What do you get when you take an average British bloke who has no interest in traveling the world and make him travel the world? You get An Idiot Abroad, brought to you by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, creators of the original British version of The Office.
Karl Pilkington is the average British bloke and I have yet to determine if he truly hated his assignment or was just exaggerating for the sake of the TV show. Either way, Karl comes across as totally uncomfortable no matter what his destination, no matter what he encounters.
In series one, Seven Wonders of the World, Ricky and Stephen send Karl to visit the New Seven Wonders of the World. But sadistic Ricky Gervais doesn’t send Karl to Rome to see the Colosseum, (because he knows Karl might enjoy a trip to Rome) Ricky instead sends Karl to places like The Great Wall of China, The Dead Sea, Chicen Itza, Machu Picchu and the Pyramids of Giza. Most people dream of the chance to see these sites, but Karl has nothing good to say about any of them. He complains about the journey as well as the destination. Here are a couple of memorable Karl Pilkington quotes:
“It’s not a Great Wall. It’s an alright wall. It’s the Alright Wall of China.”
“I really can’t believe what a state the Pyramids are in. I thought they had flat rendered sides, but when you get up close, you see how they are just giant boulders balanced on top of each other, like a massive game of Jenga that has got out of hand.”
I’ll never understand why Karl agreed to do a second series. I guess he’s a glutton for punishment or a masochist because in the second series, The Bucket List, Ricky and Stephen arrange even more surprises for Karl to make him even more uncomfortable than he was in series one. This time he’s scheduled to participate in activities like bungee jumping in New Zealand, swimming with sharks in Australia, climbing Mount Fuji in Japan, traveling the Trans-Siberian Railway in Russia and living on a desert island. He doesn’t even find joy in whale watching in Alaska. And some of these things Karl just will not do, no matter how much Ricky humiliates him via cell phone.
Though there was originally never going to be a series three, Ricky teamed Karl up with dwarf actor Warwick Davis for three more shows called The Short Way Round, roughly following Marco Polo’s journey from China to Venice. The teaming of Karl and Warwick (“I’ve been given an Ewok.”) added a new level of discomfort for Karl. While Karl continues his complaining and wants to get through the trip as fast as he can, Warwick would prefer to make the most of everything and experience all each culture has to offer.
There are more than a few laugh out loud moments in all three series of An Idiot Abroad. You can’t help but feel for Karl, who although he agreed to make these journeys, didn’t sign up for all the tortuous experiences Ricky and Stephen made him do. “A fish out of water” doesn’t even begin to describe it.
Total Seasons: 3 (19 episodes)
Seasons Available on US Formatted DVD: 2
In Production: 2010-2012