The soundbite version of describing this show would be ‘Moss from The IT Crowd spends 48 hours in a city with a celebrity chum’. Of course there’s a lot more to it than that. For starters Richard Ayoade is a real person, unlike his sitcom alter-ego. Whilst both Moss and Richard share a similar social awkwardness, Richard is far more self-aware and self-effacing. His acerbically sardonic wit is what makes Travel Man a pleasure to watch. His dry servile of his new surroundings is reliably hilarious – in episode one he describes an outing as being ‘vindictively ruined by rain’, the football stadium they then hide in as ‘a cathedral to the art of ball-kicking’ and how the trip overall was ‘a savagely varied experience’. Such is his divisive nature of his ability to ‘pour scorn on things in a glib way’ that he ‘wouldn’t wish me on anyone’. If a single one of those five Ayoade witticisms didn’t make you smirk even a little, then this isn’t the show for you.
Each episode follows the same format. Ayoade and a travel companion arrive in a city in which they have 48 hours to explore. Rather usefully we’re given an estimate for how much a typical weekend away in the city will cost, although our televisual twosome will tend to partake in the slightly more unusual and expensive- which you most likely wouldn’t chose to do yourself in such a limited amount of valuable holiday time. We see them try traditional food and drink, tour the city in an unlikely manner, meet some unique local residents and partake in some bizarre activities. All of which makes for excellent TV.
However, the appeal of this show has two further variables beyond how much you may appreciate Ayoade’s screen presence – who his travel buddy is and which city they are exploring. It’s highly likely that your enjoyment of each episode will vary as a result of the combination. Like an experiment conducted during GCSE science, these three ingredients produce varied results.
Disc one features the four episodes of series one, where Richard visits Barcelona with Kathy Burke, Istanbul with Adam Hills, Iceland with Jessica Hynes and Marrakesh with Stephen Managan. The strongest episode of the quartet is with Adam Hills, the rapport between he and Ayoade is the most comfortable and relaxed seeming. They have a very natural back-and-forth with a much appreciated level of teasing. Their various outings make it even more memorable. Who knew how enjoyable it would be to watch Hills and Ayoade go for a haircut and shave, respectively, whilst depending on Google Translate due to their being unable to speak a word of the same language as their barber. Their attempts at haggling, with varied results, are also fun to watch.
Disc two comprises the four episodes of series two and the four episodes of series three. Series two features Vienna with Chris O’Dowd, Paris with Mel Giedroyc, Moscow with Greg Davies and Copenhagen with Noel Fielding. Series three features Seville with Rob Delaney, Venice with Jo Brand, Berlin with Roisin Conaty and Dubai with Johnny Vegas. For regular fans of all things Mighty Boosh and The IT Crowd, it’s unsurprising that seeing Chris and Richard then Noel and Richard reunited are the peak episodes. Having worked together for over a decade, their friendships are well documented. Anyone who has ever seen an episode of Channel 4’s Big Fat Quiz when Noel and Richard have teamed up will know exactly what to expect from their outing in Copenhagen. They’re quick to make a friend/foe in tour guide Mike the Bike, personalising him in a manner that is joyfully familiar. The goading between Chris and Richard is particularly sweet, with ‘Dickie’ being rewarded by seeing Chris accidentally break a massive snow globe. It’s very funny to watch.
Now a boxset, after first appearing on our screens in 2015, Travel Man isn’t the most obvious choice for a binge watch. You probably won’t watch four episodes in a row and you probably won’t watch them in the designated order, more likely you’ll pick and mix the episodes that sound most appealing. But, if you’re a fan of comedy and seeing various cities through a sarcastic yet admiring lens – this show is the right one for you.
Dir: Nicola Silk,
Scr: Leo McCrea
Featuring: Chris O’Dowd, Mel Giedroyc, Greg Davies, Noel Fielding, Rob Delaney, Jo Brand, Roisin Conaty, Johnny Vegas, Kathy Burke, Adam Hills, Jessica Hynes and Stephen Managan
Prd: Nicola Silk,
Year: 2015 – present
Run time: Each episode is between 20-25 minutes
The Travel Man series 1 & 2 boxset is out now.