Last Night’s TV – Tropic of Cancer

One might, at first glance, have assumed this was yet another travelogue during which we get to see some lucky person being paid to travel some route or other and show us pretty places…

However, on further inspection, and as it was fronted by journalist Simon Reeve, it was actually a serious bit of journalistic endeavour that just happened to include some pretty places. It also included a lot that weren’t.

Simon is, justifiably, held in high regard by journo types since he was one of the first to truly understand and convey the danger that al-Qaeda posed to the world, and especially America.

He’s made a worthy niche for himself in the world of reporting on terrorism, so as soon as I saw his name attached to this show, I knew Judith Chalmers wouldn’t have touched it with a barge pole, therefore, it was sure to be a good watch. And I wasn’t disappointed.

Simon set out on his journey in Baja California where enormous wealth lives altogether too happily – for those who have the wealth that is – alongside poverty of equal but diametric proportions.

He toured a hotel where the word lavish was an inadequate adjective when describing the opulence he encountered there. And then he toured the shanty towns where the primarily Mexican hotel workers lived. Rarely has the phrase ‘how the other half live’ been so eloquently demonstrated.

But by far the most shocking and fascinating part of Simon’s trip in this first episode – for me at any rate – was when he visited the Mexican town of Culiacán. Here, Simon explained, drug, gun and gang violence is not just a way of life, it’s everything. Religion, work, play… everything.

He took us on a tour of a cemetery there where some of the mausoleums to the ‘fallen’ drug runners/dealers/cartel bosses were as big as houses. And what’s more, some had air-con and luxurious seating areas…

We heard that in this grotesque display of ill-gotten wealth – and extreme tastelessness – 90% of those entombed there were under the age of 30 when they died, and the majority of those died as a result of violence.

If you missed this first outing, you can catch it on BBC’s iPlayer here, and if you’re a fan of a travelogue, but also have an IQ bigger than your shoe size, you’ll enjoy Simon and his trip.

Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.