Off the Charts: An Idiot Abroad Series 3

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Karl Pilkington has been around the world twice.  Once to see the seven wonders of the world and again to check things off the bucket list of someone more adventurous than he.  A viewer could tell Karl had about had it with his travels at the end of the second season.  Actually this was apparent at the end of the FIRST season, but thankfully he agreed to go on more adventures.

Season three of Idiot Abroad just finished broadcasting in the US.  It was, no pun intended, a mini-season, consisting of only three episodes and features a constant travelling companion for Karl, film star and friend of Ricky Gervais (who also appeared on the phone in the second season of Idiot Abroad when Karl visited the Chinese dwarf village at the end of the Trans-Siberian railway) Warwick Davis.

As a fan the concept was concerning to me.  We like to see Karl exploring on his own and hear his random, yet always honest, reflections about his experiences.  When I heard he would have “a little company” for season three, and it would consist of only three episodes, I thought it might prove to be disastrous.  After seeing it I’m happy to say it was a great conclusion (I REALLY don’t think Karl will be up for any more of this…) to the series and still loaded with Karl fun.

This season was billed as Karl, who hates doing new things, and Warwick, who’s up for anything as they trace the Marco Polo route from Venice to China.  This turned out not to be the case.  In a few ways:

  • First: They didn’t do the whole Marco Polo route.  Obviously in 3 episodes that journey wouldn’t be possible.  Unlike previous seasons, you got brief looks into each place they stopped, usually punctuated by one or two big events per episode.
  • Second: Karl was as up for doing new things, and looking back, he really always has been.  From using a water jetpack, to eating Chinese street delicacies (something he was totally against in series 1!).  There remains ONE thing Karl abjectly refuses to do though!
  • Third: Warwick was as apprehensive as Karl about some of the activities.  Including ones he tried to get Karl to do (like being lifted in the air by helium balloons) and enjoying a Venetian “Pleasure Machine” during a masquerade party.

Overall this season was filled with the same Karl blunt hilarity as the others.  Some viewers complained about the “shock” value of it, the inclusion of Warwick in general, the “Spider Sisters” event, but to me this was just more of the same.  Anyone who’s familiar with Karl knows he’s fascinated by “different” people, including the very tall Steve Merchant who produced the first two seasons and appears on the Ricky Gervais Show.  And it was no more shocking than bird fetus-eating and lady boy-visiting that appeared in previous seasons.  These inclusions always feel like Karl doing what Karl does.  Here are some of the highlights of season 3 for me:

  • Karl’s failure to use the water jetpack and Ricky Gervais’ very correct theory on why he chose to do it (essentially to try to find something Warwick would hate but he wound up hating it himself)
  • Flying Warwick on helium balloons in Macedonia (to quote Karl, “I’ve never had a kite…”)
  • Karl dressed as the slouchiest panda in genetic history. Also his plan on how to fend off an attacking panda.
  • The results of Karl and Warwick in a Bollywood film and how they both reviewed the experience.  Surprisingly the roles reversed in this case!
  • Random Karl quips and quotes about Warwick (comparing him to a leech, saying he’d trade him for a cat, constant references to his playing a “bear” in Star Wars, and his utter shock that Warwick was in ALL the Harry Potter films)
  • A favorite moment, that might seem uncomfortable to some, was Karl’s tough love to Warwick climbing the steps to a Buddhist temple.  Warwick wasn’t feeling well and didn’t want to continue.  Karl’s blunt, seemingly vicious, criticisms eventually got Warwick to walk the entire length of the stairs.  Though to add to the comedy, Karl ended up taking a palanquin!
  • And my personal favorite moment, perhaps in the history of the show, what makes Karl laugh:

The only negatives in this series to me are; it can feel uncomfortable as you watch the two of them interact and interact with those around them at times, until you get used to what is going on.  Karl was right to be angry that Warwick had better lodging than him.  He was right that he got a different experience, eating the local food and getting sick, than Warwick.  It doesn’t detract from the show, but the tension makes it a little more “reality show” than the others. The other negative is there was no “Karl Comes Home” this season.  Obviously with only three episodes a clip show would be a waste, but I always enjoyed Karl’s final thoughts on his travels.  Warwick’s as well as he could review where they had been and what it’s like to travel with Karl.

I highly recommend the entire show, and this season was no exception.  It’s not for the easily-offended, but Karl never is.  If you’re looking for comedy and pure honesty on TV Idiot Abroad is the way to go!  Thanks to Karl for going through all this for our entertainment!

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