Sunday, January 23, 2011

An Idiot Abroad: Karl Pilkington and the All Right Wall of China

     Is half an hour a week of Karl Pilkington not enough for you? I love him on HBO's The Ricky Gervais Show, but I am always left wanting more. Luckily, the Science Channel is giving us just that beginning last night, and every Saturday for the next eight weeks. The premise? Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant send Karl around the world to visit the Seven Wonders and the culture that surrounds them.

     Karl, of course, is reluctant to go. He likes to stay safely in his comfort zone, and just read about exotic places on the internet. His first stop is China to see The Great Wall. His biggest reason he wouldn't want to make the trip? He might eat toad and like it, then miss it when he returns home. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Karl's brain does not work like everyone else's on the planet. Who else would possibly have thought of that?

     I did find it a bit odd, at first, to not have Ricky and Stephen along for the ride. I'm so used to them picking at Karl continuously, and now here is a look at him by himself. Ricky and Stephen did check in by phone frequently, so they're still a presence on the show. Even better, though, was Karl's mingling with the locals. Although there was a serious language barrier, Karl seems more at home that I would be in his situation. For someone who is perpetually out of place, he was remarkably well adjusted to the situation. Well, except when getting a fire massage or eating local cuisine. But with the people, he was fine. He can really roll with the punches. Which he did, while learning Kung Fu.

     I think one thing that impresses me about Karl is that he is not easy to impress. He takes everything in stride, so getting a strong reaction out of him is rare. His visit to The Great Wall was rather dissatisfying to him, and I actually understood some of his points of view, though not all. Hilariously, Stephen called to insist Karl see ALL of The Great Wall, so the episode is not hard up for shots of it. Karl spends days traveling its length. You think he might be impressed then, after really experiencing its size, but no such luck.

     I was thoroughly entertained the entire hour of the China episode, and look forward to the rest of the series. Karl is scheduled to head to China, India, Jordan, Mexico, Egypt, Brazil, and Peru, before spending the eighth full episode back home, discussing the experience. Sounds exciting!

     Be sure to watch An Idiot Abroad Saturdays at 10 p.m. on the Science Channel.

Article first published as TV Preview: An Idiot Abroad: Karl Pilkington and The All Right Wall of China on Blogcritics.

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