TV review: Entertaining outing as Joe Lycett takes up travel reins

Suzanne McGonagle

Suzanne McGonagle

Suzanne has worked at the Irish News since 2004. Her particular areas of specialism are news and education.

Travel Man: 96 Hours in Iceland featuring Joe Lycett and Bill Bailey
Travel Man: 96 Hours in Iceland featuring Joe Lycett and Bill Bailey Travel Man: 96 Hours in Iceland featuring Joe Lycett and Bill Bailey

Travel Man: 96 Hours in Iceland, Monday, Channel 4 at 8pm

WITH all the presents opened, way too much turkey devoured and the endless Christmas movies and soap specials over, it was time to try and find something decent to watch on television.

Still questioning what day it actually was amid the haze of the festive holidays, I stumbled upon a programme that mixed travel with comedy.

Travel Man: 96 Hours in Iceland sees comedian Joe Lycett take up the reins of the Channel 4 holiday show, replacing Richard Ayoade who travelled the world between 2015 and 2019.

More than two years after Ayoade announced he was leaving and the small matter of a global pandemic put a major halt to travel, Lycett was on our screens for the Christmas special to kick off the return of the series.

While Ayoade's visits were crammed into 48 hours, Lycett had the luxury of 96 hours to ease himself into the new role.

However, having to explore the whole of Iceland, rather than just the capital of Reykjavik, may have been a bigger task than his predecessor had to undertake.

Accompanying Lycett on his debut trip was comedian and (my least favourite) Strictly Come Dancing winner Bill Bailey.

Starting in the Icelandic capital, Lycett tells Bailey they are off on a "festive mini break to the land of fire and ice", to the most sparsely populated country in Europe where he says their "epic Icelandic holiday will see us cavort with canines, unleash our inner diva and flounce in fluff".

Voted the safest place in the world 12 times, Lycett says, "I do worry there are over 200 active volcanoes, that doesn't suggest safety to me" as they begin their four-day trip embracing local cuisine, outdoor bathing and some of Iceland's festive folklore.

The pair's first stop is one of Reykjavik's most famous landmarks - the Church of Hallgrimskirkja.

Standing 244 feet tall, which Bailey likens to "God's tower block", the church was built from 1945 to 1986 by Gudjon Samuélsson and symbolises mountains and glaciers.

Then there's a visit to a tomato themed restaurant and family-run farm that produces four varieties of tomato every day using geothermal energy and glacial water.

The unlikely duo then spend a night under the stars in a bubble shaped heated room to catch a glimpse of the magical Northern Lights before trying to boil an egg in a hot thermal spring for breakfast.

Pairing it with buttered brown bread cooked underground for 18 hours, Lycett says it is "the bleakest breakfast outside of Wetherspoons" before his bread is swept away by the windy Icelandic conditions.

Next stop is a museum with a difference, with Lycett telling viewers that when he "visits a new city, I like to check out the museums and the public toilets".

That leads them to a punk museum housed in a disused public toilet, with the show's host even putting his head into a loo to "hear the ocean".

The duo also enjoy a dip in a geothermal nature bath at Myvatn, a trip to Iceland's second city of Akureyri before a scenic plane tour along Iceland's longest fjord, crossing the Arctic Circle and a taste of husky sledding.

Then there's the earthquake simulator at a shopping centre, which Bailey underwhelming says, "well, that was £1.69 worth of entertainment".

While it might have been Lycett's first outing on the travel show, it was the jokes and the banter between him and Bailey that I enjoyed the most - primarily because they seemed to genuinely have fun in each other's company.

The show was entertaining and funny, and above all, amid the continuing Covid-19 travel measures, it was a welcome, yet quirky look at what travel destinations we could be visiting in the not too distant future.