An Idiot Abroad, Sky1's brand new comedy travelogue starring Karl Pilkington (cult hero and sidekick of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant on their successful podcasts), debuted with a whopping 820,000 viewers last Thurday night. That makes it Sky1's highest-rated premiere for a homegrown show since May's adaptation of Terry Pratchett's Going Postal, tripling what they expect for that timeslot.
I don't have the time or inclination to post an in-depth review of the show, suffice to say that I quite enjoyed it. It wasn't hilarious, but it was consistently amusing. I know there's still some debate about how much Karl Pilkington is "playing a character", as his idiocy often feels too scripted to be genuinely impromptu. I guess the debate will rumble on, although I just don't see how Karl could still be pulling the wool over our eyes after so many years, if he were a fraud. My guess is he has a sharp comic mind that was starved of education as a boy, pure and simple.
Anyway, this series finds Karl being sent around the world by Gervais and Merchant to report on "The Seven Wonders Of The World". First stop was China and its Great Wall, where we were treated to such scenes as Karl eating from a bag of Monster Munch as he watched a local man eat an egg containing a fetus, an old woman killing toads by whacking them on the ground to prepare Karl's dinner, the absence of doors and loo paper in Chinese public toilets, and Karl being taught Kung Fu at four in the morning.
It's not a hugely educational series (although we learned that the Great Wall was heavily restored in the '60s and '80s), but that's not really the point. It's an excuse to see a simpleton grapple with a different culture, showing us peculiar things you never get to see in serious documentaries and tourist shows. And, whether it was sometimes scripted or not, Karl's a witty person with a child's grasp of the world he inhabits, although the joke began to feel stretched after 30 minutes.
23 September 2010