Karl Pilkington is back for a second trip ’round the world in An Idiot Abroad 2. As in the first season, Karl hates just about every minute of his journey; he doesn’t enjoy traveling or experiencing cultures that stretch him outside of his comfort zone. And also, like in the first bout, the results are hilarious for the television viewer who delights in watching the poor man suffer.
Series one has Karl visiting the Seven Wonders of the World. In series two, Karl demands that he get to pick the adventures, choosing from among some of the most popular Bucket List items, based on broad surveys. One might think that since Karl has greater control now, he will enjoy it more.
Not so. While Karl does set the basic agenda, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, comfortably ensconced back in the U.K., plan many a detour and activity that go against Karl’s wishes. Sometimes, Karl refuses to do whatever it is they want him to do, like jumping from a tower. But most of the time, no matter how much he might protest, Karl fulfills the requirements of his contract.
Excursions accomplished in these eight hours include a night spent on a deserted island, a ride on the Trans-Siberian Express, swimming with sharks, a reduced-gravity flight, wrestling with Mongolians, visiting a village of dwarfs in China, a makeover by Taiwanese ladyboys, getting a massage from an inmate, dog sledding, whale watching, deep sea fishing, a visit with a family who keep a hippo as a pet, a New Age cuddle party, a Smart Car ride down Route 66, a flight on top of a plane, a climb up Mount Fuji, and sumo wrestler training. Karl then returns home in the final episode to talk about his experience, and get a prostate exam on-air.
If that sounds like a lot, it is. Each installment is crammed with several experiences, Karl bounces from one place to the next, making side trips on Gervais and Merchant’s whims, keeping the pace charging ahead. He gripes and complains, but does what he’s told, for the most part.
Why is watching a man be miserable so entertaining? I don’t know, exactly. It has to have something to do with personality of Pilkington himself, an odd man who views the world from a totally unique perspective. The enjoyment doesn’t come so much from watching him grumble, but from the words that come out of his mouth. He doesn’t see things the same way most people do, and the insights he provides, as well at crazy theories he espouses, make for some great programming.
It’s interesting that An Idiot Abroad 2 goes to destinations that would be a dream vacation for a great many people, but for Karl, it’s a nightmare. Admittedly, Karl doesn’t get the perfect experience, seeing his accommodations downgraded, and forced to mix with the locals, rather than stay on the travelers’ path.
What that means, though, is this is also a wonderful travel documentary, going further off the beaten path than most people would on their holiday. Maybe some viewers will want to try some of the things that Pilkington does, or maybe it will serve as a lesson as to what should be avoided. Either way, there is valuable knowledge mixed in what is basically a show done for fun.
The DVD is two discs, and has a few special features. These include deleted scenes, Pilko’s Pump Pants Featurette, and Ain’t No Pleasing You. These are pretty standard fare, nothing really surprising, but a decent enough mix for a short series.
What I would like to see, that is not included, is audio commentary by Pilkington on all of the episodes. While he does do the final overview episode, and speaks to the camera throughout, I feel like a whole other, meta experience could be had sitting through these episodes with Karl again.
In all, this is a good DVD set that should provide at least eight hours of enjoyable entertainment. An Idiot Abroad 2 is on sale now.