Not sure if you should binge Men in Kilts on STARZ? We’ve got 10 reasons why you should absolutely take the leap.
Suffering from COVID fatigue or perhaps you’re back lockdown? No vaccine yet? Droughtlander doldrums?
Dinna fash! Sam Heughan and Graham McTavish are here for you with a truly magical and authentic kilty pleasure. Like one of Scotland’s cascading waterfalls, this dynamic duo showers you with history, culture and all sorts of deliciousness as they eat, drink, sing and dance their way across Scotland on a wee Corona road trip in the STARZ Men in Kilts: A Roadtrip with Sam and Graham eight-episode series.
If you’re on the fence about committing the four hours, I’ve sorted the top 10 reasons you’ll want to watch (and rewatch…) Men in Kilts (MIK). There’s truly something for everyone – history buffs, foodies and, of course, fans of another STARZ gem, Outlander, based on the beloved book series by author Diana Gabaldon.
If you’ve already seen it, shall we compare our rankings? No doubt you have your own top 10, or 20 or 100 reasons and have already watched again and again and again such as Sam “winding up” Graham in every single episode, some truly awkward hugs, and the humorous interplay between the two and their kind-spirited guests. Yes, there are so_many_reasons to watch MIK. Here are my top 10.
Reason 10: Press
This series had some serious press. Leading up to the Valentine’s Day debut, there was a yule log video (you have to watch the entire video to see the good bits), numerous interviews, electronic Valentines to send to your palentine (or yourself), pocket-sized Sams and Grahams to print and a pre-show cooking segment with Tony Singh. As she shared on Twitter, Diana Gabaldon was prepared to follow along!
The interviews continued up to the finale and in each one the stars share interesting behind-the-scenes tidbits and historical information. There’s enough material for a lengthy online MIK Scavenger Hunt.
Reason 9: Guest Stars
The MIK stars drive, fly, bike and boat on an epic road trip across Scotland. Along the way, they meet a variety of guests who bring a figurative and literal deliciousness to each episode.
Situation dependent, the guest reactions to Sam and Graham range from genuine to incredulous. Be prepared for one-liners that bring belly laughs, like the “Christ above!” issued with a chuckle by crofter MacLeod in response to the Dynamic Duo’s sheep herding attempt.
Scotland’s varied larder plays a pivotal role in the series. From the Charisma fishing boat Captain Kirk’s seeming inability to believe his eyes as they sorted the catch of the day to Tom Kitchin’s scallops baked in shell and the willingness of Tony Singh to be summoned as needed by a Batman-like Langoustine signal in the night sky, we see extremely good sports indulging and feeding the duo.
Other guests provide looks into Scotland’s history, traditions and culture. Sam of course had to visit the home of the Fraser family, Beaufort Castle, where Sarah Fraser shared the family’s story, including their rivalries with the Mackenzies and the Atholl Murrays.
With the MacLeod crofters sheep-shearing demonstration, Prickly Thistle weaving mill co-owner Clare Campbell’s tour and the Badenoch Waulking Group wool-waulking songs, we see how a sheep’s wool coat is transformed to cloth. Not your standard cloth, no, but the world-famous waterproof and windproof tweed of Scotland.
A visit to the Laphroaig Distillery gives Sam and Graham the opportunity to see the distilling process from beginning to end, starting with the art of manual peat harvesting and ending with tasting a 25-year-old cast-strength Laphroaig. Before leaving Sam and Graham to earn that special dram by harvesting a bit of peat, the distillers part with the delightful “We’ll leave youse to cut…” phrase as they head back for their own dram.
As expected, a few Outlander cast members make an appearance. Notorious hugger Gary Lewis who played the MacKenzie Clan Chief, Colum, rowed in and picked up Sam and Graham for a chat and a boat ride on Loch Ness. Gaelic teacher, composer and singer Gillebride MacMillan who played Gwyllyn the Bard in Season 1, Episode 3 “The Way Out” dropped by the campsite to share a song.
Notably missing was Duncan Lacroix who was mentioned numerous times in Clanlands, the book Sam and Graham wrote about their road trip. Fingers crossed we’ll get a Series 2 and see him there!
Reason 8: Music and Poetry
Pipes and drums and traditional Scottish music are featured in the show, of course, as are well-known Scottish poems. Don’t let the pipes scare you off, though, if you’re not a fan.
There are many types of music woven through the series using various instruments – trombones, flutes, guitar, banjo and fiddle to name only a few. Here’s a taste…
A Google search yielded one possible identified tune but what we really need is a playlist. Make that a playlist and a soundtrack as any moment where the stars recite or sing is golden.
Reason 7: Wardrobe
Obviously, kilts featured heavily in the series wardrobe selections – many normal-sized, airy kilts. That’s many, not “tiny tartan mini-skirts” as suggested by Graham. From casual to formal, they are sprinkled in throughout the series.
Graham showcased quite a nice selection of neck scarves. Black tees, leather and tweed jackets, jeans, suspenders and turtleneck jumpers also make notable appearances. Well done!
Reason 6: Production
For a series quickly put together, they deserve another well-done for the high production value. From those cute graphic sketches to the castles and car parks, the scene staging and the expertly woven in Outlander scenes, all were top notch.
Reason 5: Props
Great props are sprinkled through the series – a Brown Bess here, a sword there, a dirk, a feast, all fit for the King of Men. Then there were the lovely woven baskets and the yardsticks and gigantic scissors used in kilt making by Stewart Christie.
The ultimate road trip van they dubbed Bog Myrtle was also an excellent prop in and of itself. Add that Scottish flag hanging behind Sam’s head and it can’t get any better, can it?
The very best prop, however, has to be Sam’s midge head net, a simple but effective solution to being swarmed. Sam could probably “net” sizeable donations to a worthy cause by auctioning it off. No photo with the net was available but here you can see how those wee midgies definitely preferred hanging with Sam, likely due to his Hero by Heughan scent.
Reason 4: Dialogue
For the most part, Men in Kilts was G-rated. But, oh my, the double entendre and cheeky banter not necessarily suitable for children — things hanging off body parts and horns and “that’s what she said” — are all absolutely delightful.
And like the singing and reciting, any scene in which Sam or Graham said the word, “Scotland,” is worth multiple rewatches. Their boyish back and forth, Sam’s chirpiness and his relentless poking at Graham were so enjoyable.
Reason 3: Spontaneous Moments
Obviously the series has staged moments, both serious and humorous. Some conversations and events, however, could only have arisen from Sam and Graham taking this trip together. They deserve their own list:
5- Atlantic skinny dipping (well, maybe it was a bit staged)
4- Sporty-Man Sam’s trips and spills
3- Laphroaig malting room barley angels
2- Graham’s R-rated abseiling reaction
1-Spontaneous sheep leaps (clearly Sam’s spirit animal)
Reason 2: Improv and Impersonations
The varied skills of our talented MIK stars were on full display throughout the series. As already noted, the dialogue was delightful and they take it up a notch with their impressive improvisation that keeps you in stitches.
As an Alabama USA native, I found myself ROFL at Graham’s Southern accent. Then there was their Cockney bit as Sam tried to get Bog Myrtle back into traffic.
Sam brought up the obligatory question, with an appropriate rolling of his r’s, “Are you a true Scotsman?” That led to an entire discussion of kilts in a full-on, exaggerated Scottish accent.
Other gems included their impersonation of Scottish luggage handlers and of the Flintstones — “Okay, Barney,” and “Willlmaaa.” But the top moment for me was Sam’s haggis call and the entire live haggis conversation. You have to watch for this scene if nothing else!
Reason 1: All Things Scotland
No surprise that the true star of the Men in Kilts series is actually Scotland. The cities and villages, the munros and majestic green glens (from which Sam drew his company’s name – “Great Glen”), the islands, ferries, lochs, “still” ponds and stormy seas, all that delicious food highlighted in the series, basically every scene makes you yearn to get there, straight away.
And there are the lush golf courses across the country and the green fields for the Highland Games that originated there. With their events that test strength and skill, like Sam’s caber toss and 100kg rock lift, it’s possible the Games were the genesis of the Olympics. Games are held outside Scotland but watching the action there would be ideal.
The series finale appropriately focused on a tragically historic moment — the Battle of Culloden — and a visit to the battlefield. If you’re a history buff, this episode will be of particular interest. There’s an in-depth discussion of the battle and Sam and Graham reenact the 300-yard Culloden Highland Charge that failed so tragically.
In a recent interview, Sam talks about the repercussions of this battle and its tie through taxation with the American Revolution. Other events discussed in the series also had far-reaching ramifications such as the persecution of the Covenanters.
After Culloden, Clan heritage was outlawed by the British and all but lost. It’s hard to keep down a culture that has 500-year-old lullabies passed down stories from one generation to the next, though. Many of those interviewed in Men in Kilts are working hard to revive Scottish traditions and languages so they can be kept alive for future generations.
Now, Sam and Graham are counted among these preservationists. Slainte Mhath!
Hey, Bog Myrtle and the Boys, we desperately want a playlist, a soundtrack and how about a Season 2 with more Sam constantly winding up McTicklish (Sam’s nickname for Graham leaked in one of those numerous interviews). Really, the possibilities are endless. You’d watch them in a cooking or crofting show, basically anything, right?
For now, grab your bottle of Laphroaig for a potential taste of Sam and dive deep into the Clanlands and Men in Kilts experience enhanced by OutlanderCast.
Also, Andree Poppleton reviewed Clanlands, describing it as “sitting in on a long conversation between the two of them.” What could be more fun, truly?! Well, an audio version narrated by the Dynamic Duo themselves. Although I love the feel of a book in my hand, the Clanlands audio version is a must-listen. It’s really a BTS of this magical unicorn of a show.
So, binge away and try the STARZ bingo for the Finale. Til next time, safe journeys to ye!
Credit to STARZ for all images unless otherwise noted.
Have you watched Men in Kilts? Read Clanlands? Both? Do you have a favorite?
Obsessenach Karen K Rutledge found Outlander through the STARZ TV series in 2016
after living under a graduate school rock during Season 1 and most of 2. She binged then began making her way through Diana Gabaldon’s captivating book series. The rest is history.
Interested in following Karen? Twitter: @KarenABQNM, Facebook: Karen K Rutledge, Instagram: karen_k_rutledge