Catch up TV review: Travel Man, Gameface, Gordon Ramsay on Cocaine
Ivan Radford | On 22, Oct 2017
Travel Man is back for a sixth season and it’s fast becoming the best travel programme on the telly. Given the sheer abundance of celebrity travelogues around, that’s saying something, and Channel 4 has managed to assemble a near-perfect formula. Ditching the usual hour-long format for a brisk 30 minutes, Travel Man is a breeze to watch, packing in statistics and trivia – along with a lot of on-screen pop-up text – but never outstaying its welcome and not once becoming anything close to dry or dull. It varies its guests every episode too, making sure that each trip is as different as possible: Season 6 kicks off with Matt Lucas pootling about Rome, politely attempting to use a translation app to converse with an Italian marble engraver and casually sitting on a rooftop enjoying the view.
All of these excellent things orbit one central excellent thing: the unassailable, inimitable Richard Ayoade, who manages to be enthusiastic and sarcastic about everything he encounters. It’s that mix of positive and grumpy that makes him such a good host of The Crystal Maze and his presenting powers are also at their peak here: he gamely jumps on and off screen to deliver informative monologues, while firmly keeping himself the butt of his cynical jokes. His voice alone is enough to make you laugh out loud. “We look like a post-colonial Kojak reboot,” he mutters, as they don a pair of newly-bought hats. What a refreshing, hilarious, infectious fun this is. You’ll want to book a return trip immediately.
Roisin Conaty is one of those comedians that you’ll recognise from all the recognisable comedian things. But after years of panel shows, Taskmaster and other such appearances, she takes centre stage in a new E4 series. Written by and starring in it, the result is the kind of quarter-life-crisis comedy that you’ll also recognise: regular supporting characters include a not very helpful life coach, an incredibly patient driving teacher, and a hanger-on ex-boyfriend, who is getting married to someone else.
But Conaty is fantastic enough to make the familiar feel novel, from the wannabe actress’ awkward gigs at children’s parties to her failure to hold down a day job. It’s helped by her penchant for the darker side of humour, opening on an inspired scenario involving a suicidal other woman, and a neat line in observational comedy, throwing in a brilliant running gag about someone who has never seen Friends. It’s not groundbreaking telly, but it’s more than enough to put its leading lady on the map: in the future, you won’t just recognise Roisin Conaty; you’ll keep an eye out for her.
Gordon Ramsay on Cocaine
The title of this two-part ITV series is enough to make anyone want to tune in: the thought of Gordon Ramsay on Cocaine promises all kinds of loudy, entertaining outbursts from TV’s most outspoken chef. But this is something far more serious than that – and far more well-intentioned. Cocaine is a substance that is now in worryingly wide use across the country, and this documentary exposes just how prolific it is: in an inspection of his own restaurant toilets, he finds that both the public and staff facilities contain traces of it from earlier that very day. It’s something that Ramsay himself knows can be destructive, due to addictions and deaths that he has encountered in his personal and professional life, but this isn’t a confessional piece: it’s a straightforward piece of investigative journalism. A jaunt to Colombia to look at the ingredients of the drug (a manufacturing process that Ramsay compares to chocolate) aside, the focus is firmly away from the chef, as he quizzes people such as the National Crime Agency about what’s being done to tackle the rise in Cocaine-related deaths. “He sounds fucking happy, is he high?” Gordon says at one point. “Fuck, he looks like Gordon Ramsay,” says another. Ramsay rushes around with the kind of straight-talking authority that suggests he could have a career outside of the kitchen as the new Jeremy Kyle. But this series works precisely because he doesn’t try to be that: he barks question at people with his trademark bluntness, but then he does something surprising: he stops talking and listens to the answers. It’s a side of the chef we don’t see very often, and it’s one that makes him a very effective reporter.