Best TV of 2014: No 5 – The Trip to Italy

Was the Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon vehicle a travelogue, a comedy, a food show, scripted reality, or something else entirely? Or was it simply as good as television gets?

  • See the full countdown so far
  • Nominate your pick in our form at the bottom of the article
  • A convertible Mini doesn’t have a massive amount of legroom in the back. I don’t care – I would have sacrificed comfort for a ride around Italy with Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan, singing along to Alanis Morissette, in the voice of Roger Moore; playing Byron and Shelley, possibly having a romantic liaison, with a younger lady; certainly having lunch, at lovely restaurants, while discussing eating Mo Farah’s legs (over Stephen Hawking’s) after an Andean plane crash; or just bickering and bantering about our mid-life crises. I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to be on a TV show so much (well, perhaps Entourage, but that’s even less likely).

    Failing that, just watching The Trip to Italy was enough, as it was about as good as television got last year. Genuinely original, interesting television. Director Michael Winterbottom, with a lot of help from Coogan and Brydon, has taken the travelogue and not just breathed new life into it but set the defibrillator on it, too.

    Is it a travelogue, though? They’re in Italy, and it’s a little bit about Italy, but not very much. It’s a food show, but not really about food. How much is scripted? Is there any reality? Have they reinvented scripted reality, too? Are we even watching the real Steve Coogan and the real Rob Brydon?

    None of which really matters, because there are plenty of truths in there, about getting on a bit and being a bloke, about work insecurities, family, mortality. Friendship, too, and that does appear to be real – in spite of all the bickering, there seems to be genuine warmth between them.

    Maybe that’s what it mostly is, then: buddy television, a couple of moderately famous middle-aged mates arsing about in Italy, pretending to be people who are more famous. Oh yeah, that’s the other thing they’ve reinvented – the impression. In a way that makes it OK to do them again. Post-impressionists, you might call them. So they don’t just do Michael Caine, they have a Michael Caine-Off. Or the previously mentioned singalong, in which the real Steve Coogan is being a sort of fictional (although probably pretty real) Steve Coogan, being Roger Moore, being Alanis Morissette: “And I’m here to remind you/ Of the mess you left when you went away …” Hahahahaha.

    Rory Bremner, Alistair McGowan et al must be tearing their hair out. Hey, that’s another TV idea. If there’s another Trip – The Trip to Somewhere Else – they could get a coach to follow Rob and Steve around, and fill it with all the people who have been rendered redundant by the two men in the Mini in front, then make a BBC3 reality spin-off out of that. Not just impressionists, but pious celebrity traveloggers, and dull foody people. Rick Stein, basically. There might even be room for a jealous television critic on there, and I’d get to go along after all, just a little further behind than I’d hoped. Steve and Rob could toss us any scraps from their expensive restaurant lunches to fight over. It could be called The Trip: Doggy Bag.

    Contributor

    Sam Wollaston

    The GuardianTramp

    Related Content

    Article image
    The Trip to Italy: Britain's best ever improv comedy series?

    Mark Lawson: Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon's culinary travelogue comedy The Trip to Italy may well be the most sustained and successful example of genuine ad-libbing that Britain has ever produced

    Mark Lawson

    04, Apr, 2014 @12:21 PM

    Article image
    Have you been watching … The Trip to Italy?

    Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan's mockumentary sees the comedians impersonating Michael Caine and Roger Moore to humorous effect - but it's their take on their own personas that is most compulsive viewing

    Rachel Aroesti

    25, Apr, 2014 @1:18 PM

    Article image
    Where next for Steve Coogan's The Trip?
    Confirmation that Coogan and Rob Brydon will take at least one more TV trip leads us to wonder where in the world the pair will go next

    Edward Tew

    11, Feb, 2016 @1:30 PM

    Article image
    The Trip to Italy: worth the return journey?

    Vicky Frost: Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon's food-fuelled journey through Italy has an undercurrent of despair beneath the impressions. Would you join the pair on future trips?

    Vicky Frost

    09, May, 2014 @11:27 AM

    Article image
    The Trip: a show about death that deserves to live on
    Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan’s show is an absurd meditation on ageing – and as the years go by, it just gets better. It would be a grave mistake to stop it now

    Edward Tew

    12, May, 2017 @6:00 AM

    Article image
    Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon eat again and take The Trip to Italy

    Gastronomic TV comedy The Trip is returning. We join its stars during filming in Italy and find their relationship has blossomed – with the help of some more fine dining

    Laura Barton

    18, Jan, 2014 @5:00 PM

    Article image
    The Trip leaves BBC2 and heads to Spain
    Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon have jumped ship to Sky Atlantic, with their semi-fictional foodie alter egos heading to Iberia for the show’s third series

    Mark Brown

    15, Feb, 2016 @11:40 AM

    Article image
    The Trip to Italy: Sundance 2014 - first look review

    Four years after they ate their way round the Lakes, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon sample the fare of the Amalfi coast. But the taste left by this movie version of the forthcoming TV series is less tart than anticipated – comfort food, not challenging fodder

    Henry Barnes

    21, Jan, 2014 @10:01 AM

    Article image
    The Trip returns: Brydon and Coogan bicker from Santander to Malaga
    Spain edition serves up food, landscapes and mimicry as Rob and Steve give their take on the Don Quixote and Sancho Panza story

    Caroline Davies

    06, Apr, 2017 @4:24 PM

    Article image
    The 50 best TV shows of 2020: 50-1
    Michaela Coel’s smart, subversive and taboo-breaking drama gave us absolutely unbeatable television – plus more of the year’s best

    18, Dec, 2020 @8:09 AM