If there is one genre I have a major beef with it is the celebrity travelogue. You know the sort, actor or comedian no longer gets work so their agent bags them a free trip somewhere and we are supposed to find it enlightening.

There are two categories of this genre. The first is the UK-based ones, which quite frankly should all have the title ‘Ooh isn’t Britain lovely?’ as it mainly consists of shots of countryside, stately homes and some berk trying to learn how to do dry-stone walling. Of course, it does make you wonder if you are actually in Britain at all – where are EDL marches, overflowing A+E’s, the homeless? This type of programme is the Kalms of the TV world, soothing you into thinking everything is ok so you can sleep at night. Nothing needs fixing so long as somewhere there is still a field of cute little lambs frolicking.

The second type is the international one. Here the celeb is flung to some corner of the globe. Again they take part in some mindless task to try to ‘fit in’ with the locals. In India you are expected to grind spices (although next time I suggest the presenter in question instead does a 12-hour shift in a call centre), America you become a cowboy, Spain you learn a flamenco. The worst moment is when the presenter quotes that odious word ‘journey’. Because in order for this not to be just some holiday they need to have personally grown from it. The only journey I get from it is my hand moving to the remote and putting something else on.

So it may surprise you dear readers then that I actually am enjoying Joanna Lumley’s Trans-Siberian Adventure. The first reason for this is that the trip in question is very timely – Russia and China are two countries that seem to be rarely out of the news and are both experiencing cultural changes. China has created a capitalist/communist hybrid that is all-consuming, whilst Russia is moving socially backwards at such a pace that you do wonder if they are on an alternative timeline.

What is more, Lumley is actually genuinely engaging. As the title suggests, there is no fake ‘journey’ happening. This is a straight-up adventure, where Lumley is just wanting a good time. There is something to be said for her dry, knowing humour as well. I actually laughed at her refusal to wear traditional Chinese get-up for her tour of the Emperor’s palace claiming it doesn’t suit Westerners, as two very white people appeared. ‘You look fabulous’ she said a glimmer of something in her smile that suggested politeness beats sincerity every time when you are a tourist.

Finally, her interviews are actually interesting as well. I particularly enjoyed her meeting with a neighbour of the last emperor’s favourite concubine, who stole the episode with her ability to steamroll over Lumley’s questions. Ditto the frosty meeting between the Russian guard and the production crew, a rare moment where travelogue became an almost Newsnight-style report on censorship.

And the most joyous thing about the whole show? Not a single shot of dry stone walls.

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