In this hilarious series Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, co-creators of The Office and Extras, send their friend Karl Pilkington (The Ricky Gervais Show) around the world…against his will! Karl thinks he’s visiting the “Seven Wonders” but along the way the “Little Englander” must endure camel rides, jungle treks, tribal customs and local oddballs while dining on toads and testicles… and searching for a clean bathroom. How does a man who prefers vacationing via camper cope with being an idiot abroad?
An Idiot Abroad demonstrates that it takes a unique mind to reduce the Seven Wonders of the World to a string of dirty, far-flung tourist traps, but if the mind in question is that of Karl Pilkington, the feat is less extraordinary than expected. The perpetually nonplussed foil for Office and Extras creators Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant on The Ricky Gervais Show–later seen in the United States in animated form–Pilkington has a baffling (and baffled) take on humanity, which has made him a sensation in his native United Kingdom, and An Idiot Abroad marks Gervais and Merchant’s weekly televised attempt to broaden his horizons by dispatching him to the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. That’s not entirely true–Gervais and Merchant have actually sent the poor fellow packing to laugh themselves silly at his utter bewilderment and discomfort in foreign places, and one’s appreciation of An Idiot Abroad will hinge largely on whether you consider this practice exceptionally cruel or absolutely hilarious. Those who fall into the latter category will be slack-jawed in amazement at Pilkington’s attempt to preserve his shuttered sense of well-being while faced with fried scorpions at the Great Wall of China, a berserk fireworks display in Mexico, naked yoga in India, and gales of garbage at the Pyramids in Egypt. At each stop, Gervais and Merchant fairly bust their sides while encouraging Pilkington to investigate his surroundings, which results in his near-breakdown in a Mexican bullring and various unfortunate gastronomic encounters. Viewed as either a perverse documentary look at a (thankfully) singular mind or 21st-century Theatre of Cruelty, An Idiot Abroad is guaranteed to produce astonished laughter, and is a worthy addition to Gervais and Merchant’s ever-expanding canon of uncomfortable humor.
An Idiot Abroad encompasses all eight episodes of the show’s first season, which aired in the United Kingdom in 2010 and the United States in 2011, in their original, uncut format (which translates into some rough language and male nudity). Extras include a 23-minute preview show, which outlines Karl’s travels, and a lengthy review in which Karl shows exactly how much he’s learned from his journey (not much). Eight deleted scenes and a gallery of stills round out this sidesplitting disc. –Paul Gaita