With Worlds Apart
, National Geographic Channel puts its own spin on the reality programming sweeping the networks — think one part CBS's Survivor
mixed with several parts PBS's Frontier House.
Worlds Apart is quite a departure from Nat Geo's usual nature documentaries. The show sends an average American family halfway around the globe to try and adapt to a tribal family's way of life.
In the first episode, the Russells from Birmingham, Ala., move in with the Bawas of Longo, Ghana. After a day or two of adapting to the much-poorer lifestyle, the Russells slip into their new roles relatively easily, though daughter Alex has a bit more trouble than her brother and parents. By the end of their stay, the two families have formed a deep bond.
In the second episode, the Thurmans from Oakton, Va., travel to the Trobriand Islands off of Papua New Guinea to stay with the Tobwenina family. The Thurmans' trip does not go quite as smoothly as the Russells', as they struggle to adapt to the traditional South Pacific Islander roles.
is both educational and entertaining. Viewers learn about the differences between those tribes and the American way of life, notably gender roles. In both Ghana and Papua New Guinea, women's days are filled with hard work, from planting and food preparation to cleaning. Men have it easier, tending to livestock or hunting. Thus, it's not surprising that the daughters have the toughest time making the transition (though Mrs. Thurman is clearly not having much fun either).
There is also a huge gap in the quality of life. The tribal families lack material wealth, living by subsistence farming — growing what they eat. The upper-middle-class Americans are shocked by the accommodations: Often one room, which means bathroom facilities are not enclosed at all.
The show has faults. Some things are not explained clearly enough, but then again, viewers will most readily identify with the fish-out-of-water U.S. families. And the time spent with the tribal families goes by too fast.
Overall, Worlds Apart
is an eye-opening reminder of how well we live in the United States.
The 13-part series Worlds Apart
debuts Oct. 6 at 8 p.m. ET on NGC.