Karl Pilkington is a man who can’t appreciate a meal until after he’s eaten it, for years he’s been keeping an eye on his pinkie fingers because he doesn’t think they do enough, and his idea of art is a mirror because the picture is always changing. Now, Karl Pilkington is lending his unique perspetive to world travel and the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World on his show An Idiot Abroad.
Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, the creators of The Office and Extras, are calling An Idiot Abroad the most extravagent practical joke they could ever play on their friend Karl. It is worth every penny they spent. Initially, Karl was told the show would be called Karl Pilkington’s Seven Wonders and it wasn’t until he was already on the road and well until filming that Ricky Gervais sprung the new title on him. And the title is just the beginning of the joke. Karl is the most uncomfortable traveler you will ever see on TV as he struggles with his accomodations, the local customs and definitely the food. He spent a minute gagging on the worm at the bottom of a bottle of Mezcal in Mexico and trying to keep down cooked toad and vegetables in China. On top of that, he is completely underwhelmed by the Seven Wonders themselves. While in the stone-carved ancient city of Petra in Jordan, Karl said he wouldn’t like to live in the “Wonder” because he would have a terrible view. He would rather live in the cave across from the “Wonder” so he would always have a better view. That is the kind of unique thought that puts Karl somewhere between an idiot and a genius and what makes this show so successful.
Any other travel program tries to give the impression of a well-organized and smooth vacation. There are fixers on location to help the travel host navigate the new city comfortably and to make an informative program. In this respect, An Idiot Abroad, holds absolutely true to its mission statement. The point of the show is to make Karl uncomfortable and that is what you get so much of the time. To write any more would be to give away some of the best comedy on TV, but it would also take away from one of the better and more realistic travel shows on TV today. There is still the high budget and a ton of pre-planned adventures for Karl to experience, but simply becuase he gives an unpolished, unfiltered opinion on his trips, you get closer to the idea of what foreign travel can really be. It can be exhausting and overwhelming and broadening and enlightening all the same time and that’s the real wonder of travel. And watching Karl struggle through all of this every day of his trips is absolutely hilarious and completely endearing. He is a fascination and so is An Idiot Abroad.