Billy Connolly – Journey to the Edge of the World Review

February 19, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

BILLY CONNOLLY – JOURNEY TO THE EDGE OF THE WORLD, ITV1, Thursday 19th February, 9.00pm Alert Me

As the first episode of Journey concludes with a short montage of what’s to come and ITV’s obvious Connolly soundbyte for the series – “Why don’t you come with me and have a laugh? – you can’t help but feel Connolly’s slightly missed his calling in life.

Sure, he’s a celebrated comedian and increasingly pervasive travel presenter, but his smile and laughter is so infectious you begin to think he could have saved countless lives working in a job role diffusing high-pressure situations: Hostage Negotiator, Gordon Brown’s PA, Tube Worker etc.

Billy Connolly’s first travel show for ITV sees him embarking on the North West Passage, a mythical sea route that crosses two oceans on a trail that heads up and over the top of Canada. Connolly makes repeated reference to the fact that many adventurers have attempted the route and died trying, but I’m thinking they didn’t have the bizarre benefit of global warming to thaw the route’s huge ice flow, or a production team and endless budget to help him on his way.

Still, after his previous nudie stint in the arctic, who can blame him for indulging in a little comfort?

In this first episode, Connolly explores Canada’s North-Eastern tip – through Nova Scotia and across Newfoundland. As he flits from town to town – seeing everything from a graveyard of the Titanic to Highland Festivals to native fishermen – he captures the traveller mentality perfectly. Canada appears far more interesting than I ever thought possible. I mean, I knew it was amazing, but pretty much assumed it was just mooses… moose… meese?, great people and kegstands – I never appreciated the intriguing hodgepodge of cultures (Nordic, Irish and Scottish) that’s blended with the country’s own fledgling identity.

The production values are top notch – with sweeping panoramas of the Canadian wilderness and a pitch-perfect score that nails the mood perfectly no matter the situation – from the Gaellic-tinged strings accompanying his on-the-road travels to the Psycho-esque ‘eea eea eea’ of the scene that greets him upon arriving at the house of a Scarecrow maker (seriously – House of Wax has nothing on these things).

As a traveller whose recently returned to London after a two year stint travailing the beauty spots of Australasia, it’s only natural that travel programmes tend to provoke in me an odd blend of nostalgia and indomitable jealousy. But Connolly’s inherently personable nature, natural curiosity and pervasive excitability help ground Journey amidst a slew of other-worldly, disconnected travelogues and swoops you away with disarming ease.

As Connolly immerses himself in the traditions, tales and personalities of the area’s local charm, he notes: “I like this part of the world. It’s happy.?

Watching this, he’s got a point.

Matt Risley