season (and the Long Way series) and on-screen costar is not present. (He is listed as an executive producer but is never mentioned.) Second, the obsession with trying to avoid commercial air travel has been abandoned, with Boorman and crew seemingly resorting to commercial air travel whenever there is the slightest inconvenience. (That being said, they visit so many islands it’s hard to imagine they would have been able to avoid planes at all.) It feels like a very similar concept but a different show. That is both a good thing and a bad thing.

The good side of it is that the Papua and Indonesia episodes are among the most interesting places I’ve seen Boorman visit. There are moments in these episodes that approach Long Way Round/Long Way Down for great, compelling travel TV. I wish every episode of his travel shows were like these.

There are a couple of drawbacks and a few aspects that make me think it’s not quite up to the standard of “season 1” (if we must call it that).

The whole thing feels even less well-planned than the previous trip. It’s like they didn’t even look up the weather patterns before they travelled. More than once, plans are thwarted because it’s literally the monsoon season. Now, maybe in order to avoid bad weather on one leg they had to accept it on the other (as we thought we would have to do in Vietnam) but this is never articulated.

Another ongoing issue is how they routinely fail to hide the identities of locals who do things with them that are either taboo or outright illegal. They do this only twice in the whole series, both because they are asked to. They should know better. Both this and the lack of planning makes it feel like they are lacking an adult on the trip, which brings me to the last one.

Without Russ or another person similarly sharing some of the screen time, this is a lot of Charley Boorman. Members of the crew (one of whom we’ve met on a previous Charley Boorman travel show) do appear here and there but mostly this is Boorman’s show. And he can be hopelessly naïve and occasionally insensitive. He can also be a little much. He’s at his best sharing the spotlight with someone else who is a little more of an adult about life. Usually, his enthusiasm for new experiences works, but occasionally it doesn’t and in this particular show there is little to water down his particular essence.

I’m giving it the same rating as the last “season” but it’s definitely weaker. If I was super granular and did ratings out of 100, the first “season” would be in the high 70s and this would be in the low to mid 70s. (B Plus versus B Minus or B for us Canadians and C Plus versus C Minus or C for Americans.) I’d still rather watch this type of reality TV than basically any other kind.


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