In order that nobody in Britain ever asks the question, ‘Why don’t we have more celebrity travelogues on the telly?’ ITV have made ‘Joanna Lumley’s Silk Road Adventure’ (Wednesday, 9.00pm).
Putting the celebrity’s name above the title is one way of implying that the audience would have no interest in the subject matter unless it was presented by someone they would happily watch leafing through samples of anaglypta wallpaper for an hour, and coaxing someone, surely destined to become the UK’s next ‘National Treasure’, out of Belgravia and off on an all expenses paid trip around Asia is something of a masterstroke in ratings awareness.
In episode one, Joanna whispers her way around Venice in a variety of stylish outfits, all utterly suitable for whatever activity she happens to be filming. An outfit for travelling on a Gondola, another for learning how silk is woven, another for walking past a chip shop and yet another for pointing at some stones and saying, ’gosh’.
During the ad-break, Ms. Lumley had changed outfits and had been transported some 600 miles from the start of the Roman road in Albania to Istanbul. Here she travelled by ferry down the mighty Bosphorus in a completely different outfit, one which was suitable for meeting an insanely rich woman and shown around her £100 million waterfront abode. Joanna apologised for not changing out of her ‘ferry’ outfit and proceeded to gasp at the riches contained in the house, built by the fortune accumulated from generations of private banking with a little oil, cement and textile production thrown in. She expressed amazement at the fact that house had an underground swimming pool and said ‘gosh’ again when she found out that the dinner service was made of gold. Frankly, I wouldn’t have been shocked if the woman revealed that her hobby was smashing Ming vases and had Krug champagne flushing her toilet.
It was around now that I started to wonder what I was supposed to be learning from all this exposure to unattainable riches. Apparently, being served drinks on a silver tray by an absurdly rich woman’s butler teaches one all about the benefits of trade between nations.
We were then treated to a tour around Joanna’s hotel room set in the caves of the region of Cappadocia. The stunning vistas were breathlessly described as ‘fairy-tale’ and we wondered what the rooms used to be before they were ensuite bathrooms and dressing rooms. Caves, I think, Joanna.
There was no time to visit the hotel bar as Jo had to put on her ‘visiting a monastery’ outfit and go and visit a monastery. And so, we rumbled on, breathlessly whispering along the Silk Road on Joanna Lumley’s adventure.
The thing is, she’s not really forging a solitary path through unfamiliar terrain, chancing upon diverse characters along the way and bartering for souvenirs, is she? She’s being accompanied by a huge production crew plotting her every move and a wardrobe unit requiring the support of a long line of military supply vehicles. You can almost hear the director barking instructions at the locals; ‘Can you clear this area please, Joanna needs to walk along here looking lost.’
She’s always wanted to do this, she informed us. I’ll bet you have.