What if The Amazing Race met board games and the geography-nerd side of YouTube? The result would probably be Jet Lag: The Game, the new online series created by Sam Denby, Adam Chase, and Ben Doyle. Denby is known for creating and voicing the educational channel Wendover Productions, which has amassed over 3.7 million subscribers. As of Dec. 29, the Jet Lag channel has reached over 394 thousand subscribers and has become an internet sensation.
Each season of the show brings a new gamemode and features new challenges for players to tackle across the globe. In the first season, which was uploaded in three episodes from May to June 2022, Denby teams up with Brian McManus of Ireland, creator of the Real Engineering YouTube channel, and faces off against Chase and Doyle. The game? Connect Four, but with US states. In order to win, a team needs to complete challenges—drawn from a deck of cards—in the state capitals. Among many others, challenges include catching three local bugs, getting drunk on a local liquor, and bowling a strike at a local bowling alley.
Season 2’s theme is circumnavigation—traveling around the entire globe in 100 hours. Denby once again faces the duo of Chase and Doyle, this time teamed with Joseph Pisenti of the channel RealLifeLore. For these four travel experts, it would seem that circumnavigating the planet would be easier than any of the tasks in the card deck. However, the catch is that they must earn their travel budget by completing challenges in different cities.
In season 3, tag is the name of the game—a 72-hour game of tag spanning the European continent, to be precise. Denby, Chase, and Doyle each have a designated goal city at the edge of a circle drawn to encompass much of France, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, and a few other countries. Two players act as chasers while the third runs. Once the runner is caught, they become a hunter, and the roles rotate until the end of the three-day period. The winner is determined by which of the three cities is closest to the final runner. The challenge cards are used again as currency for travel expenses. A variety of hilarious and unexpected moments abound in this season, including the players getting recognized by author John Green—an apparent fan of the show and potential future contestant—in the streets of Paris.
The goal of season 4 is to visit the most US states in five days. Once again, the two teams are Denby and McManus versus Chase and Doyle. In order to claim a state, teams must complete a challenge from the deck, but this time, they are dealt a hand at the beginning of the game, so they can strategically choose which states to visit based on the cards they have. If you want to see intense strategizing alongside spending $100 at Buc-ee’s and counting birds in Boston, this is the show for you.
One of Denby’s major concerns when creating the show was its environmental impact. In an interview with The Globe and Mail which also features The Amazing Race host Phil Keoghan, Denby stated, “We knew from the get go that we would get some criticism for what is clearly somewhat frivolous travel.” To counter their impact, Denby and his team estimates their emissions for each leg of air travel, multiples it by 10, and donates to carbon offsetting programs, including the Gold Standard (goldstandard.org), a platform co-founded by the World Wildlife Fund.
Jet Lag is changing the YouTube game. Social media has been abuzz with fans stating how much they are enjoying the videos, often expressing appreciation for the original concepts and consistent new twists. Denby and his team have shown that young people can create entertaining, engaging, and educational content with just as high of a production value as reality TV, and perhaps do it even better.