I’ve previously stated in my reviews that there are just too many travelogue shows. We seem to have been subjected to loads of them of late, and when I saw that the affable, rubber faced but disarmingly charming John Sergeant was hosting yet another, I could barely stifle my yawn.
However, although John packed his bags and headed off, it was more of a weekend jaunt around this green and pleasant land of ours rather than a long-haul flight to examine all some far flung corner of the earth can offer.
And another thing that made this programme rather unique was that John met with, and cross examined – the journalist in him is still alive under that sequinned bolero jacket – visitors to Britain about some of their preconceptions of us. And the results were both amusing and bizarre at times.
One highlight of the film was John’s discussion with a group of American tourists about allotments. He may as well have been speaking in Swahili as this uncomprehending bunch looked on blankly at squares of dark earth. If we could’ve put a microphone to their ears to capture brain sounds during John’s earthy discourse, I suspect we’d have heard tumbleweeds blowing through.
Another little gem was in watching Japanese tourists visiting the Lake District for Beatrix Potter memorabilia, souvenirs, books… in fact, anything that looked like Peter Rabbit might have something to do with it was bound for Japan, unless it moved fast enough to escape their I’ll Buy It All raids on little trinket shops.
John gave some German bikers a tour of his home village, much to their and the villagers bemusement, and he even got to talk to some Nessie hunters in Scotland.
But what the film made entirely clear is that visitors to Britain expect us to live primarily in rambling manor houses and live our lives as though on the set of Brideshead Revisited. And in his own understated and unassuming way, John took on the role of John’ll Fix It when he did in fact reveal that garden parties where Pimm’s is served – right alongside dainty sandwiches – do in fact go on in some sheltered spots where chavs have yet to take over.
Overall, I think this show would’ve been better suited to a Sunday slot – right around the time Antiques Roadshow’s on – in order to fit in with the programme’s most likely demographic target audience, but no matter what the day and time, it’s clear that John’s found a niche that fits him far better than tight trousers and a cummerbund.
John is himself quintessentially English, and I can’t think of a person better suited to representing the less seedy side of Britain to our expectant overseas visitors.