Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Billy Connolly's Route 66

You can’t really call this a review because how do you go about reviewing; at least in the style that I tackle shows normally, a travel show?

All I wanted to do was briefly just talk about this lovely little show and extol its virtues.

Billy Connolly’s Route 66 crept into the schedules with little to no fanfare from ITV; I’m guessing it was publicised on the channel itself but being someone who doesn’t watch any of ITV’s channels its imminent arrival passed me by.

You’d have thought that ITV might have pushed the boat out a little for a show that I think has quite broad appeal and attempted a bit of external promotion for the Billy’s road trip, but given that I was first alerted to the show by spotting it as I trawled through my Sky planner ten minutes after it started I’m guessing they thought better of it.

Route 66 is for all intents and purposes a loose sequel to 2009’s Billy Connolly: Journey to the Edge of the World, in which Connolly travelled around the frozen north of North America.

Edge of the World was a show I enjoyed but sometimes lost a little bit of interest in as Connolly’s explorations took him to places that were often more miss than hit.

Route 66 on the other hand, I had high hopes for, as it has been a long-standing dream of mine to travel along America’s historic highway; I have actually briefly visited a stretch of the highway already so I was hoping for more of an affinity with the show this time around.

I certainly wasn’t disappointed, and as Connolly began his journey in Chicago and explored some of the city’s great locations within five minutes I knew that this show was going to real add fuel to the Route 66 flames burning within me.

Chicago is a city I really want to visit and Connolly did a great job of selling it, heading up to the top of the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) America’s tallest building, visiting a speak easy and taking in some of Chi-town’s breathtaking architecture.

He was soon out on the road though on his awesome three-wheeler and visited a myriad of interesting and quaint towns throughout Illinois presenting a real slice of Americana rarely seen on television these days.

His visit to Abraham Lincoln’s home was a particular joy as Connolly visualised the man widely considered as America’s greatest President using the out-house wearing his trademark tall top hat.

Connolly as always was infectious in his enthusiasm for almost everything he came across, having lived in the US for a number of years you could tell he really knew his stuff and loved to talk about it.

I really found him a fascinating tour guide and genuinely feel he could carve a great niche for himself doing this sort of thing more permanently a la Michael Palin. His anecdotes, both personal and about others were a mixture of humorous and poignant and always captivating.

Of course Connolly isn’t the star of the show though, Route 66 is, and the stops along the way that Connolly made really sold the dream of travelling along America’s most well-known road.

I really can’t say enough good things about the show, I’m not usually one for travel shows but I love America and its history and culture and I really enjoy listening to Billy Connolly doing anything, so for me this is a match made in heaven.

Plus the show has an incredible soundtrack, with an eclectic mix of both new and old rock n’ roll, the music is that great it almost makes the shameless cash in of advertising a CD compilation of the show’s music within the first ad break acceptable. Almost.

This week’s instalment (as I’m quite late with this review of episode one) will see Connolly heading down into Missouri, which should be a great adventure as everyone’s favourite Scot discovers what the Show Me State has to offer.

I strongly urge, as Connolly suggests at the start of the show, that you “come with [him]” too.

Billy Connolly’s Route 66 continues Thursday @ 9pm on ITV1


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