Having sent friend and fellow podcaster Karl Pilkington to visit the Seven Wonders Of The World, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant now send him to sample various experiences from a compiled Bucket List. As Karl visits each destination though, Ricky and Steve have certain detours and surprises in store for him…
Even though the first series was consistently amusing and often laugh-out-loud funny (not to mention a success in terms of viewing figures), An Idiot Abroad wasn’t the best platform for Karl Pilkington. No question, his cynical rants frequently provided us with giggle-worthy genius, but the funniest thing about the Manc moaner – as fans of the brilliant, record-breaking podcasts will tell you – is how Ricky and Steve react to his bizarre theories and oddball ramblings. As such, it’s just not the same when his persistent whinging and abstract musings are met by a blank expression from a foreigner who barely speaks English. Let alone Mancunian.
That said, it’s still an entertaining hybrid of comedy travelogue, social experiment and expensive practical joke, with Karl providing more of his unusual philosophies, deadpan observations and rare flashes of wisdom. Even though series two changes the premise from visiting the Seven Wonders to picking experiences from a Bucket List, the basic idea remains the same – send Karl round the world to see places and do things that are out of his comfort zone. Again, the concept feels a tad stretched at times, yet it’s regularly funny thanks to Pilkington’s sharp, on-the-spot appraisals and results in a curiously truthful travel guide.
This time, we see Karl spending a night on a desert island, meeting mountain gorillas, moving a rhinoceros, discovering a hippopotamus that lives in a house, attempting some whale watching and – perhaps best of all – heading to a village of dwarves. Given some of the surprises that Ricky and Steve have in store, Karl opts out of one or two (including a bungee jump, a very dodgy bungee jump and a zero-gravity simulator), yet impressively finds the courage to go swimming with a shark in a decidedly unsafe-looking cage. For fans of Pilkington, seeing him dressed as a ladyboy offers a particular delight, whilst there’s also the rare treat of Karl laughing happily after confessing something to Ricky.
Though the premise has changed from the Seven Wonders to a Bucket List, series two of An Idiot Abroad is more of the same – a curiously truthful travel guide peppered with Karl Pilkington’s consistently-amusing observations.