I have to admit it, I’m a grumpy old git when it comes to TV nowadays. I get completely hung up on how 90% of shows are aimed at young adults with the mental age of dental floss. I get even more hung up on how the vast majority of TV comedy shows, gameshows and sitcoms are contrived, self indulgent, ill thought out and badly performed. I get even more hung up on how the BBC gets dragged into this shit-pit of programming by its lesser competitors in the search for ratings. And blood vessels in my forehead explode with indignation every time I catch any part of an episode of “How Not To Live Your Life,” which has to be the most abhorrent, drippiest and narcissistic example of jobs for the boys television. See how grumpy I am?
So when I saw the ident for new BBC comedy “The Trip,” I expected the worst. The premise of a road trip sitcom starring two of the most revered men in comedy in Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan, playing “themselves” reeked of self love and lazy pay packet television. How wrong I was.
“The Trip” is insanely watchable. While its central focus has Brydon and Coogan talking bollocks, making impressions and generally annoying the shit out of each other, the overall picture is much greater than the sum of these rib-ticklingly hilarious parts. A simple tale in essence of two men driving through a miserably autumnal Lake District to sample local restaurants gives way to a slap-in-the-face reality check of what’s actually important in life. And like the fine food they enjoy with each meal, the sense of wistful yet comic satisfaction is delicious. No British comedy has gone anywhere near this since “The Office.”
"While its central focus has Brydon and Coogan talking bollocks, making impressions and generally annoying the shit out of each other, the overall picture is much greater than the sum of these rib-ticklingly hilarious parts"
At a time where our screens our dominated by shows which promote the search for vacuous fame or excessive wealth, “The Trip” is entirely unusual and refreshing in its stark honesty. While we are treated to a veritable banquet of Brydon and Coogan career references (on one occasion we have Coogan standing at the top of a picturesque valley screaming “A-ha!!”), we are consistently sitting smack-bang in the front row of Brydon and Coogan’s inner turmoil. Between them, they are an uber famous and successful pair, but does this make them happy? Whether this is Brydon/Coogan the men or Brydon/Coogan the characters – it really doesn’t matter. Against the open spaces of the Lakes, our comedy heroes are simply human. Despite constantly reminding themselves, and us, of their talents, they are not surrounded by agents, ego massaging hangers-on and yes men. The system that maintains their careers are nowhere to be seen in the deep countryside, and this creates a puzzling paradox for Brydon and Coogan. Maybe being rich, famous and successful isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Here we find two men at the top of their game, moving the comedy goalposts. Sublime.
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