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TV show review: An Idiot Abroad – series 2
Karl Pilkington in An Idiot Abroad 2
An Idiot Abroad: The Bucket List
Summary: In An Idiot Abroad 2, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant delight in sending Karl Pilkington, their former radio show producer, around the globe on adventures he's almost guaranteed to hate.
Pilkington, the eponymous 'Idiot', vowed "never again" but he's back for a second helping.
A phenomenal hit for Sky1 in 2010, regularly averaging a ratings peak of one million viewers, An Idiot Abroad's return was inevitable.
Having already exhausted the seven wonders of the world, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant had to come up with a new premise for the show's 'difficult second series'.
The excuse to send the archetypal little-Englander on another adventure came via 100 of the most frequently-cited things to do before you die (a so-called "bucket list"). Ricky and Steve present the list and Karl picks out his favourites.
Or perhaps more aptly, chooses his own fate.
Highlights: Karl is a cult comedy genius and I love his maudlin monologues and convoluted logic.
Lowlights: The only shame is that Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant aren't on hand to bully the best quotes out of Pilkington themselves.
The first episode of the second series begins with a trip to New Zealand; what can possibly go wrong? In short, just about everything. All of the misfortunes that befall Karl on these trips are masterfully orchestrated by Ricky and Steve to ensure our hapless protagonist has the most miserable time imaginable.
"one of the most wince-inducing bungee jumps ever captured on film"
For example, when Karl agrees to spend a night on a desert island - this episode's raison d'être - it's as far from the picture postcard image of golden sand, tropical palms and blue skies as Earth is from the sun.
After being warmly greeted by scantily-dressed South Pacific tribesmen, Karl's first task was one of the most wince-inducing bungee jumps ever captured on film. I didn't know whether to laugh or hold my breath - I did both.
I was also caught off-guard in this segment because Karl smiled! Broadly. Repeatedly. And laughed. He then went on to dance with the tribesmen!
Perhaps his travels really are broadening his horizons. Maybe he's started to appreciate the wonderful opportunities afforded to him. Or it could just be his bank balance has grown to such an extent, he can no longer keep the grin off his chops.
For whatever reason, Karl Pilkington seems to be genuinely quite happy in places of this episode.
"Happiness is like a cake"
Thankfully, it doesn't last and he's soon back to his malcontent best. As Karl observes in another of his off-the-cuff platitudes: "Happiness is like a cake; have too much of it, you get sick of it."
"Who else would look at a volcano and think 'giant waste disposal'?"
Much of the enjoyment of the radio shows and podcasts are derived from schadenfreude and Karl Pilkington's incessant bellyaching (come on, we never really listened to The Ricky Gervais show for Ricky and Steve). And so it is in An Idiot Abroad 2.
The audience gets what the audience expects so there are scenes in which Karl is at the centre of inevitable culture clashes, or when he balks at tribal customs involving the penis.
But then there are the moments no other show on television can boast; when Karl is taken on a visit to an active volcano, he surveys the spectacular, churning lake of lava... and wishes for a local volcano to use as a giant waste disposal.
That is Karl Pilkington at his best; pithily dispensing sage words of wisdom as only he can. Who else would look at a volcano and think "giant waste disposal"?
An Idiot Abroad 2 may dress up its premise as "a bucket list", but it's really a fish-out-of-water presentation of Karl Pilkington's idiot-savant credentials. The laughter he inevitably provokes, regardless of the situation, make this a must-see. If you miss it, you'll miss out.
Airs from Friday 23 September at 9pm on Sky1
An Idiot Abroad 2 gets four couches out of five: few sitcoms are as funny as this show.
The views in this column are those of the author alone and not of MSN or Microsoft
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