An Idiot Abroad: Stephen Merchant, Ricky Gervais send Karl Pilkington around the world

A UK reality series debuting on the Science Channel tonight sends The Office and Extras creators Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s radio producer, podcasting partner, and object of ridicule Karl Pilkington to tour the seven wonders of the world.

The UK series An Idiot Abroad debuts tonight in the US at 10 p.m. ET is essentially a travel documentary series, except it’s mostly about culture shock as viewed through the eyes of someone who’s not that smart–or is very fantastic at pretending he’s not that smart. Ricky Gervais told critics that the series “was a practical joke. I wanted him to hate it. It was a social experiment. It was my gift to the world, really. I can’t get enough of Karl. I think he’s the most fascinating thing on the planet. Honestly, I treat it like I found the missing link.”

If you’ve ever listened to their podcast or watched the animated version of it, you know Karl’s idiocy makes Gervais laugh hysterically, and that was true even when
the three men appeared in front of TV critics a few weeks ago to promote the show. (Watch excerpts of that press conference, which is also a rare televised glimpse of the TCA press tour.)

The series spawned a book, too, The Travel Diaries of Karl Pilkington. Here are clips from the Peru episode as it aired on Sky 1:

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.