Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Getting Up To Speed

By Megan Geilman

I was dubious at the very underwhelming thumbnails of what seemed to be a show about a British man talking about different American cities. Then I got an email from Hulu urging me to watch their original series “Up to Speed” and was slightly more intrigued because the British man was in a photo wearing a jacket with epaulets and the body of the email boasted: “an offbeat historical travel show chronicling America’s monumentally ignored monuments.”

Still I didn’t watch. Then one night I did…and I was in for quite a few surprises. First, the man isn’t British, just ugly. He also has a very unattractive voice, which is slightly jarring if not refreshing. He looks and sounds like a combination of Ed Wynn and my 5th grade music teacher who spit a lot when she talked, And he dresses weird. And talks to some of the monuments. And some of them talk back. If you can get past all this, and I hope you can, this is probably one of the most fascinating non-fiction shows I have ever watched, if not the most fascinating.

The writing is so fantastically stimulating and the historical facts are so underground and interesting and his philosophies about life and travel are original enough that I just could not put my iPhone down. As a lover of travel, and one who has visited all of the places he’s been so far—I could not believe I had never even HEARD of a SINGLE thing he talked about. If you are looking for fascinating dinner conversation…This. Is. It.

For example, on his tour of New York, he explains: “New York City is a jazz-bepop-conversationalist of a metropolis, and the best way to converse with it is by concentration on its randomness, and foregoing any notion of a route. As we stroll the streets of New York now, for best results, maintain a continuing state of un-aiming yourself…Those of us enjoying our time within city limits, are the healthy associates of chaos. So, let arbitrary be our co-pilot, and purposelessness our destination.” He uses words like “synchronicity” and encourages us to “connoisseur the honks of the city.” It’s Shakespeare from a Clown! The animation keeps things rolling so it never seems too pedantic, and really—I cannot emphasize the writing enough.

I don’t know if it’s specifically the writing or the fascination fir historical facts he shares, but this show has incredible recall power. While visiting New York City this weekend to see a friend, I was able to retell almost the entire episode as we strolled the streets of The Big Apple—including why it is called The Big Apple. May you never have a dull conversation again...

Megan Geilman has had an on-again-off-again relationship with television since she was young and her parents occasionally let her stay up to watch Star Trek and X-Files. She lives in a small artsy borough just outside Philadelphia, PA with her husband and unborn child. She is in the painfully slow process of getting her interior design business off the ground, but also does graphic design, if you're into that. She blogs at and

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