On ‘The Reluctant Traveler,’ faraway places win over the wary Eugene Levy

Even the mildest challenges fluster the Apple TV+ show’s charming tour guide.

SHARE On ‘The Reluctant Traveler,’ faraway places win over the wary Eugene Levy
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Actor Eugene Levy visits South Africa in one of his stops on “The Reluctant Traveler.”

Apple TV+

You know those hardcore reality shows where people are naked and afraid in extreme environments or running wild with a guy named Bear or trying to survive in harsh conditions while plotting against their opponents or participating in an amazing race around the world filled with all sorts of physical and psychological challenges?

Yeah well, “The Reluctant Traveler” on Apple TV+ is not that show. “The Reluctant Traveler” is for all the humans who love those extreme shows but think most of those people are crazy, all of us who acknowledge one should try to explore different corners of the world if possible, but also feel a mild sense of dread every time we roll out the suitcase and start packing. It’s a beautifully photographed, lightly comedic and actually quite informative slice of comfort viewing, succeeding largely because of the charms of our tour guide: the Canadian treasure Eugene Levy, who makes it clear in every episode he’s kind of the wrong guy for this show.

“I don’t look forward to traveling for a number of reasons,” says Levy in the show’s intro. “When it’s too cold, I’m not comfortable. When it’s too warm, guess what? I’m not comfortable. But I’m 75, and maybe it’s time to expand my horizons.”

‘The Reluctant Traveler’

Untitled

An eight-episode series available Friday on Apple TV+

Still, Levy isn’t going to stray too far out of his comfort zone even when he’s out of his comfort zone, and the adventures will be mostly low-key. In Finland for the premiere episode, Levy goes ice fishing with a local and the local’s 6-year-old son, who keeps looking at Levy as if he’s landed from outer space. When Levy finally catches a small fish, his host says, “How do you feel now?” and Levy shrugs and deadpans, “I feel like I caught a fish.” HA.

At times the narration goes quite corny but feels earned, as when Levy says, “The truth is I’m still no fan of winter, but there’s a warmth to the Finnish people that I think may have rubbed off on me …”

The mild adventure theme continues through other episodes, with Levy often looking perplexed, bemused and mildly put out at the beginning of the adventure, but smiling in appreciation by the end of each trip. (His tour guides at each stop, as you’d expect, are lovely and friendly folks who are understandably proud of their respective homelands.)

When Levy is at an exclusive resort in the Maldives, he eschews water sports in favor of eating a cheeseburger at sunset, getting a massage and knocking some specially made biodegradable golf balls into the Indian Ocean. A trip to South Africa begins with Levy telling us, “Now I’m an animal lover, but anything that views me as lunch, I’d prefer to see from the safety of my couch.” Then we’re off to Kruger National Park, a huge game reserve covering some 8,000 square miles. “It’s like you took New Jersey and filled it with lions and hyenas,” says Levy. See what I meant about informative?!

With some nifty maps and graphics, plenty of slick editing, and those gorgeously photogenic locales (other stops include Venice, Costa Rica, Utah, Lisbon and Tokyo), “The Reluctant Traveler” wins us over on two levels: We get to see some beautiful, exotic, fascinating pockets of our wonderful world, and we get to spend some quality time with Eugene Levy.

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