Our ‘Nam special

Vietnam is all wrapped up with a ribbon round it and is now sitting under the huge Christmas telly tree, waiting to be unwrapped on Sunday 28th, at 8pm. I hope everyone’s too pissed or fat to move off the sofa, because, and I know I say this every time, it’s quite a good one.

The Vietnam special is also our first foray outside the hour. The final running time ended up at 75 minutes, which was a big worry initially, because one of the most sound and wise sayings in television is “There’s nothing that can’t be improved by making it shorter”, or something like that.

It’s a maxim we stick to religiously – lots and lots of useable stuff ends up on the floor – but in the case of Vietnam, we simply couldn’t fit the actual basics of the journey into 60 minutes; we’d have had to lose whole days completely, so 75 it is, and believe me it rattles along at that. So, Christmas tip for anyone downloading illegally: get plenty of bits and torrents in or whatever it is you do.

As for the story, for those who like to see presenters suffer there is some good hardship, especially for Jeremy in the first three days, who was crapping himself before he set out.

But then your first ever bike ride and it’s the length of Vietnam – you would be. And his bike was rubbish. But as the journey unfolds it settles down (for a while) into what I think is a good buddy movie.

I am reminded actually, watching it back, of those two brilliant bell ends in Sideways, except in our world the only time anyone gets their leg over is climbing back on a bike.

On the subject of the bikes I suppose, looking back, the big risk in this show is not the fact we’ve ditched cars for bikes – for one outing you won’t miss four wheels, and it does put Jezza in a world of pain. No, the biggest risk in this show – and students of film will spot this if they’re not mullered on Malibu next Sunday – is that Vietnam is the one Special that’s more about the guys than it is about the transport.

In the Polar film there is a simple premise – can a car get to the Magnetic Pole, and the whole film hangs round that; what the guys do is just bonus entertainment. Likewise in Botswana the spine of the film is “Can ordinary cars go where four wheel drive cars go?” and likewise whatever the lads get up to along the way should be secondary to that premise.

In Vietnam though, the transport question isn’t that strong, because as Ewan and Charlie have proved so well, you can go almost anywhere on a bike. This means the narrative of the film is a bit more skewed towards the three guys: e.g. Can Jeremy make it without killing himself? Can the others make it without killing Jeremy? So please forgive us on that one. We haven’t gone self indulgent, and as soon as we find another titanic vehicular challenge we’ll be there.

Anyway, that’s enough from me. Watch it and let us know.

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