Martin Clunes: Islands of America

Martin Clunes: Islands of America (ITV)

There’s a sliding scale of logic to celebrity travelogues. Michael Palin going Around the World in 80 Days? Sure. Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman riding motorbikes from John o’Groats to, er, Cape Town? Hmmmm.

Martin Clunes: Islands of America falls somewhere in the middle. It sounds a bit random. Why just the islands of America? Would HBO send Bryan Cranston over to make a documentary about Lundy and the Isle of Wight? (Actually, I’d watch the heck out of that.)

But as Clunes explained, it’s a useful way of seeing a different side to the US – one that’s far removed from the ‘bright lights, big shops and asphalt highways’. And you don’t get much further removed than Hawaii, sited some 2,500 km off America’s West Coast.

The plan was for our man in Honolulu to dig about and find the real Hawaii beneath ‘the tacky tourist image of towering hotels and wobbly dashboard hula dolls’. In the end, though, digging wasn’t required as the real Hawaii bubbled up to meet him: as luck would have it, Clunes arrived just as the Kilauea volcano awoke from its slumber. Flying over rivers of molten lava like an unlikely mash-up of Dante’s Peak and Doc Martin, he saw where the molten rock had cooled and formed into new land. ‘It’s a humbling reminder that islands aren’t constant things, and this one is very much still growing,’ he observed. And it was.

Next, it was up to Alaska, where America bumps up against Russia. On Spruce Island, Clunes was shown the tiny chapel where Saint Herman had spent two decades living alone in the forest. Herman’s hermit years, if you will.

But for our animal-mad host, saints and even volcanoes were clearly no match for the thrill of watching brown bears at play on Kodiak Island. His joy turned to heartbreak, though, on seeing the skeletal remains of a trophy kill, as a ranger explained that hunting these magnificent creatures is vital for the island’s economy. We know travel is all about broadening the mind but, for Clunes, this was clearly a stretch too far.

TV extra:


Das Boot (Sky Atlantic)

This serialised sequel to Wolfgang Petersen’s seminal submarine drama retains all the clammy, claustrophobic tension of the 1981 film, with life aboard German U-boat 612 depicted as a sweat-soaked, oil-streaked endurance test punctuated by sudden bursts of red-lit danger. But it also expands the story into a gripping shore-based thriller in which Vicky Krieps’ translator is drawn into a game of cat and mouse between the French Resistance and the Gestapo. Sehr gut.


Hypothetical (Dave)

Dave continues to keep the British comedy sector afloat with another addition to its seemingly endless supply of panel shows. This time, a bunch of funny people have to impress host Josh Widdicombe and judge James Acaster – the Ed Sheeran and Jarvis Cocker of comedy – by riffing on how they’d approach various made-up scenarios, in order to win some equally hypothetical prizes. It’s a fun half hour somewhat thinly stretched over 60 minutes.

Published in Waitrose Weekend, February 7, 2019

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