Ricky Gervais may be best known for starring on The Office and hosting the Golden Globes, and while I love him for those two things, my absolute favourite thing to watch Gervais do is torment his so-called pal, Karl Pilkington. He did it in the first two seasons of An Idiot Abroad, which involved dispatching Pilkington into the world, something he's not particularly interested in, and does it once again in this three-episode special, An Idiot Abroad: The Short Way Round.
In the first season, Gervais and his writing partner-in-crime, Stephen Merchant, sent Pilkington to the seven wonders of the world (the New7Wonders of the World), and in Season 2, Pilkington went to various destinations and crossed things off his bucket list. If you're familiar with the likes of Karl Pilkington, then you know he's a miserable, stodgy oaf who would rather be home in front of the telly rather than the far-off places around the globe Gervais and Merchant send him.
But while Gervais and Merchant make Pilkington do ridiculous things for a laugh, I tend to sympathize with Pilkington and, more often than not, identiy with him. Gah! I don't think I'm a whiny curmudgeon but I am a homebody so I, like Pilkington, would probably rather be home than be strapped to the wing of an airplane as it flies upside down, get into a diaper and enter a sumo wrestling ring, or attend a cuddle party (yes, it's exactly how it sounds ... absolutely awful). Sure, it's hilarious to hear what Gervais and Merchant would have planned for poor Pilkington, but it was his flabbergasted response that would have me in tears. I love how he doesn't pretend to be gung-ho about whatever he's about to do and is brutally honest about his apprehension.
Which is why The Short Way Round might be a perfect combination, just shorter (no pun intended) and sweeter. Instead of focusing on just Pilkington, Gervais thought it would be a better idea to have his pal, Warwick Davis, tag along. And if you thought Pilkington venturing out on his own was funny, wait until you see him with the dwarf actor. The oddest couple ever were originally supposed to bike around England together, but Gervais thought it would be funnier to keep it global. Their travels are based on the journey of Marco Polo, as the pair make their way to China from Venice (which Pilkington once described as "London, flooded," ha!), Eastern Europe and India.
Curiously, Merchant isn't involved in this miniseries and is busy with other projects, but his absence isn't missed with Davis taking part. Unlike grumbly Pilkington, Davis is happy-go-lucky and takes everything that's thrown at him with a grin, and instead of getting angry and frustrated, he just takes Pilkington's abuse. And I really believe he's that good-natured and isn't trying to enrage Pilkington. Gervais tries to stir stuff up by putting Davis in nicer hotel rooms and tries to stop Pilkington from fighting with his travelling companion, but Pilkington just can't help himself.
Pilkington simply doesn't understand Davis' easy-breezy ways. Some might think this is more about a little person being bullied, but it's Pilkington who is consistently mocked here -- and deservedly. Even when Pilkington reacts to learning that Gervais has included Davis in his travelling plans (complaining right in front of Davis that he would slow him down and hang on to him "like a leech, sucking my blood, taking everything from me"), Pilkington's the one that looks bad, but funnily enough, not in a bad way. More like how you would pity an old uncle or grandpa who is too set in his own ways to change. To be honest, I actually find Pilkington rather endearing because of those reasons, but I get how he could be seen as irksome.
Some may also find it uncomfortable to watch, but I found the entire premise absolutely hilarious. It only emphasized just how unhappy Pilkington is, which is really the whole point of the series. If only it was longer than three episodes -- but it's better than nothing, right?
An Idiot Abroad: The Short Way Around airs back-to-back on Sunday, July 14 beginning at 7 p.m. ET/8 p.m. PT on Discovery Channel.
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