The celebrity travelogue is one of the most tired TV formats around today. Richard Ayoade, though, is no ordinary celebrity. That‘s partly because he has his own weekly series of travelogues, which sees him trot the globe with a different companion, discovering things about familiar tourist traps. The result is Travel Man. And if you’ve never seen it, here are six reasons why you should start packing it into your watch list immediately:
1. Richard Ayoade
Alongside Matt Berry, Richard Ayoade belongs to that rare group of humans whose voices alone are enough to make you laugh out loud. And he puts it to good use, taking audible delight in saying “Guachinches” as many time as possible in Tenerife, whenever the subject of restaurants comes up. “We look like a post-colonial Kojak reboot,” he mutters, as he and Matt Lucas don a pair of newly-bought hats in Rome. That quick-witted energy spreads into his evident enthusiasm for learning new cultures and facts – he’s an infectious fun tour guide.
2. Richard Ayoade
Ayoade is more than a happy tour guide, though: he’s a grumpy one too. The result is a unique combination of childish enthusiasm and bitter cynicism. Whereas most travelogue programmes see minor celebrities play fish-out-of-water in an exotic or harsh environment, or breathlessly relate the thrill of discovering another country, Ayoade strolls around with barely any respect for foreign culture whatsoever. He’s sarcastic, he’s awkward and he’s unfailingly polite. In short, he’s like the friends we’ve all been on holiday with. One dance tutorial in Spain sees Ayoade attempting (badly) to clap and click in time with the flamenco. “I grew up in Peckham,” he exclaims, bluntly. The lesson ends soon after.
3. The celebrity companions
Channel 4 smartly pairs Richard up with a varied cycle of celebrity companions, like a real life version of Doctor Who. And they’re brilliantly chosen, from the laidback eagerness of Lena Dunham to the effortless cool of Jon Hamm. Each one brings out a different side to Ayoade, and the fledgling bonds that form in their 48-hour sojourns is all part of the fun. Professional respect blossoms into mutual affection – the kind of relationship where they spend as much time trying to make each other laugh as they do trying to entertain the audience. “Pilot whales are over there,” says Lena. “I don’t care,” comes his blunt reply, before musing that they could have done all of this by staying home and watching YouTube.
4. It’s informative
What’s impressive is that you do come away learning something about each destination, as the show crams in statistics via a lot of on-screen pop-up text – such as entry prices – at every opportunity. That visual data is complimented by Ayoade’s fast-paced narration, spouting every single possible piece of trivia with a schoolboyish glee. We also learn what to do and not to do through the reactions of every local they meet – even if the reactions are mostly laughter.
5. It’s funny
All that knowledge, though, is worn lightly: Ayoade’s hectic monologue is put right at the beginning of each episode, freeing up as much of the runtime as possible for him being silly, bitter or, more likely, both.
6. It’s only 30 minutes
Each vacation may not pack much in (they only do a handful of things) but they’re laugh-out-loud funny to watch – and that brief itinerary means the programme can clock in at under 30 minutes. The fast-paced result is both informative and entertaining – and leaves you wanting to make a return trip immediately.
Travel Man is on Monday nights at 8.30pm on Channel 4. All episodes are available for free on-demand on All 4.