Words: Paul Dean
Episode 1: 'The Inn At Whitewell'
SYNOPSIS: "Comedy series starring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. Over the course of six meals at six different restaurants in and around the Lake District, Lancashire and the Yorkshire Dales, this ultimate odd couple find themselves debating the big questions of life over a series of culinary delights." (bbc.co.uk)
It's such a simple idea I wonder why I haven't seen it done before. Two comedians argue about how to do impressions, while performing those very impressions, sat at dinner, in public and in all too raised voices. Nowhere else in time or space will you see Michael Caine arguing with Michael Caine or Anthony Hopkins trying to out-yell himself.
This funny, awkward and quite wonderful exchange is the peak of the first episode of 'The Trip', a sort of Grumpy-Old-Men-meets-a-road-movie-meets-the-British-countryside affair, in which (fictionalised) Steve Coogan decides to take (fictionalised) Rob Brydon on a tour of various inns and bistros. (Fictional) Coogan and his girlfriend are going through a rough patch, so (fictional) Brydon is the slightly-unwelcome backup choice for this restaurant-reviewing assignment, meaning that two men in a car in the middle of nowhere are yet another recipe for slightly awkward British comedy.
Except this time it doesn't feel quite so awkward and certainly not as contrived as it might, because 'The Trip' never tries too hard to make you either laugh or cringe, it just sits back and lets things happen. Though its glib leads are amusing as they bicker their way around remote villages, trying to outsmart and out-sophisticate each other without accidentally getting along too well, it's when they engage in outright, immature one-upmanship that things get hilarious. Thanks to Michael Winterbottom's effortless and unintrusive direction, these two brilliant actors are able to forge what must be one of the best comedy partnerships in years.
I really like 'The Trip' and it's the first television series in quite some time that has me excitedly awaiting its next episode. It's marvellous stuff.
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