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A Final Take on "5 Takes: USA"

Just a quick post this morning as I'm already feeling the effects of way too much holiday cheer, even though we're still a few days away from achieving maximum holiday impact...

I couldn't let a more than a few days slide, however, without acknowledging the end of the third season of Travel Channel's reality series 5 Takes. While it's been a bit of a bumpy ride, 5 Takes: USA quickly corrected its problems halfway through production to turn out a final round of episodes that was on par with the previous season's highs.

First of all, it seems as though my previous comments about what was lacking with the series this year clicked with the network as they made steps to correct the problems that hampered my enjoyment of the reality series' third season. My main point was that the travel journalists didn't seem to do a lot of, you know, interacting with locals to find the sort of off-the-beaten-path sights and attractions that are a hallmark of this type of travel program. And just like that, the travel journalists (after all this time, I still can't bring myself to call them TJs) were suddenly asking questions of everyone they met about the latest city they were in, using their suggestions as jumping-off points for new activities, and (most importantly) experiencing each city through the eyes of its locals.

The Memphis, Austin, and New York episodes really hit this home with style (and without feeling forced) as the gang split up into various configurations to get to the heart of each city on their tour of the United States. I think that these final episodes perfectly captured that feeling of wanderlust--along with that instant connection travelers can make with new cities and their residents--to reinvigorate the series and reignite what I loved most about the show: namely experiencing that color and culture that distinguishes each and every city from its siblings.

In Memphis, the gang met up with some random strangers and wound up going to one of their houses for some authentic barbeque; in New York, Bevis met up with a rock musician (with impossibly anime hair, I might add) and went to his recording studio to hear some of his songs. And in each episode, every single one of our travel journalists actually fulfilled their brief, as Zach, Lena, Jamie, Bevis, and Tim all became the journos that they were meant to be, questioning every one they encounter about what makes their city great, sampling street food (I loved the scene in NYC in which Zach went bananas for hot dogs and pretzels), and investigating, rather than reacting to, their surroundings.

I'm still not enamoured of the setup for each week's Chase Freedom Rewards excursion (still wish they had to do something to earn it), but it's a small gripe now as 5 Takes: USA managed to get back on track and, more importantly, won me back. While this season of 5 Takes may have been shorter (only 8 episodes) compared to last season, it managed to remind me of all that this nation's diverse cities have to offer and allowed me to experience the US through an outsider's perspective.

I already miss my little 5 Takes fix each weekend but I'm looking forward to what will hopefully be a killer fourth season of this growing franchise. As for where 5 Takes will head off to next, the Travel Channel is staying mum for now, but could I put a vote in for the United Kingdom or Scandinavia? Pretty please?

What's On Tonight

8 pm: NCIS (CBS); Identity (NBC); Gilmore Girls (CW); I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown (ABC); House (FOX); Wicked Wicked Games (MyNet)

9 pm: The Unit (CBS); Law & Order: Criminal Intent (NBC); The Victoria's Secret Fashion Show (CW); Big Day/Big Day (ABC); House (FOX); Watch Over Me (MyNet)

10 pm: CSI: New York (CBS); Law & Order: SVU (NBC); Boston Legal (ABC)

What I'll Be Watching

10 pm: Doctor Who on BBC America.

While Sci Fi might be airing Season Two of the newest incarnation of Doctor Who (complete with another new Doctor, played by David Tennant), catch up on Season One, beginning anew tonight on BBC America as the Doctor (played by Christopher Eccleston) first meets Rose Tyler for the first time. On tonight's episode ("World War Three"), the Doctor and Rose attempt to escape 10 Downing Street as the world heads towards an interplanetary war with the creepy Slitheen. And what's up with that "Bad Wolf" graffiti and the little pig?


Anonymous said…
I definitely had some of the same problems you did, and there were moments of staginess this season ("Come on guys, let's talk about what we're going to do for our reward."), but it was still enjoyable. I just wish it was longer. They could have hit the mid-west/north better - that little side-trip to Chicago doesn't count. Detroit, Minneapolis or somewhere in Indy, maybe. Or the pacific northwest? Seattle, anyone? Just seems that with Memphis, Austin and Orlando/Miami they covered the South. And then some.
I didn't enjoy this season as much as the last but it was still fun. I really liked all of the travel journalists but agree that some of their experiences felt somewhat staged. And I was also surprised that they didn't visit the pacific northwest or check out a couple of other cities. I'm very interested to see where the next season will take place.

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