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Going In:

I generally like travel shows, and have a fondness for UK programming. Despite numerous recommendations, I avoided the show because of Ricky Gervais’s involvement, whom I can only stomach in small doses. My wife started watching An Idiot Abroad when I wasn’t paying attention and I quickly got sucked in.


Karl Pilkington is a familiar idiot.  His perfect day involves staying at home on the couch “watching telly” and eating “crisps”.  He is not curious about the world.  He cannot be bothered to get himself out of his comfort zone.  He is annoyed at experiences that many people would kill for.  An Idiot Abroad sends Karl around the world against his will to see the Great Wonders of the World (season 1) and to cross off Bucket List achievements (season 2).

As he is flown to the edges of civilization, his “friends” Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, back at home in the UK, torture him daily by booking him into sub-par lodging and surprising him with activities he does not want to do.  Some examples include learning to track animals by tasting their droppings, eating the rotten fish of ancient Japan that evolved into modern sushi, and being crammed onto a sleeper shelf aboard Russia’s Trans-Siberian Express.

What makes the show great is how genuine Karl’s reactions are.  I firmly believe that he’s not acting or even on much of a script.  I can feel the tension take hold of him as he resists bungee jumping in a New Zealand canyon.  His squirming discomfort oozes through the screen as his search for a beautiful Brazilian coastal sunrise lands him at a gay nudist beach.  His panicked adrenaline flows as he is chased down a Mexican alleyway by a maniac with exploding fireworks shooting from his backpack.  It all feels very real, and is very entertaining.

You’ll also get a front-row seat to see amazing scenes from all over the globe, such as visiting the amazingly flexible Babas during the Indian Kumbh Mela festival, hiking through the Ugandan rainforest in search of gorillas, and traversing the Amazon to visit the ancient Incan city of Machu Picchu.

Unlike most TV shows, this one is definitely R-rated. Karl’s reactions and language are unedited, and he frequently finds himself in places where gentlemen sausages are on display, which of course puts him on edge.  If you are not from the UK, I highly recommend watching this with subtitles turned on. There is a wealth of colorful and salty English slang that you might not catch otherwise.

The first two seasons were great, but we stopped watching after the first couple of episodes of the 3rd season, where they added an optimistic midget (is that OK to use that term?) as a traveling companion.  The material is played out, and Karl’s successful television career has obviously made him less miserable than before.

On a personal note, we work with our own American version of Karl Pilkington, who is not an idiot but has an equal capacity for being unimpressed. I’m thinking of doing a pilot featuring him traveling to the finest restaurants in town and critiquing them based on his own peculiar tastes.


An Idiot Abroad is a wonderful and hilarious travel show, done up in proper UK style. Watch the first two seasons, but avoid the third like The Godfather Part III.


An Idiot Abroad Review
The show is perfectly summed up by its own title.
The Good
  • Never knew mental torture could be so fun
  • See some amazing beauty all over the world
  • Limited screen time for Ricky Gervais
The Bad/Ugly
  • Karl should never be allowed to chicken out
  • Season 3 craters hard
8.5Overall Score
Reader Rating: (0 Votes)

About The Author


I'm a video game programmer, just like Chev Chelios. I've loved movies all of my life, favor substance over style, and try to have high standards and an open mind.