Kate Simon: Cliff, Judith and the cushy role of the travel reporter

Travel view

Did you catch The Way We Travelled on BBC4 last week? This programme looked at the rise of the TV travel show, focusing on the two great prime-time rivals of the past 40 years, ITV's Wish You Were Here ...? and BBC's Holiday.

I remember watching these programmes as a child with almost as much anticipation and delight as Top of the Pops. The images of exotic destinations that crossed our Rediffusion set uncovered an exciting world of travel far removed from the experience of our family's annual trip to the Cornish coast – father had been sent "abroad" during the Second World War and saw no need to go back there.

Last Monday's repeat of The Way We Travelled not only compared two of our main broadcasters' most influential shows, it also delved into a little-discussed yet intriguing area of post-war social history, the democratisation of travel with the rise of the holiday package. And it sharply revealed that within just 40 years, the British public has progressed in its travel ambitions from considering the price of a Full English in Benidorm to white-water rafting on the Zambezi River.

The programme was a real blast from the past, peppered with names reminiscent of those ground-breaking times – Intasun, Freddie Laker, Horizon. It sent me scooting to the bookshelf to pull out my copy of Flight to the Sun, by Roger Bray (one of the contributors to The Way We Travelled) and Vladimir Raitz. Anyone interested in this slice of British social history should snap up a copy of this fascinating "story of the holiday revolution", which is published by Continuum.

But what the programme also showed was just how bad travel shows can be. Ever since the days of deskbound Cliff Michelmore and Judith Chalmers topping up her suntan, these programmes have made for uncomfortable watching despite the best efforts of their presenters.

While the nation enjoyed a spot of tea-time daydreaming over beans on toast, the experience was tempered by rising ire at the cushy number these presenters seemed to be on (and I should know) – which would, from time to time, explode as a rant from Angry of Tunbridge Wells on Points of View about the improper use of the licence fee.

In truth, travel shows can't help but appear as smug and remote or become mired in tedious, if helpful, reports about consumer rights. One honourable exception was Rough Guide to the World, which aired in the Eighties and Nineties and featured our own lead travel writer, Sankha Guha, as a presenter.

What it did differently was to offer a refreshing take on travel, exploring rather than reviewing the experience. It hunted out the new as well as the typical, and by giving us a slice of life in a place, it conversely gave a better overall picture of a destination than its predecessors' mini-guides for everyman.

Rough Guide to the World is due to feature in tomorrow's edition of The Way We Travelled. Any TV producers thinking of grappling with this subject afresh should take note.



Do you have a travel issue? Email sundaytravel@independent.co.uk

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
New Articles
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
booksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Business Development Manager / Sales Pro

    £30 - 35k + Uncapped Comission (£70k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Business Develop...

    Day In a Page

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

    US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
    Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
    Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering