"Dhani Tackles the Globe" features Cincinnati Bengals football star Dhani Jones going across the globe and visiting a different culture in each episode. While having an NFL player being the host of a Travel Channel show is not an obvious match at first, but after the opening credit discussion, it makes perfect sense.
The series is a variation on the Travel Channel formula - while "Bizarre Foods" host Andrew Zimmern talks about how the best way to learn about other cultures is to experience their food, Jones discusses how the best way to learn about other cultures is to experience their games. In other words, this is sort of "Bizarre Games", although "Dhani Tackles the World" is a better title.
The series is a pleasant surprise; Jones is a jazzy, loose host who doesn't have any trouble riffing off the situations that he finds himself in, starting with a trip to England to participate in a traditional Rugby match - a brutal sport that leaves the pro footballer worn. The players don't take it easy on the NFL star (which seems to be a running theme of the series - none of the people Jones meets when learning about various sports around the world seem to take it easy on him) and Jones does a nice job being a good sport about it.
A couple of episodes later, Jones finds himself in Thailand, and while this is an enjoyable episode overall, one of the more remarkable moments sees the NFL player playing soccer against an elephant. After a little elephant proves surprisingly skilled moving the ball around, another picks it up with his trunk and then punts the ball - and a surprisingly good, clean punt, too - a distance that looks like a couple of football fields. Seriously, there's a few NFL teams that won't be named that could use that elephant right now.
Learning about cultures by learning about the games they play is certainly true when it comes to the Switzerland episode, where Jones learns about a sport played in the Swiss Alps called schwingen (if "Wayne's World" was still around... "Schwing...En!") Schwingen is a hybrid form of wrestling that takes place on sawdust pits. We are told that the recent local champion of the sport got a really nice cow as a prize. It's a little surprising to see the intensity of the sport, as the Swiss always seemed so mellow. Another highlight is the visit to Spain, where Dhani tackles the intense, incredibly fast-paced game of Jai Alai.
Finally, also well worth watching is the New Zealand episode, which focuses on sailing. Not casual sailing, mind you, but seriously intense, highly competitive sailing and the force-of-nature level work that is required to power a sailboat with the pros. In-between sport sequences, the series does provide some glimpses of the area and discussion of the culture.
Slickly filmed and snappily edited, "Dhani Tackles the Globe" is a great surprise, and a very nice addition to the Travel Channel lineup. Beyond anything else though, Jones provides a solid anchor for the series - genuinely funny and a good sport in any situation, he leads this entertaining travel series well.
Episodes: Thailand, Switzerland, England, Spain, Ireland, Australia, Cambodia, New Zealand and Russia.
VIDEO: "Dhani Tackles the Globe" is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen by Image Entertainment. The episodes looked largely terrific, matching the quality of digital cable. Sharpness and detail were above-average throughout much of the running time, although a few scenes could look a tad softer. Aside from a few minor instances of pixelation, the picture looked crisp and clean, with bright, well-saturated colors.
SOUND: The show's stereo soundtrack remained crisp and clear throughout the proceedings, with clean, well-recorded dialogue and ambience.
EXTRAS: Deleted scenes are offered for all episodes and we also get "Bumps and Bruises" featurettes, which are sort highlight reels for each episode.
Final Thoughts: "Dhani Tackles the Globe" is consistently entertaining, lead by a terrific host in Jones. The DVD set provides fine audio/video quality, as well as a few minor extras. Recommended.