The Michael Palin Collection: 8 Classic Series
That terminally genial Brit-wit goes on a global journey that has spanned nearly two decades and seven award-winning documentaries
Reviewed by Marc Savlov, Fri., Dec. 5, 2008
The Michael Palin Collection: 8 Classic SeriesBBC Warner, $249.98
It's not everyone who gets to return to the scene of his own crucifixion and bloody demise. Sure, they say Jesus pulled it off, more or less, but frankly, that's old news. Far more relevant to today's armchair resurrectionist is the second coming of Michael Palin, whose endlessly fascinating post-Python peripatetics have allowed him to revisit the former set of Monty Python's Life of Brian, aka the Ribat, Monastir, Tunisia. (Palin's also a good deal wittier than the Nazarene, when you get right down to it.) Tunisia is just one stop on a global journey that has spanned nearly two decades and seven award-winning documentaries, all starring the terminally genial Brit-wit and all collected here on – holy fucking Christ! – 19 DVDs. Palin has always been game for anything, and his BBC-assigned jaunts are a plummy gig in any language, but our favorite is his bold attempt to traverse the fictional footsteps of Jules Verne's globe-trotting Phileas Fogg. Going Around the World in 80 Days was already a deucedly dangerous dare in 1873, when Verne's epic fiction was first published, but it proves even more preposterous in 1989. Eschewing air travel altogether, the hopelessly comic romantic instead finds himself at the mercy of byzantine Indian railway timetables, potentially treacherous Pacific sea voyages, and, most dangerous of all, American highways. The odds against him completing such a venture in this modern world are ill-advised, and his Passepartout is less of a valet and more of a documentary film crew, but it's genius nonetheless. At this point, it's difficult to think of somewhere Palin hasn't been. He's like some elfin, Earl Grey-sipping Werner Herzog, minus the macho but not the Picchu (see Full Circle). In between traversing The New Europe (Sarajevo, Budapest, Albania, etc.) and voyaging, literally, Pole to Pole, the former Python's own brand of Boy's Own adventures develops a decidedly humanistic stride. Which is, of course, what makes these brilliantly staged megatravelogs so very edifying in the first place: Palin is ceaselessly curious about his fellow man, and he makes us curious, too.