The little gem of a show that is Travel Man returned last week, and it debuted a new four-episode run with the wonderful guest star Dawn French. In case the show has passed you by, it features Richard Ayoade taking a celebrity guest on a whirlwind 48 hour trip to various holiday destinations. Previous episodes have featured Aisling Bea in Budapest, Jon Hamm in Hong Kong, and Paul Rudd in Helsinki.
Travel shows aren’t new and you’d be forgiven for thinking watching a couple of celebrities on a freebie weekend holiday is just rubbing your nose in it. But the genius of it is Ayoade’s mixture of cynicism and curiosity, with the surprise each week of how the celebrity friend is going to get along with it. The host doesn’t like to travel, but is taking you on a trip anyway? That’s always going to be an interesting watch.
And so, this series returned with Dawn French accompanying our reluctant protagonist to Athens, where they did the usual tourist things of viewing the ancient ruins and having a go at being an Olympian, but also had some sandals made and tested their appetites with a 14 course taster menu of frankly horrific-sounding food.
I love Dawn French, and this episode showed once again what a great character she is. She took Ayoade by the hand and almost forced him to have fun. The quirky, socially awkward stylings are part of the charm of Travel Man, but French came along and demanded he drink more, eat more, enjoy himself more. It was glorious. They seemed to get on okay but you can tell Richard wasn’t quite sure how best to deal with the lovely Dawn.
It’s such a good show this one, stuffed full of facts and interesting things you’d probably not know about a country if you were to check the official guide books. And the best part is, if you don’t like a guest one week then the location, the atmosphere, and the relationship between the hosts will be completely different next time. That being said, I do think Ayoade and French should make a travel double act because I could watch them together anywhere in the world.