So far it’s not met with universal approval. While Damien Love in the Herald calls it ‘one of the greatest things on television this year’, Sam Woolaston in the Guardian thinks it’s ‘a bit wanky and self indulgent’, and Rachel Cooke in the New Statesman claims ‘not a lot’ happens.
Well not a lot ‘happens’ in Waiting for Godot either. Like much of the best TV, from Marion and Geoff to Mad Men, in The Trip it’s all going on under the surface.
And what happens in The Trip is the visible disintegration of a man’s life, the painful playing out of existential angst against the backdrop of rolling hills and Michelin starred tasting menus.
In case you missed all the publicity, the set up is that ‘Steve Coogan’ (played by Steve Coogan) has been commissioned by the Observer to take a tour of six of the North of England’s finest country house restaurants. Having been dumped by his leggy American girlfriend, he asks along his old friend ‘Rob Brydon’ (played by Rob Brydon) as a last resort. Brydon is happily married with a baby; Coogan’s children live with their mother. Brydon is content to be a light entertainer; Coogan still strives for artistic credibility and Hollywood success.
They bicker, they analyse each other’s hair loss, they compete over Michael Caine impressions, they criticise each other’s wine-tasting techniques, they pore over road maps, they make playlists, they quote Wordsworth and Kate Bush, they barely notice the brooding scenery, they eat seared scallops with a parsley coulis.
Behind the banter, there is friction, affection, and overwhelming helplessness. It is laugh out loud funny, and addictively painful.
It’s directed by Michael Winterbottom. If you missed it, watch it on iPlayer. But remember to eat first.[*I’m pleased to report that not only has a second series of Downton Abbey been commissioned, but that its writerJulian Fellowes has already penned his Titanic piece ready for 2012’s anniversary]