Magazine article The Spectator

Sick with Jealousy

Magazine article The Spectator

Sick with Jealousy

Article excerpt

Since I got married last weekend, I suppose I should be the happiest man in the world but I'm not. I should hasten to add that this is by no means the fault of my truly wonderful bride. It has to do with our forthcoming honeymoon in India: at three weeks, it simply isn't long enough.

Now, I don't wish to sound flippant in these times of national mourning, nor ungrateful for such a desirable holiday. I'm simply giving my honest, selfish, embittered, knee-jerk response to programmes like Full Circle with Michael Palin (BBC 1, Sunday). It makes me sick with jealousy to think that, while I'm enjoying a miserly 20 days in Goa and Rajasthan, Palin will be scarcely a third of the way through his infinitely more exotic circumnavigation of the whole Pacific basin. And to make matters worse, the bugger's actually being paid heaps for the privilege.

Of course, I'm not suggesting that I'd have made a more deserving candidate for such a spectacular freebie. All right - I am. But I hope it's more than mere sour grapes which leads me to believe that Palin's latest televised jaunt - his third is one round-the-world trip too many for the ex-Python star.

We all know by now that Palin is one of the nicest men you could ever meet. He's funny, he's quirky and he's not afraid to make a fool of himself if `good television' demands it. The problem is that, while these virtues may have proved engaging and original in his first Around The World... series, they've started to look hackneyed and irksome in the latest.

The opening episode in this ten-week series took him from a tiny Eskimo settlement on Little Diomede Island in the Bering Strait via the stunningly primaeval, volcano-dotted landscapes of Petropavlovsk to the HQ of the Russian Pacific Fleet in Vladivostok. These are not the sort of places you normally see covered on television and it would have been fascinating to have explored them all in much greater detail.

The programme-makers clearly thought otherwise. What the public really want, they'd decided, was more and more footage of Michael Palin playing the ham. So we saw Palin's bumbling attempts to learn a Russian folk-song; Palin on a silly errand to buy a bath-plug in the former gulag town of Magadan; Palin naughtily gobbling up the ceremonial welcome cake which had really been intended for an Alaskan trade delegation; Palin, in sailor's costume, singing aforementioned folk-song with the Pacific Fleet Choir and - natch - getting it wrong. . .

Presumably, it had been thought far too risky to allow these rarely visited locations and native peoples the space to be interesting in their own right. …

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