With the advent of user reviews on sites like Yelp and Travel Advisor, it feels like the travel guide has become somewhat outdated. Who needs one of those big, cumbersome volumes while you’re on the other side of the world when you have a phone that puts all the travel guiding you need at your fingertips? So I always find it interesting when a writer tries to reinvent something that once dominated culture and make it relevant to a new generation. How can you make a travel guide fun in a way that makes it interesting to young people? Merge the very concept with something that has become a key part of modern culture: binge watching.
Marion Miclet merges her passions for travel and television in a clever series of books that blend the two. In Binge Watching New York and Binge Watching London, both available now, Miclet uses modern television programs that were set in each city to offer readers a unique way to experience them. Sometimes it’s incredibly loyal to the shows—offering ways to find literal places that were featured on hit programs—but Miclet allows herself to use general settings as much as actual physical locations. For example, when the guide gets to a show like “Billions,” it both advises readers to check out a specific park (Bowling Green) that was featured in the second episode, but also tells people how to find the Museum of American Finance so as to better understand the jargon of the Showtime hit. These choices—blending locations used as sets with places that the characters might go between episodes—are consistently clever, as is Miclet’s joyous approach to her subjects.
If you’re wondering what shows are covered, Binging New York features “Friends,” “Sex and the City,” “Seinfeld,” “Girls” and “Mad Men” on its cover; Binging London includes “The Crown,” “Doctor Who,” “Absolutely Fabulous,” “Sherlock,” “Ripper Street” and, of course, “Downton Abbey.” If you’re raising your hand to point out that a lot of shows set in NY and London, including hits like “Friends,” were mostly shot on sets in other cities, Miclet addresses this point, again sometimes extrapolating to places that it feels like Ross and Rachel would hang out more than actual sets. It’s more about recreating the vibe of a show like “Sex and the City” than doing a literal walking tour of its filming locations.
And Miclet goes deep, mentioning dozens of shows and not just sticking to the household names. The London volume, in particular, using a great deal of programs that may not be familiar to U.S. audiences. In that aspect, the books become television guides as much as travel ones, introducing fans of cities to programs that use them well. Overall, this series (and Los Angeles and New Orleans are planned to follow) is a unique way to blend two things that nearly everyone loves: travel and television. Maybe all that time you spent on the couch can actually make the world more interesting when you get off it.