Alibi V.23 No.49 • Dec 4-10, 2014 

Idiot Box

Drunk Talk

“Booze Traveler” on Travel Channel

Perhaps it’s just my overactive imagination, but I feel like I could have some sort of Highlander-style relationship with Jack Maxwell—you know, the kind of thing where “There can be only one!” and somebody has to have his head cut off with a big sword. After all, the guy gets to travel around the world to assorted distant lands and drink various exotic intoxicants. And he gets paid for it. It’s pretty much the best job in the world. Not that I have it bad, either. I get paid to watch TV and movies. It’s a good gig. But Maxwell’s is better. And I want it. So I may have to kill him for it.

I get paid to watch TV and movies. It’s a good gig. But [“Booze Travelers” host Jack] Maxwell’s is better. And I want it. So I may have to kill him for it.

Maxwell is the host of Travel Channel’s new, rather self-explanatory show “Booze Traveler.” Prior to this choice slot, he was a Boston-born, Hollywood-bred actor with bit parts in TV shows like “24,” “House,” “Lost,” “Power Rangers Wild Force” and “Beverly Hills, 90210.” Most of his roles were along the lines of “Reporter #2,” “Angry Man” and “Security Agent”—none of which really seems to prepare him for this sort of assignment. But he’s got a gruff sort of everyman quality to him that makes him seem like a genial enough drinking companion. Plus he seems game to eat and drink just about anything—which is probably a necessity in this sort of biz.

To be honest “Booze Traveler” doesn’t do anything Anthony Bourdain hadn’t turned into a routine years ago on “No Reservations” and “Parts Unknown.” In fact, I’ve seen Bourdain pack away a lot more alcohol than Maxwell seems to in any particular episode. But there’s still time. Maybe Maxwell is building up his tolerance. Week to week, the formula for “Booze Traveler” is basic. Maxwell heads to a foreign land with a small film crew. He sucks down some of the local brew (Raki in Turkey or Chicha in Peru or Brennivín in Iceland). He visits a couple of hot spots. He eats a lot. He goes home.

The show lacks the stylistic, evocative camerawork of “No Reservations”/“Parts Unknown” and the observational poetry of Bourdain (who is, it must be noted, a damn fine writer). It doesn’t live up to the geek show culinary craziness of Andrew Zimmern’s “Bizarre Foods.” And those hoping for the rum-based equivalent of Adam Richman’s “Man v. Food” will be sorely disappointed. Watching Richman balloon up under the pressure of endless 10-pound burrito challenges won’t be matched by the sight of Maxwell slowly pickling his liver in an increasing weekly stupor of ethanol fumes. Maxwell seems happy to casually and politely sample the local spirits, resulting in way less puking here than on Comedy Central’s “Drunk History.”

Oh well. We take what we can get. And what we get with “Booze Traveler” is an affably hosted jaunt to some foreign lands with drinks included. The full-tilt pace of the show doesn’t allow for a lot of historical or social context. But it might just give you an idea where you might want to go for your next exotic cocktail.

“Booze Traveler” airs Mondays at 8pm on Travel Channel.