When Sam Heughan and Graham McTavish starred together in Outlander, they both must have come away from the experience with a strong desire for adventure and to explore their homeland of Scotland. So they set out in a van — and it looks like on pretty much every other vehicle they can find — with a film crew to make that exploration. Men In Kilts: A Roadtrip With Sam And Graham is the result.
Opening Shot: Scenes from Scotland. “Scotland,” says the voice of Sam Heughan. “It’s an ancient land with incredible history and tradition.”
The Gist: Over 8 episodes, the buddies explore the highlands, islands, cities and natural wonders of Scotland. One thing they know, though, is that the Scots are some of the warmest, most accommodating people on the planet. Their journeys are split into categories, with the first episode exploring the region’s well-known food and drink.
While the national dish, haggis, is well-known, Scottish cuisine goes well beyond that organ meat dish, and the pair prove it by going to Tom Kitchin’s Michelin star-winning restaurant in Edinburgh. The meal that Kitchin serves is so great, McTavish says the next day that “my taste buds are still dancing.”
The two then go to a shore town in Fife and take a commercial fishing boat out to catch langoustines and lobsters, most of which will be exported. But the ones they keep will be cooked by celebrity chef Tony Singh. They then go to Islay, a tiny island with ten whisky distilleries; they not only get to slide through the massive room where barley is dried, but they get to dig some peat, which is the fuel that is used for the furnaces that dry the barley and give it its deep flavor.
Our Take:Men In Kilts: A Roadtrip With Sam and Graham doesn’t feel a whole lot different than many of the roadtrip shows we’ve seen in the past decade. The celebrity roadtrippers are shot while driving in their RV or van, bantering about where they’ve been and where they’re going. Then they have experiences alongside experts or people who work at the places they’re going. Some of the banter is semi-scripted, some seems like it’s been through multiple takes.
So what the success of a roadtrip show comes down to is the relatability of the hosts and how well they get on together. And, from the looks of things, Heughan and McTavish have become good buddies during their years on Outlander, and they are both excited to get to know their homeland in a different way. It’s apparent in how they goof with each other in the van and especially in the locales where they’re having these experiences.
It’s especially funny on the fishing boat when they come across some weird thing (was it a fish? Something else?) in the catch and Sam tries to pawn it off on Graham. You can just see the hours between on location Outlander takes where the two of them are just being silly with each other.
Our guess is that, because the show is on Starz, the desire to add scenes from Outlander is a strong one. We were distracted by those scenes, and don’t think they need to explain too much that these guys are on a popular show that takes place in and is shot in Scotland. The friendship between the two of them, and the amazing scenery, is more than enough.
Sex and Skin: None.
Parting Shot: As the credits roll, Sam asks Graham if he’s a “true Scotsman.” Graham replies that they’ll be “Men In Kilts, and Men In Little Else.”
Sleeper Star: The Scottish scenery. We’ve been to the region (a long time ago), and remember how beautiful things were in the highlands, especially on the isles in the region. Shows like Men In Kilts make us want to go back.
Most Pilot-y Line: There seemed to be a lot of scenes of Sam and Graham shoveling peat. We get it; the top layer of peat has different properties than lower layers, and gives different flavors. But there’s only so much peat shoveling you can see without getting bored.
Our Call: STREAM IT. We liked Men In Kilts: A Roadtrip with Sam and Graham because Heughan and McTavish aren’t trying to be brotastic or outshine each other. They’re two buddies on a roadtrip — albeit a bit of an overscripted one — and that comes across well on the show.
Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, RollingStone.com, VanityFair.com, Fast Company and elsewhere.