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|Index||13 reviews in total|
Words cannot describe how wonderful this comedy is. Steve Coogan has
moved up to genius with his wonderful portrayal of 'himself?'. Sad and
bitter he feels the world still doesn't appreciate him for the genius
he is. The self depreciation is wonderful as is his partner in these
adventures Rob whose everlasting cheerfulness and wish to truly help
Steve stop worrying about things and just enjoy the comedy he can give
to people. I will never tire of 'Whaddyagot' Pacino and 'Mr
Chrissssstian' Hopkins from Rob and Steve's bored look as he delivers
these lines week in week out.
Finest comedy moment - almost to a Chaplin level of pathos - Steve Coogan's vain attempts to recreate in a hotel room mirror Robs 'Man in a Box'. True genius. 30 minutes each week of unbelievable terrific comedy snuck away on BBC2 at 10pm. I have rewatched each episode several times on iplayer and will get the DVD when released. This is one to mention up there with the best and please please watch as many episodes whilst you can. Genius - nothing more or less. Congratulations to all concerned.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is the second time that Coogan and Brydon have played
semi-fictional versions of themselves on screen together. The first
being in the enjoyable full length feature A Cock and Bull Story in
2005 which, like this series was directed by Michael Winterbottom.
This series of six half hour vignettes follows Steve and Rob as they tour the north of England visiting top-end restaurants under the auspices that Coogan is writing a review on each establishment for a broad-sheet national paper. I think it's well known that Coogan and Brydon are long-time friends and Steve's Production Company Little Cow Productions (a reference to his popular comic creations Paul and Pauline Calf) has produced a number of Brydon's TV shows. Personally I am a big fan of both men but ultimately that meant that I went into this with high expectations. I was not let down.
The key words which keep coming to mind throughout this series are 'subtlety' and 'reality'. The main comedic platforms of the series are the mostly improvised conversations the two men share whilst eating their extended lunches. These interplays tend to descend into ego-fuelled, petty verbal sparring and competitive point scoring. Both men are well known for their spectrum of impressions of famous, mostly British celebrities (Coogan started his career voicing many of the puppets on Spitting Image, the satirical comedy show of the 1980's) We are told at the start that Coogan has invited Brydon because Coogan's companion of choice, his ex-girlfriend is in L.A and others who he has asked have said no. This theme that Brydon is a late stand-in is repeated and referenced throughout the series and is the fundamental dynamic running through most of their time together.
What's particularly wonderful about these interactions are the hints at underlying historical frustrations the two men feel towards one another as they try to win a series of mini verbal victories, very often whilst in the character of the celebrity they are impersonating. It makes for some really amusing and genuinely funny viewing.
Throughout the piece there are references to well known rumours about the two men. In particular the image of Coogan as an insecure rather clumsy sex-addicted womaniser who struggles with his own professional achievements set against his much publicised history of indulging in excessive drink and drugs. He also references the frustrations he encounters as he tries to gain mainstream acceptance as a bonafide leading actor in Hollywood. Sending themselves up and playing out the characters that the media portrays them as having is a very clever (and I suspect cathartic) way of making light of those very same stereotypes.
Brydon portrays himself as a less complicated family man who more often than not defers to Coogan in the heat of witty combat (perhaps because Coogan is paying the bill for each meal and paying Brydon to join him on the trip). He appears to play the reluctant apprentice to Coogan's Master and in doing so he comes across as the more grounded and likable of the two main characters. Coogan, playing the slightly bitter and unfulfilled alpha male regularly reminds Brydon that on paper he is the more successful performer. Brydon's need to constantly communicate in the guise of one his characterisations, disguising his often clever and sometimes cutting observations clearly annoys Coogan. We get the impression that Coogan looks down on Brydon because he so readily jumps into character to impress or amuse, almost as a social defence mechanism. Coogan on the other hand is too cool to need to do this and it's very evident in way he reacts to Brydon's mimicry. The dynamic of the contempt/respect relationship that the two play out is both brilliant and sharp. Playing oneself on screen must be very difficult and in this series the line between reality and fiction is deliberately and wonderfully blurred. One genuinely gets the feeling that this is not far away from how these two friends might interact in real-life although one hopes with a little less ego-driven competitiveness.
Apart from the restaurant settings, we see Rob and Steve visit local historical places of interest such as Samuel Coleridge's home and the verbal point scoring is not restricted just to the dinner table. It is whilst the two men tour the countryside in Steve's Range Rover that we get to see some breath-taking scenery and if I was feeling a little more pretentious I would say something about this part being a visual love-letter from the Lancastrians Coogan and Winterbottom to their beloved North of England.
This is hugely rewarding television and I can not recommend it highly enough.
One of the TV highlights of 2010. Coogan and Brydon are superb, the oddest of couples as they bicker about their careers and try to outdo each other with impressions ranging from Al Pacino ('whatta ya got?') to Alan Bennett ('Peter and Dudley, Dudley and Peter'). It's beautifully shot with some stunning locations and also manages the tricky feat of segueing from dark comedy to oddly touching drama and back again. It could so easily have been self-indulgent tripe, and there are admittedly times when you want to reach into the screen and punch the preening, self-obsessed Coogan, but The Trip manages to walk that finest of lines, delivering a love song to the north and a funny, thoughtful meditation on fame and the ageing process. Here's hoping for a second series.
One part Gourmet Orgy, one part North of England Postcard, one part
Buddy Road Picture, and one part Indulgent Vanity Piece, The Trip
serves up thoroughly sating entertainment. While on a one week sojourn
through the picturesque countryside to review haute cuisine for a
Sunday newspaper, Steve Coogan's character - a rather melancholic
version of himself - struggles to salvage a failing relationship with
his distant American actress girlfriend over awkward, difficult cell
phone calls. It's a clever ploy that personifies Steve's escaping
opportunities to land a substantial role in a major Hollywood
production. His spirit is so crushed by his fractured romance, or by
his unfulfilled professional ambitions, or by both - you decide! - that
it casts a shadow over his days' adventures.
Though he indulges his libido at will with a string of attractive young ladies along the way, he still implores us to empathize with his misery. It is hard to commiserate with a guy who's meanwhile indulging, at every meal, in spectacularly sumptuous delicacies and exquisite vintages, all the while engaged in wonderfully hysterical banter with a fellow comedic master, Rob Brydon, who is sarcastically presented as just a casual work acquaintance. Steve's spot on executions of Michael Caine, Roger Moore, Sean Connery, Billy Connolly, and even Woody Allen are nearly matched by Rob, whose uncanny Hugh Grant he employs in his ridiculous nightly phone sex calls to his wife back home. Rob seems unaware of just how awful is his Al Pacino, which he isn't shy to use. Even Rob's lesser talents, especially his trademark Small Man in a Box, are very entertaining, at least in as much as they severely irritate Steve, who secretly envies the amusing skill.
The conceit that drives the six episode series is that we are in fact encouraged to despise Steve to some degree for his prideful self obsession, all-the-while vicariously reveling in the bacchanalian indulgences. Rob's genial, boyish charm is just as likely to provoke as it is to dampen a condescending, scolding retort from Steve. Rob, it seems, is content to have such a knowledgeable, if critical, audience for his theatrics. The heavy moods, however, are overplayed a bit, prodded by Mr. Coogan's genuine(?) desire to be recognized as an artist. Apparently true comedians are not satisfied with their rare talent for making people laugh. It's a dilemma similar to that explored by Ricky Gervais in Extras series 2, where Ricky's character, Andy, is often despondent over his stalled career, trapped in a low brow sitcom, mechanically repeating a tedious, tiresome catch phrase. The Trip manages to avoid Alan Partridge's signature "Aha!" for all but a few utterances where it's used to great effect. The Trip also shares considerable psychic terrain with the 2004 film Sideways with Paul Giamatti as a morose failed writer and Thomas Haden Church as a better adjusted minor TV star on a cross country wine tasting excursion. The Trip plays it much less dramatically, more subtly.
As brilliant as this hybrid amalgam is, I left off one half a star for it's less-than-funny, even distracting, self fascinated pathos. Steve's hubris is initially compelling but it eventually grew just a bit tiresome. In all fairness watching the six episodes straight through in one sitting may have contributed to this impression. Even so, that leaves nine and one half gleaming stars of supremely fulfilling rich humor and stunning visual treats, plus a few savory historical morsels.
A TV comedy drama from director Michael Winterbottom, The Trip is
superficially about Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon visiting various
restaurants around the country to enjoy a meal and review the food.
But, of course, it's not really about that at all.
Food IS consumed and discussed but The Trip is more about the two men, bravely playing interpretations of themselves (Coogan is arrogant, insecure and womanising while Brydon is always happy and always ready with an impression to relieve any tense moments), and their relationship as both friends and colleagues in that old business called show.
At times it's a little lightweight and meandering but, sometimes from out of nowhere, there's always some barb that hurts all the more or some joke made that reveals a bitter truth.
Coogan and Brydon, whether comparing Michael Caine impressions or trying to outdo one another while singing in the car, are both excellent and no episode actually has the air of something improvised and quickly made up. Paradoxically, nothing ever feels false or overly affected either. The performances from the two leads are pretty flawless.
A few other people do appear on screen but only for a very limited time. Coogan's current partner is played by Margo Stilley while the more important and dependable woman in his life, his assistant, is played by Claire Keelan.
Winterbottom has constructed a little gem here, with each episode containing a good mix of drama and humour and the overall story arc moving forward nicely to the final scenes, despite the lack of any real surprises. The food is given it's due, and looks pretty damn good, but the focus is always quickly moved back to the two men. Two friends who know each other so well, though neither would probably admit to it.
Since my major interests are conversation, food and scenery (And it
helps that I was brought up in Yorkshire) then this hit every nail on
I got hold of the DVD with all the extras, and after loving watching the series with its perfect execution of the relationship between the two main characters, then the extras provided a great insight into the amount of improvisation that was going on throughout.
It won't appeal to everyone, particularly those who have some sort of grudge against Coogan and the BBC as a whole (although how you can lump the two together is a mystery to me), but I thought that the willingness of Coogan and Brydon to caricature themselves as perceived by the media and seriously take the mick out of each other was not only brave, but quite touching.
The "To bed Gentleman, for we rise at daybreak!" scene was a highlight, as was the "Michael Caine-off" competition, for want of a better description.
But there is also pathos, as the Coogan and Brydon characters are at very different points in their respective relationships, and that's what holds the whole thing together.
Well, basically, it's brilliant.
What we've really got is two series. One is the comedy of "Steve Coogan" and "Rob Brydon" exchanging barbs and doing impressions and making witty observations. These parts generally occur over the six meals they share, and I really enjoyed them. Some of their banter is hilarious... I had already seen the Michael Caine routine several times on YouTube and yet I still laughed at it. The other film involves the contrast between these people/characters: Steve, trying to bolster his acting career and struggling with a relationship that's starting to crack, and Rob the less successful but content family man. And I really enjoyed this part as well. Rob's calls home to his wife are amusing but also quite touching. Steve's existential midlife crisis is engaging and insightful as well. The two halves of the film do bleed into each other a bit, but I genuinely appreciated the separation between them. Winterbottom knows that it's okay to just let these two guys play off each other with their natural comedic chemistry and not worry about whether or not it's pushing the "plot" forward. The photography is mostly functional, concentrating on the personalities, but quite lovely when capturing all that gorgeous English countryside. While the film isn't as post-modern as the previous collaborations (24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE and TRISTRAM SHANDY, both of which seem to get minor callbacks in the first episode, though it may be merely coincidence) it still maintains an unconventionality.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Ever since me and the rest of my family spent a very rainy summer
holiday being entertained for the whole time via some video tapes of a
TV show called Knowing Me,Knowing You With Alan Partridge that we
picked up from a near by car boot sale,I have always done my best to
keep a bit of an eye on what projects Partridge actor Steve Coogan and
lead writer Armando Iannucci (now an Oscar nom!) have each been up
to,with even the low point in their works(Dr Terrible's House of
Horrible,The Armando Iannucci Show)featuring some very good moments.
Whilst waiting for this series to arrive in the post (which I had intentionally made sure not to watch on TV) I began to hear that the BBC were going to do a "Man From U.N.C.L.E." and bring out a slashed-down 90 minute version of the series as a film in the US,which made me decide that I would not take any short cuts,but instead go for the full 3 hour,wonderful trip.
After being given a job by a newspaper called The Observer to be their guest food critic for the month,actor Steve Coogan rings up his American girlfriend to ask if she will come along with him on a week long tour of restaurant's in the north of England,Sadly for Coogan,he finds that his girlfriend is doing what he has been attempting to succeed at for the last 10 years:working in America.
Desperate to not go alone on this tour of the north,Steve eventually rings up his best friend Rob Brydon, who he gives a nudge until he eventually accepts Coogan's offer.As the pair start to go on their travels,Steve begins to feel that he's lowed himself by accepting The Observer job,due to feeling that whilst Brydon is happy being a "populist" entertainer in the UK, he should instead be focusing on the opportunity that he has been searching after for years,which finally may transform him into an A-List Holloywood "autor" actor:a HBO series.
Initially being thrilled to jump for the offer,Coogan begins to have doubts on his current path,when he begins to realise that his best friend has a much better personal life than he has ever had.
View on the film/series:
When checking up for details of Steve Coogan's third (and Rob Brydon's second) collaboration with director Michael Winterbottom,I began to get a strong suspicion that with the series/film's basic plot of: two men travel to posh café's,eat,drink and chat-the end!,there seemed to be a very strong chance that the latest collaboration between all three would choke on its own self indulgences.Lucky the largely improvised script balances itself on a tightrope between a post-modern,meta comedy and a touching melodrama about ambition and friends.
Compared to the rough "acid" look that Winterbottom gave to his tremendous Coogan co-starring film based around the late 70's-late 90's music scene in Manchester (24 Hour Party People),the film/series has a extremely stark,crisp appearance that allows Winterbottom to show all of the natural "faults" with his cast,Along with making the beautiful filming location's look like places that you almost instantly want to get in a car and visit for yourself.
If,like me you have experience sleepless nights due to wondering about question's such as:"How would Woody Allen sound if he was Welsh?","What is Richard Gere looking at off-screen?",and of course the main question: "How would it be to take part in a Michael Caine battle rap?" Well,I am pleased to announce that you can now sleep peacefully now, thanks to the stunning dinner conversations that Steve and Rob have over the six episodes being jam-packed with hilariously good impressions that will keep you laughing for the whole 90 mins/3 hours and also features moments that will stay in your head long after the viewing.
At around the half-way mark of viewing the series,I began to realise that the main highlight for me was starting to become seeing how much the real and the fake Steve Coogan would blend into each other as Coogan gives what is impressively the strongest performance of his whole career,as Rob Brydon's charming performance of a family man allows Coogan to create a character of himself who seems to have come off the set of HBO's amazing The Larry Sanders Show,thanks to him ripping any protective mask into pieces as the character (and perhaps Coogan's real) flaws get placed on the table for the audience to see in the open,which gives this film/series the chance to end on a perfectly pitched,delicate melancholia note.
One bit that I do have to say about the different cuts,is that whilst no big plot twist gets left on the cutting room floor,the 3 hour TV version stands proud as the definitive cut,due to the extra 90 minutes letting a whole lot more punchlines be included and also gives the Coogan Brydon friendship a lot more depth,thanks to the extended running time.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I heard about this programme a little while it was broadcast, but I must have missed it, and I was keen to try it, so I was very happy when I noticed it was being repeated, so I watched with great expectations, directed by Michael Winterbottom (24 Hour Party People, A Mighty Heart, Everyday). Basically comedian and actor (BAFTA winning) Steve Coogan has accepted a commission job as a restaurant critic for The Observer newspaper, touring the North of England to experience many places that offer good food and fine dining, he is doing it to try and impress his American girlfriend Mischa (Margo Stilley), who has asked to take a break from their relationship. Originally Misha was meant to come on the trip with him, but she has returned to America while they are on a break, so at the last minute the only person he can think of to invite is his fellow comedian and actor friend-of-sorts (British Comedy Award nominated) Rob Brydon, and the two of them set off on their road trip. While on the road, eating the well prepared and presented food, drinking the fine wines and exploring the various landscapes the series revolves around mostly improvised scenes between them, as they experience the meals, and try to outdo and undermine each other in conversation and doing celebrity impressions and movie line clichés. During their time together of course they have a good laugh and enjoy themselves in most ways as well, but also we see Rob missing home and talking to his partner in a pleasant and jovial manner, while Steve tries to get back in Mischa's good books, sort things with his agent, and has one night stands with various women. Coogan and Brydon play mock versions of themselves really well, and both do great celebrity impressions that work really well while they bicker and have some kind of imitation-off, they know how to make those watching laugh, whether it is funny or cringeworthy, or both. It also works really well as a fun road trip, seeing the many beautiful sights, seeing the preparations of the delicious meals at The Inn at Whitewell, L'Enclume in Cartmel, Cumbria, Holbeck Ghyll in Windermere, Hipping Hall near Lancashire, Yorke Arms at Ramsgill in Nidderdale, North Yorkshire and Hetton in the Craven district of North Yorkshire, and they also meet and on the phone talk to a few interesting characters, one episode even guest stars Ben Stiller. If you are looking for a show with two great comedy stars, material mostly being made up along the way, a road trip with interesting places to go and things to see, and tasty looking food served to them, this all combined makes for a fantastically funny and interesting comedy sitcom. It was nominated the BAFTA for Best Situation Comedy, and it was nominated the British Comedy Award for Best New TV Comedy. Very good!
I'm always on the lookout for comedy series to entertain me during my
short lunch break whilst sat in my little office on my own far from
civilisation. So far.. Green Wing, Mitchell and Webb, the excellent Big
Train, the surreal Garth Marenghis Darkplace, The Great Outdoors, and
others have stood the test of my thirty minute sandwich break.
This time, its 'The Trip' , and I don't expect to get through it, as its already becoming tedious after three episodes. This is clearly nothing more than a marketing gimmick for the restaurants involved.. its certainly not a comedy. Its basically Rob and Steve sat at a table, doing impressions, and that's as far as the plot goes. They're not comedy impressions though, just regular, everyday impressions. The type of impressions that impressionists with no comedy talent (such as Alistair McGowan) think are funny... ie, they're not funny at all.
The best thing about this series is actually the scenery that the UK has to offer. They go to some stunning locations and some nice hotels and restaurants. But, the restaurants clearly have some kind of marketing involvement going on here, as we are treated to full menu breakdowns, shots of the kitchens and chefs, history of said restaurant or hotel, and as yet, not a bad word to be said about any of them by Steve or Rob.
Odd program.. sometimes uncomfortable viewing.. certainly not funny.
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