Ricky Gervais’ travel show “An Idiot Abroad” hits US TV

Fresh off his Golden Globes controversy, British comedian Ricky Gervais’ latest project has hit US television. An Idiot Abroad is a travel show for non-travelers, featuring radio producer and comedy savant Karl Pilkington visiting the seven wonders of the world. If you’ve seen HBO’s animated podcast The Ricky Gervais show, you’re already familiar with Pilkington’s moronic and occasionally brilliant insights. After expressing little interest in global travel, Gervais and his comedy partner Steven Merchant decided to send Karl around the world (Merchant hopes to expand his horizons, Gervais just sees it as an elaborate practical joke).

In the first episode, Karl travels to China and expresses bafflement with Chinese street food, toilets, and even the Great Wall. The show’s funniest moments come when he experiences moments of culture shock and weirdness common to even the most seasoned travelers. I’d love to see Karl’s take on general travel problems – airport security, flying, and getting lost – as well as more of his interactions with local people around the world. He seems curious and open to the world, and has written a companion book for the series, which will culminate in an eighth episode with his thoughts and impressions about his travels.

An Idiot Abroad airs Saturdays at 10pm on the Science Channel and is available for download on iTunes. The next episode takes Karl to India to see the Taj Mahal.

Photo and video courtesy of The Science Channel.

25th Anniversary World Punkin Chunkin Championships take place in Delaware

What happens when you combine leftover Halloween pumpkins and big ol’ farm boys with too much time on their hands and extra equipment? A Punkin’ Chunkin’ contest, of course. Held this past weekend in Delaware, the 25th Anniversary of the World Championship Punkin Chunkin Association brought teams from up and down the East Cost to see how far their punkins could fly.

“We had a great, great turnout,” said Frank Shade, the event’s media director. “We’ve had a real strong headwind, so I doubt any records were broken, but we had a lot of good thows.”

Full numbers of attendance were not yet available, but DelawareOnline.com reported that total attendance was predicted to surpass last year’s record of 80,000. Shade commented that the field’s Verizon tower, which normally reports about 750 “hits” per day, was receiving about 7,500 hits, causing some cellular communication issues.

Scheduled for broadcast on the Discovery and Science channels on Thanksgiving, the Chunkin’ contest featured three days (distilled into three hours for TV) of high-flying excitement hosted by “Mythbusters” stars Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman. Science will air a “Road to Punkin Chunkin” special November 24 at 10 PM.


“It’s the highest-rated event on the channel,” said the Science Channel’s general manager of programming and executive vice president Debbie Myers. “It’s pure Americana and ingenuity. The teams take it seriously, and the characters are over the top.”

The main competition centers on 110 teams that use creatively-engineered “chunkers” to launch their pumpkins into space – or at least far, far away. The goal? To get the gourd to fly at least a mile away – a feat that hasn’t yet been accomplished … or at least captured on record. The current record is 4,483.51 feet by team Young Glory III in 2008. The 2009 “Air” winners, “Big Ten Incher” came close last year with a distance of 4,116 feet.

The three-day event includes a “Miss Punkin Chunkin” contest, a chili cookoff, and separate competitions for men, women, youth, and children under ten. Separate categories include human powered, trebuchet, catapult, centrifugal force and air machines.

Lest you think it’s just a bunch of hillbillies running around with their punkins, think again – media director Frank Shade ran for Delaware’s 37th Congressional District in the State House of Representatives this past year.

Want to catch the action? You’ll have to tune in on November 24th and 25th. In the meantime, enjoy the photo gallery (courtesy of DelawareOnline.com).

Or you can practice your singing of the official Punkin Chunkin song (yes, there’s a song, we’re not making this up), written 1989 by William and Dawn Thompson, has become a traditional part of the event’s daily opening ceremonies. It’s pasted below for your viewing pleasure:

It was the end of October, the beginning of November.
The air was cold and clear and I said, Boys listen here,
I think I can make a punkin fly.
John said, Cannot. I said, Can too.
So we put that punkin in a bucket, swung around, away it flew.
John said, No fair. We said, Hell, it’s in the air.
So the challenge was made and the gauntlet was laid
To build a machine to power a punkin through the air.
John said, Springs are the way to go. Bill said, I don’t believe so.
It’s Punkin Chunkin time again.
Come on, all you neighbors and friends.
I’ll show you how to make a punkin fly … rain, snow or blow.
Them punkins are gonna go!

Survivorman Calls it Quits

Filmmaker and Discovery and Science Channel star Les Stroud, known for his show, Survivorman, is calling it quits after three seasons. The 47 year-old Canadian earned street cred amongst survivalists by filming himself completing various week-long survival challenges. Unlike Man Versus Wild’s Bear Grylls, Stroud traveled without a camera crew and survival experts. I, for one, found his solo approach to film-making and survival refreshing compared to Grylls’ preening in front of the camera.

Stroud explained his decision to call it quits to Reuters: “You can only do seven days surviving without food a certain number of times a year. I’m pleased with what I have done, I’ve been copied around the world, but 25 times I’ve not eaten anything for a week while sleeping on rocks. I need to move on.”

Filming for the third, and now final, season is wrapping up in Papua this month. Though the tag Survivorman will probably always remain with him, Stroud plans to move on to other projects. He is writing a book about wilderness survival and is planning a new show where he will follow in the footsteps of famous explorers.