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"We're not having 'An Idiot Abroad!' It's 'Karl Pilkington's Seven Wonders.' I've been through a load of shit here - you're sat there giving them bloody shit titles."—Karl
An Idiot Abroad is a travel series starring Karl Pilkington (and to a lesser extent his "friends" Stephen Merchant and Ricky Gervais). It initially aired on Sky 1 in the UK from 23rd September to 11th November 2010 and started airing in January 2011 in North America on Discovery's Science Channel. It was advertised as "a social experiment gone horribly wrong". Supposedly, Karl was told that the show would be called .
The working title for the first season was "Karl Pilkington's Seven Wonders", and involved Karl traveling to the seven wonders of the world - The Great Wall of China ("It goes on for miles, but so does the M6"), Christ the Redeemer in Brazil ("It's like a big pylon"), Macchu Picchu in Peru (he never made it), Chichen Itza in Mexico, the Taj Mahal in India, Petra in Jordan, and the Great Pyramids in Egypt ("It’s like a game of Jenga that’s got out of hand").
The second season debuted in September 2011 on Sky 1 and January 2012 on The Science Channel. This time the format called for Karl to achieve a series of "bucket list" items culled from a survey of things people would like to do before they die. It featured, among other things, Karl spending a night on his own desert island, Karl riding the Trans-Siberian Express, and Karl climbing Mount Fuji.
The main attraction of the show isn't seeing the sights, it's Karl's unusual philosophy and outlook on life.
- Amusing Injuries: Karl attempts a Kung Fu move: throwing a needle through a small pane of glass to puncture a balloon. He winds up completely missing everything and spearing his cameraman in the bicep.
- BBW: Karl appreciates the full-figured Mexican women. For once, it's not one of his abstract statements and actually displays the profound side he only occasionally displays in The Ricky Gervais Show, as well as an awareness, surprisingly, of contemporary body issues for women in much of the western world. Whilst mixed in with his usual pondering, he explains that he admires that the Mexican women can eat what they like and not worry about it, and actively seem to like their food. Western women, he suggests, wouldn't be able to do so.
- Body Horror:
- One of the yoga practitioners Karl meets in India wraps his junk around a cane, ties it in a knot, and proceeds to perform yoga with it. Covered by the Censor Bar during broadcast, of course, but doesn't leave much to the imagination. Not censored in the Australian broadcast or UK broadcast, nor the Blu-Ray/DVD release.
- The 'Elephant Baba' - so called because of the deformity of his face, which, naturally, resembles an elephant, at least to some degree. He seems like a perfectly nice chap, however.
- During the second season while in Thailand, Karl ends up visiting a medical museum. It's loaded with this.
- Butt Monkey: Don't expect Karl to ever get any leeway.
- This trope becomes almost literal in the Season 2 finale when Ricky and Steve finally badger Karl into getting his prostate checked, on camera.
- Call Back:
- When Karl is asked to confess sins by a Chinese fortune teller, he confesses to stealing Mars bars from his old boss - a story he told on The Ricky Gervais Show.
- In the second season's Trans-Siberian Railway episode, Karl gets told the end of the line is in Beijing and he is going there. Karl then talks about how much he hated the first time he went there, back in Season 1.
- Camp Gay: Several people Karl meets in Brazil. (It's during Carnival)
- Catch Phrase:
- "I'm not having this. You can fuck right off."
- "This is doing me head in."
- Stephen: "It's not a holiday"
- Ricky: (insane laughter)
- Character Development: In the first episode of the second series, it became apparent that Karl, while still a reluctant traveller, was far more relaxed around different cultures, and not quite as awkward as he was in series one. At one point he even manages to laugh along with Ricky on the phone. This was probably inevitable.
- Karl himself.
- The mad woman in the tribal village in Peru.
- Cloudcuckooland: What Karl thinks the rest of the world is like.
- Comedic Sociopathy: Ricky and Steve organise what Karl does, at one point making him sleep in a cave.
Ricky "Because it's funny."
- Amusingly, Karl finds this the most relaxing part of the trip.
- Deadpan Snarker: Karl.
- Foreshadowing: Every time Karl says something he doesn't want to do or wouldn't normally happen in the place he's going to, Ricky and Steve make sure it happens. Several examples being, he suggests that Chinese people eat frog (which isn't that common), so Ricky and Steve make sure he comes across frogs as much as possible during his trip. Another is him confusing the Brazil Carnival with a Gay Pride parade. Naturally, this means they get him to stay with an extremely Camp Gay who turns out to be a drag queen, as well as having him enter the carnival himself dressed as what he describes as 'Andy Pandy on crack'. He also suggests that he'd prefer to be in a cave looking at Petra than actually being inside Petra...so they make him spend a night in a cave. Of course, he actually enjoys this.
- Everything's Better with Monkeys: Karl's Africa trip in the second season is all about going to Uganda to see mountain gorillas in the wild.
- Foreign Queasine:
- Karl feels this way about people eating insects and chicken fetuses in China.
- He feels this way about the camel's penis and balls but doesn't seem to have disliked it, just what it is.
- The tequila worm he eats in Mexico.
- The traditional sushi he's offered in Japan. Karl does this a lot.
- Hilarity Ensues: Karl is frequently booked in the shittiest hotels in the worst parts of whatever country he's sent to.
- I Ate What?: In Cairo-- camel's testicle and penis. In China, frog.
- Idiot Hero: Of the Loveable Idiot type. Ricky accurately describes him as a "stupid round-headed twonk" and a "chimp-like Manc".
- Insane Troll Logic: At one point Karl claims there are fish so transparent, they're not even sure they exist.
- Insistent Terminology: Karl keeps complaining that Steve and Ricky are sending him on crap holidays, they keep reminding him it's not a holiday.
- Israelis With Infrared Missiles: Karl visits the Dead Sea and there's a glimpse of another beachgoer packing some serious heat as he towels off. Unsurprising, given that most of the male population in Israel is in the army.
- Jerkass: Ricky Gervais and Stephan Merchant. See below and the page quote.
- Little People Are Surreal: In Season 2 Karl visits a Chinese "dwarf village" where dwarves live in little mushroom houses and put on shows for tourists. He calls his friend Warwick Davis to make sure it's ok and is highly annoyed when Davis tells him that no, it's not ok.
- Masked Luchador: Karl trains with a small gang of these in Mexico and gets thoroughly beaten-up and sick (although the latter could be because he drank the water).
- Mundane Utility: While Karl is at Chichen Itza, his girlfriend calls him up to ask how to work the DVD player.
- New Age Retro Hippie: While traveling down America's Route 66, Karl stops off at a hippie commune in Arizona and participates in a "cuddle party". Where people cuddle and hug.
- Political Correctness Gone Mad: Karl complains at one point that Leprechauns prefer to be called Gnomes. Ricky howls with laughter.
- Product Placement: The words "Sky 1" and "in HD" are said Once an Episode. It's a little odd when played in America, where most people don't know what "Sky One" is.
- Robinson Crusoe: In the second season Karl's overnight stay on his own island is likened to this, complete with a "Man Friday" to help set up Karl's hut and provide him with food.
- Sadist Show: Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant delight in making Karl as uncomfortable as possible. See the top quote.
- Shout-Out: At one point in the first season Karl says he thought his travelogue was going to be like Michael Palin's. Karl also stays at one of the same hotels Palin stayed at (of course, in a much shabbier room) and sees an autographed picture of Palin hanging on a wall.
- Tastes Like Chicken: While in China, Karl was told that frogs (he keeps calling them "toads") taste like chicken.
- Transsexual: Karl meets some Thai "ladyboys" in Season 2. They dress him up as a girl.
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight: On a beach in Israel, no one except him cares about the IDF soldier in swim trunks still packing his assault rifle.
- What the Hell, Hero?: In China in Season 2, Karl visits a village for midgets and dwarves, which is proportional to their size. When he calls up Warwick Davis to make sure this is OK, Warwick points out that it's completely exploitive and he's disappointed in Karl. Karl counters with the inane assumption that the dwarf in a king's outfit is actually a king.
- Writer Revolt: Karl occasionally refuses to do things ("I'm not going on a camel again, I'm not going on a camel again, I'm not going on a camel again"), or gets bored and wanders off. He doesn't even get to Macchu Picchu in the end. In Season 2 he flatly refuses to take a bungee jump. In the end, he goes to the birthplace of the sport, a small tribe, and takes a ridiculously wimpy five-foot "bungee jump," much to Ricky's amusement.