Arts & Entertainment
3 min

When Spartacus doesn’t cut it

The pilot episode for The Great Travel Challenge touches down in London

Nicolas Kazamia and Trevor Boris host The Great Canadian Travel Challenge. Credit: Screen shot
Trevor Boris loves to live lavishly. Nic Kazamia prefers life on the edge. It’s a travel competition that takes you around the world with two completely opposite hosts. Come along for the ride! Follow us on twitter #travelchallenge & vote on facebook (http://www.facebook.com/TheGreatTravelChallenge)

It’s posh versus grunge. It’s the underground Tube or the Queen’s carriage. It’s homo against homo, and it’s coming soon to a TV near you. At first glance, The Great Travel Challenge may seem like just another reality TV concept, featuring exciting destinations, engaging hosts and a slick production style that fits in perfectly with others of its ilk. But less than five minutes in, it becomes abundantly clear that this is not your average broadcast aimed at Middle America.

For one thing it’s hosted by two men. Two gay men. Two obviously, outrageously, deliciously gay men. In fact, The Great Travel Challenge’s greatest strength is most definitely found in its hosts, Nicolas Kazamia and Trevor Boris, two diametrically opposed archetypes of the gay male species. 

Boris is already a known television personality, with appearances on Big Brother Canada, Last Comic Standing and Great Canadian Laugh Off. He’s also been featured numerous times on eTalk Daily and Inside Jam, where his hilarious blend of cutting observations and unstudied insouciance make for some damn funny TV.

His foil in this latest project is the wonderfully wry and sardonic Kazamia, a newcomer to broadcast media. Kazamia is the perfect contrast to Boris’s choirboy looks and urban gay sensibility. He’s brusque and a little scruffy in that sexy hipster way, with a dry wit delivered in unimpressed monotone. When the two clash — and they do, frequently — it’s a glorious orgy of thrust, parry and quip as they explore London, England, in the pilot episode.

“The interplay between them is fun,” says David Walberg, who created the show with Pink Triangle Press compadre Frank Prendergast (Pink Triangle Press is Xtra’s publiser). “Nic can be the stereotypical hipster in some ways, while Trevor comes off as this shameless but hapless Royal chaser.”

The lighthearted, catty swordplay between the two is played up for laughs, but it also offers the viewer a unique chance to see very different sides of a tourist destination. While Boris is off getting etiquette lessons from politeness maven Jean Broke-Smith or enquiring about Prince William’s inseam from the Royal Family’s bespoke tailor, Kazamia explores the seedier side of London’s arts scene, complete with performance art, pub crawls and cutting-edge fashion.

“I think it hits on a number of levels,” Walberg says. “Everybody wants their travel experience to be the most authentic, depending on their own tastes, and we’re offering a glimpse of that. But this also appeals to the armchair travellers who love travel porn.”

The idea for a divergent travelogue came courtesy of Prendergast, inspired by a trip to Paris. “I was sitting in a café in Versailles, looking at the concept of high end and low end,” he says. “You often have two people travelling together, with one person wanting to do one thing and the other wants to do something else.  So we send Trevor to have high tea, while Nick goes to the East End where it’s more hip and happening.”

One of Prendergast and Walberg’s main tenets for their show is the inclusion of social media in reaching out to the TV audience. Viewers can log on to the show’s Facebook page or Twitter account to opine on which host’s version of London is more palatable to them. This competitive edge creates a nice sense of frisson between the two experiences and makes the whole production quite inclusive of its public.

For now, The Great Travel Challenge is still in the pilot stage, airing in March on OUTtv, Canada’s only LGBT network. But with any luck, we’ll be seeing the boys venture forth to new exotic locales in future episodes — that is, if each survives the other’s company. I’m astonished blood wasn’t drawn during the closing credits, when Boris poked fun at his companion’s lowbrow tastes, pointing out that Kazamia likely wouldn’t have been welcome at some of the more posh establishments.

Nic’s deadpan response: “You’re right, because I was too busy having fun with real people.”

Ouch. I can’t wait to see where they go from here.