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The Globe-Spanning Adventures of a Round-Headed Man: An Advance Review of An Idiot Abroad

I have a soft spot for travel shows that offer a twist on the now ubiquitous genre, such as the snarkiness of Travel Channel's Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations.

But it's rare that any of these actually make me howl with laughter. Which is very much the case with Science Channel's new travelogue An Idiot Abroad, which launches on Saturday evening here in the States after a successful run on Sky1 in the UK. This is one show that manages to successfully fuse together pretty pictures of exotic locales, staggeringly hilarious humor, and a round-headed chap with a host of xenophobic issues.

Yes, it stars Karl Pilkington.

If you're unfamiliar with the premise, An Idiot Abroad recounts the globe-spanning journeys of The Ricky Gervais Show breakout Karl Pilkington, here sent around the world to the locations containing the Seven Wonders of the World by close friends Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, who executive produce this series and apear on-screen (and on the phone) throughout as they check in with Karl to see what he's gotten up to.

The results are unpredictable and excruciatingly funny, which I would expect from anything involving Gervais and Merchant.

The first episode ("China") finds Karl on a trek to see the Great Wall of China, but his friends have arranged a few surprises for him along the way, including a fiery massage (yes, seriously), kung fu training with a Shaolin devotee, a picturesque lunch of frog in a small village, and a visit to a local market. Along the way, Karl's eyes are opened up (sometimes saucer-wide) to experiences vastly different to his own as he makes his way through the sights and sounds of Chinese daily life, encountering toilet stalls with no doors (this shakes him to his core) and unusual delicacies.

In true Karl Pilkington fashion, his facial and spoken reactions are priceless, his Little Englander mentality coming to the fore the minute he arrives in China, unable to get a reaction from anyone by smiling at them. It's impossible not to love the big buffoon, though, especially as he cracks me up every time he opens his mouth; there's an aura of child-like amusement and discovery with every step he takes. Though I would advise the producers to be sure to keep any sharp objects out of Karl's hands in the future...

Ultimately, this is a novel and hysterical travel show with what might just be one of the most unusual and unexpected hosts ever, one that would rather be at home with his girlfriend and his diary rather than seeing the world at large. Which makes An Idiot Abroad, which Gervais called "the most expensive practical joke ever," absolutely intoxicating and engaging, as Karl is forced to explore some of the most wonderous sights this planet has to offer. Unless you want to be left behind, do not miss this show.

An Idiot Abroad premieres Saturday night at 7 pm ET/PT on Science Channel.


Pepper said…
I love the Ricky Gervais show and have been looking forward to this for awhile. Glad to hear it's just as funny as I'd hoped it would be!

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