There is something indescribable–and uniquely timely–about watching shows during quarantine for the mere sake of escapism. From the luxurious Parisian streets of Emily in Paris to the Regency era mansions of Bridgerton, this past year in television has been filled with irresistible settings. The plot, at times, is questionable, but that hardly detracts from the true purpose of watching them: to mentally run away to somewhere beyond the home’s walls. They’re guilty pleasures at their finest.
With that in mind, it’s easy to see how Men in Kilts: A Roadtrip With Sam and Graham is such a delightfully quirky show. Men in Kilts stars Outlander co-actors Sam Heaughan and Graham McTavish in a semi-scripted adventure across their homeland of Scotland. The duo spends each episode exploring a particular aspect of Scottish culture: the first two episodes focus on food, drinks, and sports. Although it’s a tad rough around the edges, Men in Kilts delivers a pleasant travel series with breathtaking views and charming hosts.
Despite the show’s attempt to create an illusion that Heaughan and McTavish are just two buddies on the road, Men in Kilts clearly spared no expense in its production. With all the drone shots and close-ups, the show puts in an earnest effort to capture all of Scotland, from the wide open fields to minuscule details of popular dishes. Heaughan and McTavish drive all around the country in their van, interviewing award-winning chefs, local fishermen, Highland Games champions, and renowned rugby players. Men in Kilts does the best that it can to cram Scotland’s rich, diverse culture into its 30-minutes-or-less episodes. It doesn’t always work: the numerous drone shots are tiring at times, and the interviews have to share the spotlight with scenes from Outlander. Still, it’s an admirable effort that the show purposefully focuses on both common and lesser-known sides of Scotland with equal enthusiasm.
The best parts of Men in Kilts, however, are undeniably Heaughan and McTavish—the two are phenomenal hosts. Their passion for Scottish culture is evident, but they also know how to have fun while sharing it with viewers. The narrations panning over open fields are done in the most dramatic voice possible. The show’s more scripted, knowledge-filled scenes are enhanced by the hosts’ witty jokes. Even the interviews have their own hilarious moments: on a visit to a distillery, the two dive onto a floor of barley and perform epic odes to worship it. It’s nice to learn about what makes Scottish alcohol so unique, but it’s even better to have a laugh at two grown men stopping their very professional interview to make snow (well, technically barley) angels.
Heaughan and McTavish also have great chemistry: Men in Kilts is, in part, a show about their friendship from years of working together. On their rides in-between locations, they get to chat more on the topics, look back at Outlander memories, and just goof around. Their interactions are enjoyable to witness, as the duo has a very interesting dynamic. Heaughan is the embodiment of chaotic energy, while McTavish is the reluctant friend who agrees to embark on the madness (hopefully from a safe distance and with a cup of tea). In the second episode, Heaughan proposes a twist to the sport-centered episode: the two will compete in all the sports discussed, and the loser will skinny-dip in the Atlantic Ocean. McTavish questions him as if it’s the most absurd thing he has ever heard, and Heaughan—a man with absolutely no fear or hesitation in his eyes—nods like he just suggested going to buy some groceries or do an average Wednesday chore. Whether it’s only for the purpose of the show or a reflection of their genuine relationship, this complementary-yet-chaotic pairing of personalities sets Heaughan and McTavish apart from the countless celebrity travel hosts before them.
As far as travel series goes, Men in Kilts is a surprisingly great addition to the genre. It might not break any conventions or reinvent concepts, but it excels in the formula it sticks to. Heaughan and McTavish have the time of their lives providing a brief, wholesome overview of Scotland, and viewers get to have fun vicariously through their shenanigans. Honestly, in a time of pandemic protocols and restricted travel, it doesn’t get much better than that.