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The latest competition, however, comes from the same network. CNN debuted “The Wonder List” this Sunday with host Bill Weir leading viewers to destinations on the brink of what they described as unprecedented change.
As Weir describes it in the premiere, he is exploring destinations right before they change forever.
The first episode explored the archipelago of Vanuatu, 83 small islands located between Australia and Fiji. Air access is extremely limited and the islands and the islands’ inhabitants are vulnerable to rising sea levels and increased developer interest.
“I found the Garden of Eden right before they bite the apple,” Weir says early on.
The series will visit seven more locations including the Galapagos, the Dead Sea, the Alps, the Everglades, Venice, and Pench, India during its first run.
The format of each episode is similar to that of Bourdain’s shows with Weir meeting with locals, partaking in cultural activities, and bringing it all back to a central concept of development, change, or community.
This particular trip was inspired by international photographer Jimmy Nelson who spent years photographing exotic tribes. Some of his most famous photos, which are compiled in the book Before They Pass, are taken on the islands.
The duo hike a volcano together, recreate his famous shot taken on top of a mountain, and organize local tribes for more shoots. Weir also asks Nelson about the controversy surrounding his photos to which Nelson gives little credence.
Weir visits a local school where he describes the children as “shamans in training at a South Pacific Hogwarts” and questions whether they should be striving for a more modern education. He sleeps outdoors to fish with a local group and questions whether there’s something more they should be aching for.
Weir, on the whole, is a tamer version of Bourdain who touches on less controversial issues, talks a lot about beer but doesn’t indulge on the show, and politely covers his mouth when spitting kava cud in a large group.
He is intent on driving his narrative about a land on the brink of change and a people torn between tradition and modernity but doesn’t let people on the ground do enough of the talking. In an attempt to add humor, he compares the way of life on the islands to his own with iPads and fridges full of beer.
He unfortunately comes off as more self-obsessed than observant.