One could be forgiven for thinking the new series Travel Man presented by IT Crowd’s Richard Ayoade would be an informative and interesting, if not at times amusing, commentary on some of Europe’s most popular city destinations. However, one would be mistaken in thinking it anything but a comedy.
Joined by actress Kathy Burke as his one-time side-kick presenter, the two jaunt around some quite unusual Barcelonan sites in the region of Catalonia, including an alternative restaurant offering watermelon that ‘looks like tuna’, liquid olives, pudding resembling sausages, Cava tasting and a visit to a surrealist Catalonian artist’s exhibition, in which they only looked at a couple of sculptures before accepting they were unimpressed.
In contrast to his previous series Gadget Man, which showcased ridiculously lavish and expensive high-tech gear, Travel Man actually provides some handy tips and advice for those looking for a weekend city break. These include the journey taken by Trixi pedi-cabs as well as the advice that the city is half the size of Birmingham and is ‘easily navigated by leg’. Other methods of transport taken include a cable car above the city, mockingly described by Ayoade as a ‘precarious potential coffin’.
It may be cynicism on my part, but there seems to be a shame in genuine enjoyment of travel journalism and critique, as if the experience must always be negative in some way. On their visit to Barcelona’s Nou Camp football stadium, Ayoade voiced his disdain for sports and joked, ‘life is more enjoyable if you only enjoy very few things, because the things I enjoy I have access to; marbles.’
Having visited the city myself, I feel the minute spent covering the stunning Sagrada familia architecture definitely could have been longer, and there was barely a mention of the fantastic shopping on Las Ramblas, although I may be biased as a shop-a-holic. Ayoade’s sarcastic, silly style could be perceived as somewhat grating, but at the end of the day he is rather loveable and you find yourself smiling throughout. It isn’t meant to be a serious show, after all.
The programme is essentially summed up by Ayoade just before the first break, when he promises to ‘pretend to guide’ viewers through a Catalonian mini-break. ‘Cultural enrichment comes at a cost’, claims Ayoade, as the pair spending £850 each in just 48 hours. Well, yes it will do if you choose Cava tastings and visits to five-star nouveau cuisine restaurants. This is definitely the start of an entertaining series for viewers of all ages, but I’m afraid the budgets suggested in the show are hardly student-friendly.
With a focus not so much on the destination and more on the light-hearted, witty banter between presenters, the show shares a similar tone with Sky’s An Idiot Abroad series in trying to find the bizarre in the ordinary, and really should be Ayoade Abroad. If you’re looking to find out more about Barcelona, it’s probably not the show for you, but if you’re in need of a chuckle, it won’t disappoint.