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'Rough Guide' on the BBC

‘Rough Guide’ on the BBC — The hip new travel show puts a fresh spin on a old genre

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If the words travel show usually inspire you to nothing more than a trip to the fridge, try tuning in to Rough Guide, the BBC’s appealingly eccentric, fast-paced twist on the genre. Don’t be turned off by the hosts: ultra-hip Magenta DeVine (a Chrissie Hynde look-alike who is never caught sans shades — ”I can’t be bothered to spend hours on my appearance,” she maintains) and British schoolboy Rajan Datar (who will be replaced by English soap superstud Simon O’Brien next year). Think of them as the cool youth hostel regulars you envied because they were always uncovering the most exciting, offbeat sights and adventures.

You won’t visit the Golden Gate Bridge or the Space Needle in this week’s episode on San Francisco and Seattle. Instead, the show highlights San Fran’s witchcraft shops and gay pride parade, and Seattle’s logging industry. (We’ll overlook the cheesy segment on ”grunge music.”) As Datar and DeVine lead alternate segments on their TV tour, they avoid succumbing to annoying, Julie McCoyish chipperness. Visibly exasperated by the vast selection in Seattle’s coffee shops, DeVine declares, ”I think I’ll have tea.”

Next season’s Rough Guide will venture from the Americas (this year’s theme) to Prague, Kenya, and Venice. ”People have lives now-it’s not like you hit 30 with a mortgage and it’s over,” says DeVine. ”Anyway,” she adds with endearing British sniffiness, ”it’s the only show Americans have that takes a fresher attitude while dealing with anything at all interesting.”