Monday, October 20, 2008

Stephen Fry in America - part 2: Review

Stephen Fry in America 2/6 - Deep South (Sunday 19 October 9:00pm - 10:00pm BBC1) This series is about Stephen Fry visiting all fifty states of the USA, via his black London taxi. Last night's episode - Part Two of "Stephen Fry in America" was another entertaining and educational show. This second part of the series is set in the Deep South. First he visited Arlington, Virginia to watch a ceremony and parade on Veteran's Day. In West Virginia, he joined a shift of coal miners on a trip deep underground. On the way to the elevator that would take him and the others down to the mine entrance, they walked past a sign on the wall that said: Good Morning...Let the Stress Begin. Once down inside the mines, Stephen said, "It's hot, dark and for a man of my height, incredibly uncomfortable." He sampled bourbon in a bourbon distillery (the smallest and oldest) in Kentucky and it was quite funny after a few too many of the "samples" when he said (speaking in the third person), "I think Stevie should have a little lie down." Oh, and on the way to the distillery, there was a very heavy downpour and while Stephen was driving through the rain, he said it gets him when the weather is like that and people invariably say, "This must make you feel right at home." Stephen shook his head and exclaimed, "Preposterous! Give me a nice, steady English drizzle." Next he visited a barber shop in London, Kentucky and had an amusing conversation with the barber. He listened to a jam session of Bluegrass musicians in Tennessee., which he obviously enjoyed. He visited a body farm in Tennessee - where bodies (human cadavers) are left to decompose and studied by forensic anthropologists to study human decomposition and learn about time of death methods - which was gruesome but very interesting. Stephen admitted he has never seen a dead body so he wasn't sure how he would respond. He was obviously very interested and moved by the experience, and said he might even leave his body to something like that. He went up in a hot air balloon (for the first time) over the Smoky Mountains in North Carolina. I loved it when Stephen (looking very nervous) asked the balloon operator if he had noticed the power lines nearby. I'm sure I would ask the same question if I was ever in a hot balloon! The operator politely replied, "Yes, I see those but thanks for warning me." Next, Georgia. Stephen was invited to a family gathering on Thanksgiving Day in an old plantation house in southern Georgia. The toast Stephen made at the dinner was quite touching. In Georgia, he was also persuaded to ride on a Tennessee Walking horse (he doesn't like horses or rather horses don't like Stephen!) and his experience was funny to see, as was listening to his comments afterwards. He sure didn't like Miami or Miami Beach, Florida! I've never been to Miami or Miami Beach but after watching last night's show with Stephen Fry's disparaging views (“I’d rather be curled up in a snowy cabin with a hot whisky or, quite frankly, a Horlicks than I would spend half an hour in this rotting place.”) I don't think I will be making any plans to visit the place! I was thinking how people from Florida (especially from Miami) will be upset if they ever see the series and then he admitted how much he enjoyed the trip to "the glorious Everglades." At least he hasn't written off the whole state! In Montgomery, the capital of Alabama, he observed the Board of Pardons and Paroles department in action. He finished up this part of the series by watching a college football game in Alabama. I really like the way Stephen Fry is giving his honest views of each place he visits. His very candid comments are like a breath of fresh air instead of the way most travel shows are presented. He makes me giggle and he makes me think. He also makes me proud to be an American. I can't wait for the rest of the series! What are your thoughts about the series so far? Are you enjoying it? Has the series encouraged you to consider visiting the USA? If you had a bad opinion of Americans, has watching the series helped to change your mind? related links from my blog: Stephen Fry in America - part 1:Review New World Stephen Fry in America - part 3: Review Mississippi Stephen Fry in America - part 4: Review Mountains and Plains Stephen Fry in America - part 5: Review True West Stephen Fry in America - part 6: Review Pacific Stephen Fry on the road in the USA


  1. I enjoyed it! I think that his comments and opinions were truthful, if forthright at times.
    It was a fascinating mix of places, and events, that he visited.
    I no longer have much inclination to travel, especially abroad. I think that the series is showing places somewhat off the beaten track that people may well consider visiting.
    The America I don't like is it's government, or policies, not the people and places shown here.
    I presume next week's programme will be of particular interest as he'll be visiting your home state! xx

  2. Hi flighty, I'm pleased to hear you enjoyed watching it too. I think he has struck a very good balance with the mix of places and experiences.

    Yes, I think the series may encourage people to explore other parts of America that they wouldn't have thought of before.

    You're not the only one - I don't like some of America's policies either!

    I'm sure the heavy-handed treatment of foreign visitors when they arrive in the USA is also very off-putting. It's certainly not a nice way to start a holiday.

    Yes, indeed - you're right, I am definitely looking forward to next week's programme because he will be visiting Minnesota.

  3. I'm really enjoying the series as well -- it's very insightful yet entertaining at the same time. By the way, I'm guessing from the way you write your review that you are a definite Stephen Fry fan...?

    I'm looking forward to your review of the third episode. How did you feel about his coverage of Minnesota? I was especially intrigued by the 'skywalks'!

    (As an aside, an acquaintance of mine recently went to Minneapolis for a wedding. Apparently, the weather there right now isn't as cold as it normally is...)

  4. Hi Daniel, you guessed right - I am a big fan of Stephen Fry.

    I was hoping he would show more of Minnesota so I was a bit disappointed. I'm glad he mentioned the skyway system in Minneapolis and St Paul - it's fantastic and not just in the very cold winters but also during the very hot summers.

    The warm weather they are having this week is unusual. I'm sure everyone is enjoying it while it lasts because winter is always bitterly cold with a good amount of snow too.

  5. OK. So Stephen Fry dissed my hometown of Miami, FL, chose to focus his time on the Jewish retirees who make their winter treks South rather than talk about something really interesting! The Miami my parents arrived to in 1968 is not the large - one dare say internationally flavored? - metropolis it is today. It was a sleepy southern beach town and the now fab Miami Beach was a slum! Then Castro booted the best and brightest out of Cuba and the city gained its Latin vibe. Today, 54 percent of the city's residents claim a foreign place of birth and English really is the second language (my election ballot comes in 3 languages). Perhaps he should've gotten off the beach, played dominos and sipped cafecito with the old guys along Calle Ocho, gone to Little Haiti, enjoyed the natural beauty on Key Biscayne, picked up some Jamaican jerk chicken and caught a cricket (yes cricket) match at the Cricket Stadium in Lauderhill. Then he could'v gone north, hit the oldest European city in America - St. Augustine - and then skeddadled back to his beloved South. He came looking for what he didn't like rather than looking for what makes So. Fla. unique. Yes, it is not the South. It is the Caribbean. . . sunshine and all. And couldn't he have gone to Key West for some glorious driving over the ocean?

  6. Hi Kenneth, you've made some very good points. I think the programme makers probably had made up their minds ahead of time that they wanted to show the Everglades. It's a shame they didn't devote more time to show other parts of Florida.

    I've only visted Orlando, Florida so I find your view very interesting. Thanks for the information!

  7. Sorry that I am a bit behind everyone in catching this show, it is definitely very interesting and entertaining to watch. I must throw my two-bits in on his Floridian adventure. He couldn't have picked a worse spot in the whole state! Miami and Miami Beach where perfectly described. "Ugly Concrete Buildings" are everywhere with their ugliness only beaten by the beautiful people. I would recommend to Mr. Fry that perhaps he should check out what really makes Florida different should he make another trip south enough to be north again. The Space Coast is a wonderful place where technology and nature come together. The history of St. Augustine is something that most of the country lacks. For a culture that will be hard to forget, he should take U.S. 1 all the way down to Key West and meet some of the people from the Conch Republic! Florida is much more than the destination for snow birds, but it does help to be aware of their migration patterns. I don't know how they lived so long when they drive the way they do!

  8. Hello. I think you're right about Stephen Fry's views on Florida. I've never been to Miami or Miami Beach but I have enjoyed visiting Orlando and the Kennedy Space Center.

    I think one of the drawbacks to the series is that Stephen Fry didn't necessarily visit the "best" parts of a particular state. I like your recommendations! They all sound good to me.