Race Across The World, BBC Two, Sunday

On top of existing concerns about the effect of flying on climate change we now have coronavirus sweeping our inter-connected planet, which means it’s easier than ever to view 2020 as the beginning of the end for the age of frivolous travel. Against that background, the Beeb launches series two of Race Across The World, a sort of Wacky Races for backpackers.

The competitors have to travel thousands of kilometres without recourse to flying – that’s sort of the point – and the worst the natural world threw at them in episode one was Tropical Storm Karen. But it was still a frivolous exercise, essentially. To my mind there’s a question of taste too: the five competing couples are given a budget of £26 a day, deprived of their smartphones and credit cards and challenged to find their way from Mexico City to Ushuaia, 25,000 kilometre away at the southern tip of Argentina. Did they pass queues of refugees at the Mexico-Guatemala border, many of whom would have loved to have had a daily wage of £26? No, but the point remains.

Perhaps I’m being overly gloomy and unnecessarily po-faced. Optics aside, it’s true there was meat enough here to make an enjoyable meal. The show certainly threw up some interesting questions about what sort of teams work best together – do relatives or siblings have a better chance than couples? Does a same-gender team have an advantage? Why is it that it’s often the women who stand out? – and the drip-feeding of information about the team members and their relationships slowly increased the human drama. Take Michael and Shuntelle, for instance, who met on Tinder but were otherwise unalike in every way imaginable. He was ex-army and loved to sleep outdoors, she hadn’t been on bus in a decade and wouldn’t even contemplate sleeping in a communal dorm. Then there was Lizzie and Dom, bickering siblings from Yorkshire, and uncle-nephew team Emon and Jamiul, recently reunited after what was described as “a family estrangement”. You wouldn’t have thought it to look at him but Jamiul had climbed Everest (“It’s not as tough as people make out”) as well as Kilimanjaro and Mont Blanc.

Stars of the show so far, though, were Jen, travelling with deaf husband Rob, and 50something Scot Jo, travelling with ADHD-suffering son Sam. Likeable Jen is the show’s comedy turn (catchphrase: “Oh, my days) while the indomitable Jo, who suffers from Type 1 diabetes and has to keep stopping for insulin shots, is the trooper. Root for them, if you root for anyone.