Marcus Sakey and Travel Channel


Pop Alert: Travel Channel's "Hidden City"

There was a time in the not-so-distant past when the Travel Channel meant Samantha Brown and Ian Wright. One is the bright-smiled tour guide, the other a diminuitive English vagabond. Together they produced the type of service-oriented, travel-based programming that, when coupled with daytime episodes of “The World’s Greatest Water Parks” and “50 Truck Stops to See Before You Die,” amounted to a very expensive television version of Frommer’s, Lonely Planet and scores of lesser print guides. It’s not that it was bad, just that it was what it was.

And then Anthony Bourdain happened. And he begat Zimmern who begat Richman, Kreisher, Wildman and others who, one 30- or 60-minute program at a time completely changed the nature of the network, at night anyway. You can still find some of the old-style shows on during the day, but flip on Travel Channel after dinner and you’re almost guaranteed to find something smart, funny, edgy and, above all else, interesting. As a long-time viewer, I think it’s one of the more impressive shifts I’ve ever seen in a media outlet.

Likewise, not too long ago, the image of a crime novelist might have been something like Bogart in “The Maltese Falcon.” Dour. Forlorn in a rumpled London Fog with two-days growth and breath wreaking of cheap bourbon and regret. It’s fetishistic. You get an image of a guy obsessed with the dark side of life. A lonely drifter with a larger-than-normal vocabulary who spends his days dreaming up new and interesting ways to kill people in an increasingly over-the-top pursuit of the perfect crime.

Then came Richard Castle, a charismatic and fun-loving every man with a twisted imagination and the lead character on the eponymous “Castle.” The show on ABC is about a successful crime novelist who spends his days chasing a devastatingly attractive New York detective and helping her solve the very type of crimes that, when printed, packaged and available for sale have made him a millionaire many times over. The show strikes the balance between light and dark, a yin and yang of police procedural and buddy cop with a twist of sexual tension and fatherly obligation that has redefined a tired genre that was almost not worth redefinition.

What, you might ask, do these two things have to do with one another? Well, one guy and one new show that may just end up being the perfect hybrid of Bourdain’s “No Reservations” and (MORE)

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