Unplanned America’s premise is reality TV distilled to its most basic elements. Three Australian friends set out on a cross-country US road trip with nothing but a camera and a desire to explore America’s cultural underbelly. From the get-go, the show has everything that one wants from mindless entertainment: foreign takes on local culture, sensationalism, and a visual style that, despite our rational faculties, still makes us think we’re watching objective reporting.
Yet Unplanned America offers something else as well. The show bills itself as a “gonzo television documentary”, drawing on the memory of gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, who thought the best kind of reporting was the kind that found the reporter right in the action, partaking of the local flavor. While the show has definite appeal for the casual TV viewer unfamiliar with Thompson or his “buy the ticket, take the ride” philosophy, the subcultures it focuses on are definitely chosen with a literary audience in mind.