Travel show host will find new ‘Places to Love’ for PBS
By BETH J. HARPAZ
AP Travel Editor
You may know Samantha Brown from her years as a Travel Channel host for shows such as “Great Hotels,” “Green Getaways” and the “Passport” series about Latin America, China and Europe, among others.
She’s back with a new series on PBS called “Places to Love,” launching Saturday with 13 weekly episodes through March (1:30 p.m., WQED).
“‘Places to Love’ is about finding the experiences, the destinations, but, most importantly, the people who really make us feel like we’re part of a place,” Brown said in an interview for the AP Travel podcast “Get Outta Here!”
Destinations featured on the show range from Shanghai to places Brown says you might not think of going “but should,” such as Huntsville, Ala., nicknamed Rocket City for its work with NASA and the space industry.
Brown talked about the show’s philosophy, some individual episodes and the challenges of succeeding as a woman on television. Here are some excerpts.
THE FLOWERS OF TEXAS HILL COUNTRY
“When you are producing a show totally based on flowers being in bloom, it is a nail-biter. We were getting reports, updates – we had our flower-watchers. I was following bloggers and Instagram. ... I mean, we had a plan B, but luckily they were in bloom and we saw the Texas bluebonnets in all their glory.”
TRIPS ANYONE CAN DO
“‘Places to Love’ is all about what you can do. I am not having any experiences that you cannot have. None of my experiences are VIP, are exclusive, are created for the camera, which I used to do a lot in my past days. ... Everything I do, you can do. Just about everybody I meet are people you can meet.”
CHALLENGES FOR WOMEN ON TV
“Even if the men’s ratings are low for a time, they will let that male host have that show for much longer so they can slowly gain those ratings to the point where they do have a successful show. Women are not given that chance. That, to me, was a huge frustration. ... It’s just sort of the male-driven kind of world that men have adventures and women really don’t. And so of course I don’t believe in that, but there’s a perception there. ... I wish it would change, and the way I changed it was I decided to produce and fund my own show.”
“There was nothing like getting up at three o’clock in the morning and our parents piling us in the Pontiac station wagon with the dog, with our baloney sandwiches and making the 10-hour trip [to visit relatives in Pennsylvania]. I loved it. Or to Canada. That was our big trip because we were from New Hampshire, so we could go there. But that’s what I brought to my experience when I first started at the Travel Channel: There is this idea that travel is a privilege and you have to be privileged not only with money to travel, but time and, most importantly, confidence. I think it takes a lot of confidence to get on a plane and go somewhere else, especially to a foreign land. And so I always wanted to be that person who could connect that experience with the person sitting on the couch. If I can do it, you can do it.”
“I would say my most-powerful memory I have is our first show, which we taped in Houston, Texas. There was something about starting the day: I’ve got a cameraman, I’ve got a camerawoman, I’ve got a producer, a director and, of course, the fixer, and I realize this is all because of our hard work, and we did it. Two years before, people said there’s no way you’re going to raise the money to make a travel show, and yet here I was. We were in this wonderful city, Houston, which I totally fell in love with. It’s the most culturally diverse city in the U.S. ... We shot that before the flood, about five months before [Hurricane] Harvey came. It will be the first show to air on your PBS stations because we feel so strongly about it, that this city came back from a historically bad flood. It’s because of the people.”