15 – 6 x 30mins – Streaming on UK Netflix from: Friday 22nd September 2017
Series Producer: Mark Chapman
Executive Producers: Jack Whitehall, Michael Whitehall, Ben Cavey
Produced and directed by: John Hodgson
Despite being on a plethora of popular panel shows and performing sell-out stand-up comedy tours for the best part of the last decade, Fresh Meat ‘toff’ Jack Whitehall is still in his twenties. His act has often played upon not only the naivety of his age but also his sheltered-if-cushy upbringing by his stuffy agent-to-the-stars father, Michael. The jovial comic and his often stubbornly-rigid pa have previously partnered up as an odd couple on BBC chat show Backchat, but now streaming super-service Netflix has paid for the Bad Education star to have the gap year he never went on – provided his dad tags along for the (joy)ride!
Comprising of snappy 30(-ish) minute episodes which condense the five-week father and son holiday into six stops around South-East Asia, Travels with my Father Series One plays very much like a soul mate to Karl Pilkington’s uproarious travel-log An Idiot Abroad. But while I suspected Michael to be the straight man to Jack’s culturally-ignorant “yout”, it is in fact the 72-year old home-body whose superiority complex often sees him embarrassed, infuriated or voluntarily sitting out many of the road trip’s most adventurous escapades.
Taking in Bangkok, Phuket, Cambodia, Siem Reap and Hanoi, the culture shock is ramped up to the extreme by Jack sardonically pointing out his father’s obvious unease – including his phobia of water and love of a poo in peace. Some set-pieces, such as Michael mistaking a ladyboy for their tour guide, as well as 80s action hero Steven Seagal (who happened to me in the same hotel as the pair for a business meeting) pushing Jack into a pond when the awe-struck fan asked him to explain the meaning of Zen, do feel a little contrived and scripted. Truth may be stranger than fiction, but at times I thought the scenarios felt a little too coincidental to be natural.
Yet Travels with my Father still succeeds in eliciting countless genuine belly laughs. Affection doesn’t come naturally to Michael, but a sly smirk often betrays his aloof condescension, and the only downside come the nostalgic return to ‘starting block’ Bangkok in episode six was that the series felt too sort – less gap year than mini-break. Had the episodes been a meatier 45minutes, and they were capped off with, say, a studio-based final episode looking back over the ill-advised jaunt, then I would have felt more satisfied. As it is, I’m desperately hoping for a return trip when both of their busy schedules next allow.
CR@B’s Claw Score: