ARMCHAIR EXPLORATION: BackpackersFiled Under:
Are you about to pack up and take off somewhere foreign and far away and you need something to keep you motivated and excited while you sit on the couch twiddling your thumbs, watching TV static and drinking beers? Well dear reader, you have come to the right place and are asking the right questions. Pull up a seat and listen real good because this what I’m about to serve up is the LSD of armchair exploration you’ve been looking for: Backpackers.
As the name quite obviously indicates the show is about backpackers. Sure, it’s not the most creative name for a TV show but its simple, upfront and to the point, which represents the 26 episodes of this independently shot, edited and produced show pretty bloody spot-on, mate. Please, I beg of you, don’t confuse it with the 2013 fiction based US show of the same name, which, according to IMBD, sucks to the point of a 2 star rating. This televised gem is true blue quality Aussie content, and it comes fully endorsed from down under, and around the world.
In this digital age of over produced, re-constituted and recycled reality TV shows available on demand, Backpackers is a welcome breath of fresh air, or a gut-wrenching burp seasoned with acrid spice of beer-and-kebab remnants. It’s pretty much a home video on steroids, in the hands of an overindulgent alcoholic, which has earned a cult following worldwide. Try and picture that.
I came it across it as a senior in high school when it first hit Australian tubes in 2006 on Channel [V], but’d been picked up and aired ‘round the world before the show debuted in its homeland. Stamping its emblem of candid and straight-talking beatnik backpacking on OL Network in Canada, C4 in New Zealand, Extreme Sports Channel in England, Dream TV Turkey and Channel [V] in Malaysia.
Even back then, before I had even bought my first condom, I could see myself just like Mick, Jag and Lee (the three travellers come amateur-television-presenters behind the show): out there travelling the world, getting drunk and chasing chicks in a freewheeling adventure with my best mates, and the allure of the backpacking life sucked me in more and more every episode.
The show follows Mick, Jag and Lee, three blokes from Collac in country Victoria, on an all-in, full-blown, no-holds-bars 12 month mission across Europe to experience the world and tell it how it is with their comical, boyish and masturbatory brand of larrikin commentary.
Shot non-stop over 12 months with three hand-held cameras and a laptop, Backpackers is a demonstration of complete DIY authentication in travel journalism and non-fiction story telling. It’s the most daring and audaciously honest portrayal of life on the road, made in the most true and appropriate fashion: DIY, first person and on a tight-arse budget.
You gotta remember this was over 10 years ago, man. Way before the iPhone and the GoPro; before Youtube was even activated as a domain name and the phenomenon of Internet fame became a reality. Nowadays first person DIY travel videos litter the Internet. These guys were the unofficial pioneers of the movement; tt’s so easy to do now; nothing could ever be as courageous.
The unplanned and unscripted format of the show reflects the spontaneity of three dudes in their mid-twenties travelling Europe in a beat-up old Ford Camper Van (named Van Damme). Each of the 26 episodes renders a trademark combination of bizarre and inappropriate exploits (like attempting to join the Mile High club and getting lost on their way to places such as Cuntis in Spain, Condom in France and Fucking in Austria) and a running narrative that follows the character development of our favourite backpackers, united by flippantly presented content and bold interviews with the random, off-the-wall and mystical characters we tend to meet on a trip.
Backpackers is cut like an early MTV special and has a raw and ultra-realistic feel. Over one year (or 26 half-hour episodes, depending on your perception of time) Mick, Jag and Lee will run out of money, get robbed, fall in love and continuously fight amongst each other – and we get to see it all in total transparency.
It’s a subconsciously inspirational reality road trip that has become a cult travel show with no limitations and will have you packing your bags or booking a ticket in a number of days. You can’t download Backpackers (oh, the antiquity!) but these guys worked way too hard for you to discount the worth of this project by downloading it. Though your new favourite TV hosts have done you a solid and chucked the first two episodes up on Youtube for your viewing pleasure. If you like it, get to their website and order yourself the DVD box-set. They know you’re probably a tight-arse backpacker too so they’ve made it affordable.