Remember when Travel Channel had programs related to—travel? From Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations to Samantha Brown’s Great Hotels, its reality TV showed us the world, its people and places. Now Travel Channel is all shows about the paranormal, and has completely abandoned anything associated with its name.
Hotel Impossible star Anthony Melchiorri tweeted this week that all eight seasons of his show are now free with Amazon Prime Video. That made me wonder if it’d be possible to find some even earlier Travel Channel shows, like the the 2000s-era shows starring people like Bourdain and Brown, and the early 2010s-era shows like Hotel Impossible.
Some shows, I discovered, like Xtreme Waterparks, are available on Travel’s website, but you need a cable login to watch. Others, like Samantha Brown’s Great Hotels, just aren’t available anywhere.
But here are six excellent Travel Channel shows I found that can be streamed for free.
Anthony Bourdain's original show, and probably the best reality show Travel Channel has ever aired or will ever air. Bourdian's curiosity was his guide as he traveled around the world, talking to people and eating with them.
Anthony Melchiorri helps independent hotels and inns refresh their rooms and solve their problems.
Of all the business makeover reality shows, it's among the best. Sometimes it leaned toward forced Gordon Ramsay-ish drama, but nearly always was realistic and honest about problems the hotel was having and what it'd take to fix them.
NFL linebacker Dhani Jones, of the Cincinnati Bengals, traveled the world in two seasons of his series, but instead of eating at restaurants or exploring spectacular hotels, he played sports.
His show "explores how traditional sports directly impact some of the most vibrant cultures around the world," Travel Channel said, while Dhani "experiences the thrills and challenges of each game by playing it himself and becomes fully immersed in each region's authentic cultural experience."
In 2004, A&E followed Southwest Airlines crew members for a show called Airline, which sort of came back eight years later on TLC with a show called On the Fly.
Also that year, Travel Channel launched Airport 24/7, which was similar except it followed people who worked at Miami International Airport. It focused on drama, yes, but also profiled the people whose work is often invisible but critical.
Samantha Brown was the first Travel Channel star I knew, hosting specials and shows from "Disney Holiday Magic" to Great Hotels. She showed off places while showing me just how much fun and joyful travel could be.
Alas, most of her shows aren't available to stream, but all three seasons of the 2009-2010 series Great Weekends are free on Pluto TV.
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Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means. Learn more about Andy.
I’m Andy Dehnart, a writer who obsessively and critically covers reality TV, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.
On reality blurred, which I created 20 years ago as a place to collect interesting links I found, I now review and recommend reality shows, documentaries, and nonfiction entertainment; analyze news and report from behind the scenes; and interview people who create and star in reality TV shows.