October 8, 2010
I was wondering if anybody is watching Ricky Gervais's latest creation on Sky One called "An Idiot Abroad"?
The premise is that his colleague, Carl Pilkington (who some of you may know as the bald-headed northerner from Gervais's XFM days and "The Ricky Gervais Show") gets sent to some of the modern "wonders of the world" including, so far, the Taj Mahal and the Great Wall of China (which he describes as the "alright" Wall of China), spending a lot of time in the countries and experiencing the local culture. What makes the show especially amusing is that Pilkington, who is naturally a very funny guy with a strange mind, doesn't like travel, foreigners or discomfort and is subjected to all of these in large doses, and is frequently horrified by his experiences - it's pretty funny to watch.
Last night's show - episode 3 - saw the hapless Pilkington sent to Jordan to see Petra. But as a surprise (to both the audience and to Pilkington) he first visited Israel, which took up half the show.
Pilkington was not very impressed when he discovered his surprise destination. His attitude, I think, is probably fairly typical among us Brits. It was not based on prejudice against te people there as such, but a generally negative attitude towards Israel and perception of the country as a dangerous war zone. In one segment he said something along the lines of:
"It's just one of those countries that you never hear anything good about. It's always bad news. You never hear a story about the world's biggest mango being grown there. Why not just send me to Afghanistan?"
I thought this was revealing and enlightening. Maybe more needs to be done to promote the "other side" of Israel. But that's an aside.
He was taken to the Kotel and was perplexed. He took part (unknowingly) in "extreme scenario training" where he was kidnapped by men dressed as Arab terrorists and interrogated, and was terrified. He spent some time with some guys travelling around in a bus who get out at traffic lights and dance - that's all they do all day. He travelled to Bethlehem (Church of the Nativity) and when crossing into PA territory was profoundly depressed by the security barrier (which his Palestinian guide told him was the only one of its kind in the world - totally untrue of course).
He wasn't particularly impressed with Jordan either. He spent a few days with a Bedouin tribe and was treated to a meal of sheep head stewed in milk and had to travel across the desert on a camel. By the time he reached Petra he was fed up and not in the mood for sight-seeing.
It was a good show, and I was chuffed to see Israel get some exposure, although to be honest I thought it did reinforce a lot of the stereotypes. Guns, soldiers, walls, terrorists. But at least it showed a human side to the region too, which gets lost in a lot of the normal media coverage.
If you missed it you can watch it on Sky's website although it's only showing up to episode 2 at the moment - but the whole series is worth a watch. And I'm sure it'll get repeated on Sky TV at some point.
If you did watch it, or do in the future, please let me know what you thought :)