An Idiot Abroad comes to Blu-ray with a 1080i resolution encoded using the
AVCcoded and framed within a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The disc itself is region free.
This being a travel documentary the overall style is pretty straightforward and one that the disc should easily cope with. The palette is naturalistic but with enough room for the brighter shades to really shine. The azure blue sky behind the Great Pyramid is graded with no signs of banding and the verdant greenery of Peru’s rich foliage spring from the screen with notable depth and subtlety contained within (though as Karl notes himself, the greyness of China hardly requires HD). No matter where on the spectrum the colours fall they are stable and consistent, with skin tones similarly adeptly handled.
Detail is good, if not spectacular, with the close ups in brighter light obviously showing the greatest clarity, but there is also a surprising amount to be found even when things get darker and delineation never takes a notable hit with this in mind. A few shots are a touch softer, mainly in the middle distance but for a travel documentary filmed handheld for the most part this is an excellent example that shows no obvious interlacing issues and, bar a couple of pans that could be smoother, is top drawer.
Audio is spartan, with the basic Dolby Digital 2.0 option the only one available (but then what could we have expected?).
For a straightforward stereo presentation the soundscape is fairly wide and at times, when the noises are layered and the montage sound effects are utilised, the result is almost expansive. Speech is clear, but the studio sections can be a little harsh and raised in volume, but the in-the-field monologues of Karl capture his distinctive Mancunian drawl extremely well.
The score (reminiscent in places of Ennio Morricone’s "Farewell to Cheyenne" from Once Upon a Time in the West – perfectly fitting for Pilkington’s awkwardness) has some passable high frequency but never resounds like the orchestration itself deserves. Some of the integration of score and sounds helps raise this from being too flat but ultimately it is a plain old Dolby Digital 2.0 track, albeit quite a good one, but nothing to get excited about.
Preview Show – 1080i – 22:47
An outline of the motivations behind making the show (Merchant’s was to broaden Karl’s mind, Gervais’ was to annoy him) interspersed with clips that bring with them a few more choice quotes from the great round-headed one.
Photo gallery – 576p – 3:15
A slideshow of Karl looking either perplexed or a tit amongst a few genuine holiday type snaps of things of interest.
Deleted Scenes – 1080i – 14 mins approx.
Eight scenes – “What Karl packed for India”, “Karl and the man with many accents”, “Karl meets Jesus”, “Karl snorkelling”, “Karl on cacti”, “Karl gets picked up”, “Karl on body beautiful” and finally the excitingly titled “Karl plays Connect 4”. All of which could easily have made the final cut.
An Idiot Abroad won’t tickle everyone’s fancy. It is best enjoyed by those who’ve already acquired a taste for the comedic musing of he of the amazingly spheroid head. When flustered and confused, Karl Pilkington represents perfectly those of us who may like the idea of travel but ultimately know that changing to a different brand of tea-bag or value biscuits would be upheaval and hardship enough. Better leave it to the professionals then, and there’s no better flag bearer for those diametrically opposed to world travel and roughing it than Karl. In making this programme, Sky has sent an oddity to view the Wonders and we reap the rewards.
The region free discs are as good as one could reasonably expect given the docu-nature of the content. The interlaced picture is naturalistic and the sound is perfunctory, whilst the extras, though small in number, have enough content that could have made the final cut, to be seen as worthwhile.
As a package these two discs more than facilitate the experience of viewing Karl’s fuzzy haired little dome bounce from pillar to post in surprise, disgust and downright annoyance. He may have famously said he doesn't like fun, but watching him not enjoy himself is certainly funny.
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