Let me be gushingly frank. If you are anywhere other than the SyFy Channel on Wednesday nights, you’re missing one of the coolest shows on television: Destination Truth.
Oh, I know what you’re thinking. SyFy Channel! Sure, they have Battlestar Galactica and Doctor Who, but it’s really just the land of classic films such as Wyvern and Manticore and the unconfirmed Sharktopus. It’s the channel of camp, even if you are tempted by Ghost Hunters’ Halloween special.
Or maybe you’re secretly indulging in Ghost Hunters all the time. I know I am. It’s my one reality show pleasure.
At least it was. But I became so intrigued by Josh Gates’ enthusiastic SyFy spots that I gave in and watched Destination Truth. Forget Ghost Hunters. This is now my reality show addiction.
The concept is silly: Gates and his team go looking for monsters. It’s cryptozoology at it’s silliest as he and his team race around dangerous locations looking for evidence of yetis, giant serpents, giant squid, and werewolves. They break it up with forays into the paranormal, and do a bit of ghost hunting or sail around the Bermuda Triangle.
They inexplicably do all of this in the dark, regardless of what predators or poisonous creatures lurk in the underbrush, or whether they might drown or fall off a cliff. I fear every episode will be the last — not because SyFy might cancel it, but because this might be the one where Gates is torn apart by a lion.
But the fun of it is that Gates knows its silly. Unlike the increasingly humorless Ghost Hunters, Gates and his crew approach each adventure with their tongue firmly planted in their cheek. They don’t blow off the claims, and their actual investigations proceed with as much science and care as they can muster under their scary circumstances, but the overall spirit is one of pure enjoyment.
In the last season or two, Gates has really steered the show into more of a travelogue (his real passion), and Destination Truth is better for it. These are corners of the world you and I will probably never get to, and Gates takes a lot of joy in showing them to a wider audience. I don’t think he ever truly believes he’ll find a giant serpent, but he’s just as enthusiastic to show you a remote corner of Asia, Africa, or the Middle East.
It’s fascinating. It’s also terrifying. Gates doesn’t glamorize international travel — villages are out of bounds due to internal revolt, Ukrainian planes fall apart in take off, luggage is torn apart, and he’s usually forced to buy as much toilet paper he can carry.
The cast and crew is not shy about revealing when a local meal has found them praying for their own death in the bushes. The real truth at the heart of the show? Some things are not meant to go in your mouth:
But more than anything, Destination Truth is funny as hell. Gates has the kind of wit that is scarce in reality television, and his narration makes even the dullest monster hunt a riot. Even if you haven’t seen Truth, you may have seen Gates on something because SyFy, keenly aware of his charisma, often recruits him to liven up the Ghost Hunters live episodes. You can’t bank on ghosts, but you can bank on Gates to entertain the live studio audience.
It isn’t even just that he’s a funny guy. Gates is obviously the best kind of geek. He readily admitted he got into the adventure business due to a love of Indiana Jones — and all of us who sought history and archealogy degrees have to tip our replica fedoras to someone who actually found a way to make money at playing Indy. (You’re currently reading the words of someone who didn’t. Ha ha.)
His ability to reference pop culture and quote movie lines while spelunking after Mexico’s Alux makes him come off like a real world James “Sawyer” Ford. Only nicer. That’s the kind of movie geek you have to get behind, even if you don’t believe in aliens, Thunderbirds, or living dinosaurs.
The new episodes start today, March 17. They’re going to Ireland to find … leprechauns. Yep. It’s an hour of your life you won’t regret. Watch it, have a good laugh, and plan your next trip accordingly.