It’s the sort of title for a show that makes Must blush – it really is a shocker in its corniness. Which is ironic as Richard E Grant is a hero of anti-corniness, and is one of those personalities that is endlessly watchable on screen.
And in this show he proves it with wild enthusiasm, genuine knowledge and charm. And in the process he delicately unpicks the relationships between the famous books and the regions and cities that he is visiting. Most presenters when offered a local delicacy would chew it over thoughtfully and mumble about how tasty it was; Grant is different, he downs a Neapolitan lemonade in one , lets out an enormous belch and proclaims it “absolutely revolting.” We need more of this.
It’s a delightfully simple premise that combines great works of literature with gorgeous travelogue. In the first episode Grant covers Elena Ferrante, Charles Dickens, Norman Lewis and Carlo Levi. So both nourishing and tasty – definitely not corny. And the critics agree. In the FT Suzy Feay applauds Grant’s “unfeigned spontaneity and effervescence” and in The Sunday Times Camilla Long says that Grant is a “gifted traveloguer: curious, amused and, like the locals, really quite peculiar himself. He’s brilliant at coaxing bizarre little nuggets out of the baffled people he meets.” Meanwhile The Herald’s Alison Rowat bemoans the fact that celebs get the cushy travel gigs, but she does admit that by talking to local guides, and by reading excerpts from the books, Grant “gives a sense of the place that is richer, and more fascinating, than anything that can be gleaned from a mere travel guide with its facts and figures.”