Now on its eighth series (an impressive feat for a programme which only launched in 2015) the format of Travel Man is a simple one. Take a highly acerbic host with a penchant for laconic flights of fancy (Richard Ayoade) and mix with a familiar comedian or LE face (Kathy Burke, Adam Hills, Jessica Hynes and Stephen Mangan in the first series alone). Drop the pair of them into a popular tourist destination for forty eight hours and mix well ….
Although each edition is short (filling a thirty minute slot, this leaves a running time of around twenty two minutes after the adverts are excised) this actually works in the series’ favour. The way that Ayoade and his guest zip from attraction to attraction does replicate the feel of a hectic weekend break (and it also helps to keep the pace up).
Although primarily a vehicle for the comic observations of Richard Ayoade and his guests, Travel Man also functions as a travel series. Information concerning the costs of flights, accommodation, food, etc is briefly displayed, which allows the viewer to gauge the sort of budget required for each trip.
But although the series briefly touches upon the budget end of the market, it usually breaks these rules – Ayoade and his guest tend to stay in the best accommodation or might charter an expensive mode of transport (a hot air balloon or a luxury yacht). The best editions are those where Ayoade clicks with his fellow traveller and there’s the sense of a shared journey of discovery. Given the highly edited nature of the programme this isn’t always possible, but there’s certainly more hits than misses.
The first series, despite being only four editions long, worked well. It set up some running themes (the local cuisine will always be sampled – but often with fairly disastrous results). Kathy Burke resorted to spitting it out whilst Adam Hills glumly decided that his soup was “too Turkish”. Meanwhile, Stephen Mangan bravely attempted the Marrakech delicacy of steamed sheep’s head, although most of it remained uneaten …
Food remains on the agenda during the second series, but there are plenty of other bizarre diversions (Greg Davies’ reaction to the Moscow cat circus, for example). Noel Fielding’s delight in sampling all the beers Copenhagen has to offer and Rob Delaney’s walking tour of Seville are just a few of the highlights.
Travel Man does what it does very well. It’s not an exhaustive or probing travel show, it’s there to entertain and thanks to Richard Ayoade’s delightfully deadpan persona it always delivers.