TV review by
Emily Ashby, Common Sense Media
Backpackers TV Poster Image
Buddy comedy paints sexy picture of young adulthood.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

The show sends mixed messages through its characters' opposing personalities. Brandon's carefree attitude heavily sanitizes a lifestyle of casual sex and consequence-free mischief. Ryan looks for something more meaningful in a committed relationship, but he often falls victim to the lure of Brandon's fun. Their adventures also romanticize the concept of backpacking by downplaying the dangers (encountering assassins on a train, for instance) in favor of sexier prospects.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Brandon is out for fun, adventure, and all the casual encounters he can muster, even when it plays spoiler to his friend's efforts to locate his fiancée. Ryan succumbs to temptation at times but always returns to his love for Beth and his desire to marry her. The guys make some questionable decisions that rarely yield realistic trouble for them.  


Rarely some scenes show characters in danger, as when one is confronted by a woman with a gun. 


The quest for sex (and lots of it) is central to the story, although only one of the main characters actively embraces it. The act itself isn't seen, but there's plenty of kissing and other contact that suggests it's coming, and in some cases you hear moaning and other bedroom noises as it's going on. Women's bottoms and breasts are blurred when they're bared; in other cases, women are shown in bras and scanty bikinis. There's talk of lesbian sex and prostitution as well. 


"Dammit" and "sucks," plus name-calling such as "bastard," "idiot," and "jerk."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drinking (wine, beer, mixed drinks) is prominent in many gatherings of the young adult characters, and some parties get a little wild as a result. No one is shown visibly drunk, though. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Backpackers is a buddy comedy filled with one-night stands, hotel parties, and brief brushes with danger, all without consequences. A main character sets out to sleep with as many women as he can, though viewers only hear bedroom noises (moans, giggles, sighs) and see partially dressed women (breasts and bottoms are blurred) and men in towels. There's a lot of drinking and some brief hints about violence (a woman aims a gun at a man), all of which are funnier than they are worrisome. Expect some language ("dammit," "sucks," "bastard") as well.

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What's the story?

When his fiancée, Beth (Meghan Heffern), gets cold feet shortly before their wedding, Ryan (Noah Reid) reluctantly agrees to embark on separate European vacations so they can satisfy their wild sides before saying their vows. Joined by his carefree best friend, Brandon (Dillon Casey), Ryan sets out to backpack through France on a quest for adventure and the company of beautiful women. But no sooner do they set off than Ryan begins to regret his decision, and the two change course for Italy to track down his bride-to-be.

Is it any good?

BACKPACKERS is an intermittently funny buddy comedy that likens thumbing your way through Europe to a crazy Las Vegas-style party scene. With the inexhaustible supply of alcohol and willing female counterparts -- plus a crazy Aussie traveler, a fortuitous case of mistaken identity, and a few brushes with danger -- there's no shortage of things to do and see in these guys' version of adventure. Thanks to Brandon's prodding, Ryan gets to experience it all. Of course, that means so do teen viewers, and they'll take away a greatly sanitized and sexy impression of this type of rite of passage.

There are some hopeful glimmers in how the experience furthers Ryan's devotion to Beth and, at times, Brandon's willingness to indulge his friend's efforts to reunite with her, but most of the show sets out to glorify life without consequences. Because it's careful about obscuring nudity and limiting sexual content to suggestions and sounds, the show is passable for older teens, and it raises some issues about responsibility, healthy relationships, and life direction you can discuss with your kids. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the impression this show gives of young adulthood. Do any of the characters seem to have life figured out? What factors motivate them? Could any be considered role models because of their actions?  

  • Teens: Why is casual sex a popular plot point in comedies? Do shows like this one give an inaccurately positive view of this kind of behavior? How does this kind of content compare to what you see and hear among your peers regarding sex?

  • To what degree is peer pressure an issue for your teens? Is it something they've seen in action or felt themselves? Why is it hard to say no when everyone else is following the current of popular opinion?

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