For most people, travelling to the Seven Wonders of the World would be the trip of a lifetime. Not Karl Pilkington though. He told famous friends Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant that he thought they were a “bit s***“, so they set him a challenge: visit them all and report back, whilst recording a TV show for Sky1.
His first destination, which makes up the bulk of the first episode (Thurs 23, 9pm on Sky1), is China and its Great Wall. Karl’s initial reactions are what you’d expect from a man branded an “idiot” by broadcasters and a “round, empty-headed chimp” by friends. Before he even leaves for Asia, he explains that it’s the “orange chickens” and “weird alphabet” that puts him off travelling to China.
Upon arriving, he decides “he’s not in the mood” to see the Great Wall because “the weirdness of China” has knackered him out. And that’s before a fortune teller tells him he’s going to die of a heart defect. Eventually, he reaches the Great Wall to conclude it’s no more impressive than the M6. There really is no pleasing Karl.
Considering An Idiot Abroad is effectively a man moaning his way across the world it’s significantly more humourous than you'd think. Karl’s dry observations have a raw honesty about them, which make him sound like a disgruntled sleep-deprived child. You don’t get bored of watching his rants either: the show’s a sizeable hour long and when it finishes you’ll want to watch more.
The only down point is that the show’s not just about Karl. As many people are still unfamiliar with the former Xfm producer, Sky have given his friends (and known celebrities) Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant some face time. Every episode starts in a bleak board room, where the two former Office stars quiz Karl about the Wonder he’s about to visit. They then send him rant-inducing challenges, via voicemail, while he’s away. It’s funny enough, but we can’t help thinking that a voiceover man and some Top Gear-style task cards would work just as well, and be far less self-congratulatory.