Coming to DVD this Tuesday, January 10th from the BBC is An Idiot Abroad. Though the DVD cover doesn’t list this as The First Season, that’s what it is. An Idiot Abroad contains all eight episodes of the initial run, wherein Karl Pilkington (The Ricky Gervais Show) visits the Seven Wonders of the World, and in the eighth hour, returns home to debrief. The instigators of the journey are Ricky Geravis and Stephen Merchant (The Office, Extras), who delight in just how miserable it makes Karl to experience other cultures. A second season will premiere later this month in the U.S.
For those already familiar with the podcast or animated version of The Ricky Gervais Show, Karl Pilkington is a familiar face. He is an odd duck, and anyone who has listened to him will not be surprised that Karl is reluctant to take his free trip around the world. He’d rather read about the Wonders on the internet, and would likely believe everything that he reads. Thus, every episode is a fish out of water tale, as Karl tries, though not very hard, to cope with the new cultures around him.
Karl’s brain does not work like anyone else’s. The biggest reason he doesn’t want to visit China? He might eat toad there and like it, thus having something to miss when he goes home. It’s an alien concept to most people, many of whom would find this a weak reason not to travel. To Karl, who fears upsetting his carefully balanced existence, it makes perfect sense. And actually, Karl adapts quite well, though never seems comfortable, gamely going along with most of what is planned for him, albeit with some complaint.
He is not easily impressed either, so the trip may not end up being worth it to him. Karl likes weird things, but when the weird thing seems normal to others around him, he doesn’t find it that weird. Plus, Karl is more into freaks of nature than anything having to do with human beings’ creations, so seeing the Wonders is not on his list of goals for his life.
The Wonders of the World, though setting the destinations for each of Karl’s visits, are not the main point of An Idiot Abroad. Karl does see them, even being forced to travel the entire Great Wall of China, in order to get the full experience. But the real draw is the people around the Wonder, and that’s what Karl spends most of every episode dealing with. He has to take in new customs, and taste new foods. Generally, this does not go all that well, much to the enjoyment of viewers.
It is a little bit odd that Karl goes the journey alone, with Ricky and Stephen only checking in via phone. However, that also makes Karl less likely to deal with the situation well, not even having his friends to turn to. The other two are a presence on the series, but the focus is Karl’s interactions with locals, with makes for a very entertaining time.
The special features on An Idiot Abroad are almost nonexistent. The Preview Show that aired on television is included, as are deleted scenes and a photo gallery. And that’s it. Considering the final episode of the season mainly consists of Stephen and Ricky speaking to Karl about the whole experiment, a making of documentary would seem unnecessary. And it’s hard to think of any specific bonus that should have been included. But it’s still a little disappointing there isn’t a little bit extra for the fans who really enjoy the TV series.