Binge-worthy watch: ‘Locked Up Abroad’

Are your kids thinking of studying abroad? Are you interested in legal drama?  “Locked Up Abroad” is a British documentary television series that premiered in March 2006 and ran until 2013. Originally called “Banged Up Abroad” the series was repackaged and re-named “Locked Up Abroad” for the National Geographic Channel. What’s available on Netflix is the sixth season or Series 6 that begins in 2011.

The series features people who were arrested, kidnapped or captured abroad and includes re-enactments. In most cases, the person(s) featured has already returned home and is no longer incarcerated. The story is told in the first-person and follows the events that led up to the lock up using as the events are dramatized. From time to time, we see the person as they appear now, narrating the event.

Most of the series involves drug smuggling but provide little legal insight. We only know the narrator’s truth, but not the legal view of the activities or advice on what the people should have done. Some of the people profiled seem clueless.

The Saudi Bootlegger didn’t have to work in Saudi Arabia, but while he was there, he decided to smuggle in alcohol and thought that wouldn’t be a problem?  The woman who got a free trip to Mauritius and was given some to wear shoes that she needed to pass on to a person once she got there,  found out she was a drug mule. Others were pressured by their own drug dealers (“Drug Dealer Revenge” in Peru) or lured by massive amounts of money. It’s hard to work u sympathy for the overweight Vivian Carrasquillo (“Teenage Drug Smuggler”) who knowingly smuggled drugs into Columbia in order to raise funds for a gastric bypass surgery. That ended up being a different kind of fat camp experience. Then there’s that case when Scott Campbell thinks he’s going to get to know his bio-dad only to realize just why his mom decided to stay away and why his father never really bothered to reach out: He gets used on a father-son drug smuggling trip.

You have to wonder about how much is real and how much is fantasy with tales like “Escape from the Gulag” in which Jerry Amstad tells how he got out of Russia. His account has been disputed. It’s hard to verify the claims of Latif Yahia in “Son of Saddam” which tells about being a body double for the infamous Uday Hussein.

What’s interesting? Hearing about Henry Hill (“The Real Goodfella) who was the inspiration for the movie, “Goodfellas.” “The Orchid Hunters” shows how an innocent expedition can become much more political. On the job perils are detailed in “Nightmare in Somalia” where two journalists (Nigel Brennan and Amanda Lindout) are taken hostage by local criminals and in “Highway to Hell” Thomas Hamill learns just why one receives hazard pay when the truck driver is kidnapped by insurgents.  The episode about “Snakes on the Plane” provides some law enforcement insight and might make one think twice after that recent death by snake bite of the cobra owner. You have to wonder at the “Hunting Mr. Nice” also has law enforcement perspective and Howard Marks is charming and amusing, but admits that prison changed him and eventually broke up his marriage.

One of the most moving episodes is on POW John McCain and Ernie Brace (“POWs McCain & Brace”). “The Real Argo” is a nice piece to watch and compare to the movie “Argo.”

  1. Saudi Bootlegger (2011)
  2. The Real Goodfella (2011)*
  3. Forbidden Love (2011)
  4. Mexican Money Machine (2011)
  5. Heroin Sting (2011)
  6. Daredevil Drug Runner (2011)
  7. The Cocaine Trap (2011)
  8. Drug Dealer Revenge (2011)
  9. Teenage Drug Smuggler (2011)
  10. Backstabbed in Thailand (2011)
  11. From Hollywood to Hell (2012)
  12. The Juggle Smuggler (2012)
  13. Escape from Argentina (2012)
  14. Highway to Hell (2012)
  15. Black Place of Horrors (2012)
  16. Cocaine Mule Mom (2012)
  17. Dangerous Liaisons (2012)*
  18. Colombian Kidnap (2012)*
  19. Caribbean Nightmare (2012)
  20. Son of Saddam (2012)
  21. My Dad the Smuggler (2013)
  22. I Am Not a Terrorist (2013)
  23. Hasidic King of Coke (2013)
  24. Not Without My Baby (2013)
  25. Chilean Prison Break (2013)
  26. The Orchid Hunters (2013)*
  27. Venezuela Hustle (2013)
  28. Nightmare in Somalia (2013)*
  29. Busted in Bangkok (2013)
  30. Escape from the Gulag (2013)
  31. Vietnam POWs (2013)*
  32. Snakes on a Plane (2013)*
  33. Raving Arizona (2013)
  34. Buried Alive (2013)
  35. The Real Argo (2013)*
  36. Mexican Prison Escape (2013)*
  37. Hippie Mafia (2013)
  38. Vegas Mobster (2013)
  39. Fast, Furious and Busted (2013)
  40. Hunting Mr. Nice (2013)*

“Locked up Abroad” is currently streaming on Netflix and the National Geographic YouTube channel.

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