ANDREW FENTON OUT OF THE BOX
THE Trip sounds like a terrible idea for a show. It’s an improvised six-part comedy featuring 40-something comedians Steve Coogan ( Tropic Thunder) and Rob Brydon ( Gavin and Stacey) playing fictionalised versions of themselves doing a restaurant tour of Northern England.
It should be a boring, self- indulgent mess, but it’s one of the funniest and strangely affecting shows of the year.
Coogan plays a malcontent and vain version of himself whose relationships and Hollywood career are crumbling. In desperation, after his girlfriend and everyone else turns him down, he invites Welsh actor Brydon along on a restaurant reviewing trip for a Sunday newspaper.
But Brydon’s good nature and contented life clearly irritate Coogan intensely.
Their antagonistic relationship comes to a head in a hilarious exchange as they attempt to outdo each other with stunningly accurate Michael Caine impersonations: the young Caine, the old Caine, the broken-voiced emotional Caine, the Caine that’s VERY LOUD INDEED and even the
Tasty comedy: Steve Coogan Caine impersonation that bad impersonators do.
It’s also quite sad. This first episode closes with Coogan stumbling to the top of a windy hillside at dusk to get phone reception and to call his estranged girlfriend in the US.
Even as he tries to reach out to her emotionally, he winds up pushing her further away by insinuating she’s cheating on him.
It’s a strange show that cuts from an amusingly pointless discussion about receding gums to a scene filled with such melancholy about missed opportunities and relationships gone wrong.
But it makes for excellent television. The Trip ABC1, 10.05pm