Rob-Brydon-and-Steve-Coogan-in-The-Trip-to-ItalyThere have been few television comedies this side of the millennium that have been quite as ingenious, funny and poignant as Michael Winterbottom’s The Trip. Starring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, playing themselves, the eagerly anticipated second series ‘The Trip to Italy’ begins this coming Friday, April 4 – and we were fortunate enough to witness a special sneak peak ahead of the eventual broadcast.

Taking place in a central London location, we were, amongst many other lucky fans of the series, able to indulge in two episodes of the show, while both Coogan and Brydon themselves were in attendance, taking part in a post-screening questions and answers session. Our first reaction is that the show appears to follow a similar formula to the first – which can only be a good thing.

Instead, our two protagonists are in Italy, once again embarking on a tour of highbrow, cultured restaurants, as a show that blurs the line between various genres, as a self-referential, almost mockumentary like comedy, yet working also as a travel programme or food show in the process. However the crux of this, is conversation. Two middle-aged, hugely popular comics, candidly, and remarkably naturalistically, discussing their own personal lives, and relationships and children, along with their careers, popularity and prestige.

This is where the show truly comes to life, and the second series seems to remain faithful to this, while the various impersonations provide the deftly comic touch. Many of our favourites from the first series are explored, from Al Pacino to Michael Caine to Brydon’s wonderful Man in a Box (which, in this instance, actually takes place in Pompeii, with a genuine man in a box), with a handful of new voices for us to enjoy.

Though inherently subtle, the show is also so undeniably cinematic, certainly helped along when directed by a man whose career lies predominantly on the big screen. The setting to this adds such an ineffable beauty to proceedings, and while the first too captured the glorious nature of the British countryside – in particular the North of England – this plays on the sun-kissed tranquility of Italy, and in the episodes we were witness to, the breathtaking Amalfi coast. The setting serves the whole tone and atmosphere so perfectly too, as classical orchestral pieces, and overtures compliment the story so well, as the two actors navigate their way around this incredible commune.

It does seem that Brydon is the more emotionally vulnerable character in the second series, as while Coogan was the key bearer of the more profound and poignant moments in the first series, now the emphasis seems to have shifted to Brydon, as his marriage is explored and contemplated over. It seems somewhat fitting for this to be the case, as since the first series, where Coogan scrutinised over his acting career, he has since gone on to great success with both the Alan Partridge movie, and the Oscar-nominated Philomena.

The Trip to Italy is simply unmissable television, and while we may have been fortunate to see two episodes already, much like the rest of the nation, we too are anxious to enter into this world once again, as this immensely subtle and so brilliantly witty and intelligent comedy returns. Here’s hoping they pack their bags for a third time and set off once again, because if the first series was a delicious starter to whet the appetite, then this sophomore series is the essential main course. So, here’s hoping they have room for dessert. Or at least a coffee.

Episode one of The Trip to Italy, starring Steve Coogan & Rob Brydon, will be on Friday 4th April at 10pm, BBC Two.