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The adventures of Karl Pilkington continue

TV Review: An Idiot Abroad 2 – The Bucket List

An Idiot Abroad 2: The Bucket List, the second installment of what looks to be a growing franchise for the man with the round head, Karl Pilkington, debuts Saturday, January 21, at 10:00 PM on the Science network. The series, which runs for eight episodes through March 10, once again documents the ludicrous adventures of the hapless Pilkington as he roams around the world dealing with an array of torments arranged especially for his delightful anguish by his own personal devils, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. This new series has the eternally duped Pilkington older and a little wiser, but not nearly wise enough.

Pilkington is harassed into agreeing to another round of adventures from a bucket list of things to do before you die, but only if the rules change, and he gets to decide where he goes and what he does. Of course, the very idea that he would expect his tormentors to follow any rules he set up is just another reason he makes the ideal butt for Gervais and Merchant. They may have to do a little more convincing and conniving, but only a little.

He doesn’t have to do anything on the list he doesn’t want to do, but the things he does choose never seem quite what he thought they would be. A twist here, and suddenly what seemed simple, becomes more complicated, more frightening; a twist there, and it becomes more humiliating. Certainly, there will be those who find no delight in Pilkington’s humiliation, but just as certainly there will be those that can’t get enough. And since the first series was the Science network’s highest rated show, there must have been the latter aplenty.

In the first episode Pilkington chooses what seems to be a harmless stunt from the list. He will spend a night alone on a desert island. The desert island, it turns out, is not quite the exotic paradise he might have hoped for. Along the way he has to deal with bungee jumping, land jumping, arse boarding, native dancing, and some skimpy native costuming. Pilkington’s unease as he tries to explain himself to the local tribesmen without insulting them is the stuff of high comedy; his dancing in a foliage adorned jock strap is about as low as comedy gets.

The second episode has him traveling to Russia to hop aboard the Trans-Siberian Express. He starts out happily content in a first class compartment, only to find himself booted into third class, cramped into a tiny middle bunk bed. Along the route, he gets buried alive by Russian healers, wrestles with a Mongolian heavyweight, and gets a ride in a centrifuge. Finally, he ends up in China, the place he announces he hated most after his first visit. This time he visits a dwarf village, and he likes it much better; in fact, so much better that he puts in a call to Gervais’ buddy Warwick Davis, a dwarf himself for some politically incorrect badinage.

Much of the humor in the show comes from Pilkington’s oddball ideas about the world, the things he sees, and the people he meets. Volcanoes, he opines, are useful places to get rid of unwanted furnishings. Happiness, he says, is like a cake; too much and you get sick of it. A bathroom is a great place for some “me” time, a place where your girlfriend won’t walk in on you. He seems to take his nonsense so seriously that is difficult not to laugh at him.

Future episodes have him in Thailand getting made over by the lady boys, wing walking on a plane in the US, taking a ride on the world’s steepest roller coaster, and meeting a gorilla after a journey through a tangle of African forest. At times, the humor seems a mite mean spirited if not downright cruel, but then this is a Ricky Gervais project so it would seem that viewers should have a fairly good idea of what to expect.

Besides, mean spirited or not, the show is funny. So be warned, if watching the humiliations of silly man is not your idea of fun, this is not a show for you. If you don’t mind a good laugh at an “idiot’s” expense, tune in on the 21st.

About Jack Goodstein

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