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TV Preview: An Idiot Abroad: Karl Pilkington and The All Right Wall of China

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***This show premieres tonight on the Science Channel. There will be a handful of spoilers in the article below, as is necessary to illustrate what it is about, but I promise not to ruin the enjoyment. If you are OK with that, please read on.***

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 tonight, 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. Tonight, there will be a half hour preview, which I have not seen, more similar to The Ricky Gervais Show podcast, but not animated. Then Karl heads 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 the preview episode tonight at 9:30 p.m., and then the regular episodes Saturdays, including tonight, at 10 p.m. on the Science Channel.

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About JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome writes TV reviews for BlogCritics.org and Seat42F.com, as well as fiction. He is a frequent guest on two podcasts, Let's Talk TV with Barbara Barnett and The Good, the Bad, & the Geeky. All of his work can be found on his website, jeromewetzel.com
  • B J Turner

    Funny. Scary, I understand Karl.

  • http://karlpilkingtonfans.com Karl Pilkington Fan

    argh I bloody love his head. I used to sit next to a lad at school who had a shaven head which was smooth and shiny and I used to call him “Ball Head”. I used to love smacking his head.

    My mate Joe used to cup his hand in an ergonomic fashion, so when he hit his head, there would be a popping sound because of the way the air got trapped.

    I wanna smack Karl’s head too