Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan are great. They’ve both had varied success in their careers, but joining forces for this self-reflective comedy road trip is a great success. They’re both hilarious, the scenery is great and the food looks wonderful. What could possibly be bad? Nothing!
Although the ‘characters’ in this series may disagree. I say characters because although they play themselves, they are exaggerated versions. I also say they may disagree, Steve in particular, because they are both experiencing some great anguish in their lives. Steve is on a break from a relationship with his attractive girlfriend and is looking to fill that empty space in his heart with a series of one night stands. Rob is a happy family man missing his wife and trying to have fun and enjoy himself, despite Steve’s more serious nature. As Rob puts it, Steve seems desperate to be taken seriously. And it’s clear that’s the case. From the opening titles where he begrudgingly invites Rob along on his trip to the melancholy piano outros which often involve Steve alone and struggling with his own self worth.
The trip the two embark on takes them through the north of England to some really fine and expensive looking restaurants. The scenery often matches their moods. Though beautiful, it is often dull and dim, much like Steve, but occasionally has some sun shining through, like Rob’s happy nature. And the food. Wow. I’m not a fan of fish, but even the fish dishes look incredible. The bills always come to a very hefty price but by the looks of the food it’s more than worth it. It looks phenomenal. I watched an episode right after I’d eaten my dinner and it made me hungry straight away. But this series is more about the two men conversing over their meals. In fact, in episode 3 they sum it up perfectly. They start off a little unsure, then gradually have more fun before picking on the other’s flaws and finally finishing the conversation with a little gloomy shadow over them. And that’s exactly how most of them do go.
The conversations vary from careers to the future with a hefty dose of impressions. Steve wants more from his career but often picks holes in Brydon’s less star-studded history. Neither of them are particularly getting what they want from their careers, the difference is how they deal with it. Rob doesn’t mind and has hopes for the future whilst Steve’s career makes him miserable. There’s talk of Steve’s love life, how he wants his gorgeous girlfriend back but feels the need to fill the void temporarily left by her. Rob meanwhile is happy with his young family but clearly misses home. There’s a lot of animosity between the two, mostly on Steve’s part. There’s more confrontational talk as the two get into disagreements on the smallest things, mostly impressions.
The impressions, meanwhile, are great as usual. Rob is the impressions man in this series, usually starting the impressions wars. There’s Michael Caine, Billy Connolly, Al Pacino, Anthony Hopkins, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Roger Moore and some great Hugh Grant and Woody Allen from Rob. Steve meanwhile seems to hate the impressions, only jumping in to do his own when criticising Rob on his form. There’s a lot of one trying to out shine the other in the series. However there are moments when the two are on exactly the same page and you see why they’ve been friends. There’s times when the two share laughs over their jokes and some lovely harmonies between them whilst singing in the car. But somehow even complimenting each other on their duet of Abba’s ‘Winner Takes it All’ ends up in a battle on who can hit musical notes better than the other. Too add to his dour mood Steve often ends up silent as Rob takes over and performs something better than him.
There’s funny moments about wine tasting, what Steve would say at Rob’s funeral and talk of Alan Partridge (of whom Rob can do a great impression). But despite the constant attempts to out perform the other with facts, knowledge and impressions, the two do work very well together. Really, for a guy who hates any noise when people are eating as much as I do, I really enjoy a show about two men talking whilst eating their meals. It’s funny and emotional. It does a great job of managing to hide all of the issues these men are facing behind some seemingly pointless conversations. But really the problems are still there and while rarely addressed, still continue to exist throughout the series.
‘The Trip’ is a fun, if slightly bleak, series that follows two very funny, but also very troubled, comic actors on a great journey through beautiful scenery and stunning food. Director Michael Winterbottom does a great job of lingering on the two actors for a little longer than is natural to really show that sense of isolation that the two feel from one another. Particularly when Steve is alone and his personal crisis is more obvious. This really is a great show, followed by the also great ‘The Trip to Italy‘ and the recent ‘The Trip to Spain‘. Here’s hoping for another entry in the future! Greece or France perhaps?
JACK’S SCORE: 5/5