Tuesday, August 23, 2011
The Trip (UK television series)
I wasn't very familiar with the comedy of either Steve Coogan or Rob Brydon before watching the first episode, and I'm not really sure you need to be to enjoy the series. Coogan and Brydon play loose versions of themselves in this six episode BBC2 series directed by Michael Winterbottom.
Coogan has been hired by The Observer to write reviews of restaurants in the north of England, but since he's somewhat split with his girlfriend Mischa, and doesn't want to do it alone, he invites Brydon. The food takes a back story, although its presentation is gorgeously shot. Instead the interaction, rivalry, and one-upmanship of these two take center stage.
The tension between the two flares up during their first restaurant excursion. Brydon finds it difficult to go very long without doing any impressions, which he's amazing at, but which begins to drive Coogan crazy. He wants to be taken seriously, and is trying unsuccessfully, to break into Hollywood. They begin with dueling Michael Caine impressions, each trying to outdo the other. They continually spar with famous voices, and I found myself laughing like crazy every time they dueled.
The winter country side is gorgeously shot, its spare bareness reflecting Coogans inner emptiness. He's searching for something he doesn't have. He's unhappy and grumbly, unfulfilled and annoyed by the successes, though domestic, of Brydon and perturbed by the comfort and happiness of his unambitious friend. He lashes out and puts down Brydon at every opportunity he can, while Brydon sees them as contemporaries, Coogan thinks of himself as a tortured genius and his friend a clown.
The three hour series was edited down into a feature film, but I much preferred the series. It was much richer, and many of my favorite comedic parts were left on the editing floor.
Like the best of comedy, this show is a perfect mixture of sadness and hilarity.