It has been said that the Top Gear trio of Clarkson, Hammond and May were cartoon versions of their real selves who acted in front of the cameras. But when James May seems confused by life, trust it’s not acting; I saw him once in Hammersmith staring at a bus timetable in absolute confusion as if it were written in hieroglyphs.
He is a very pleasant travel companion James May: Our Man in Italy (Amazon Prime Video), a continuation of his tour of Japan. The series is fun, even if it meanders. Eventually he sat down for lunch and was inundated with courses, and watching this show is something like this: it takes quite a while, and just when you’re starting to think they’re out of fit May is doing something else, like a full English breakfast pizza to make or play Italian bagpipes. And it doesn’t matter if you take a break and walk away and miss a bit, because May will still be there doing his thing when you come back.
His declared goal is to find out whether the Dolce Vita really exists (secondary goal: “not to get fat”). May offers a measure of wry detachment, regularly pointing out when the producer and director have forced him into an activity that makes him look like a Berk, the sort of thing that Michael Portillo bravely engages in once per episode of his Railroad – Subject to travelogue. “Well, viewers, we’re 20 minutes into this episode and I haven’t embarrassed myself,” he says, before willingly doing just that.
May also suits the mood of the “slightly uptight Englishman” well, as in the first episode when he develops a crush on his very beautiful Sicilian guide, Claudia. He is later joined by an immaculately dressed young man named Paolo, who refers to him as “that shiny, trendy drying rack”. A joke is that May just isn’t polite enough for Italy.
The series takes him from Sicily to the Dolomites. He drives a car, drinks a lot of wine and generally gives the impression of a man on a very pleasant vacation. When he describes Palermo as “modern and multicultural”, he means it as a compliment. May said the show wouldn’t do the same old travel show clichés about Italy. In fact, it often does. But it’s presented in a gracious manner, and the cinematography – thanks to a generous Amazon budget – makes it all look fabulous.
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/tv/0/james-may-man-italy-review-amiable-food-wine-filled-meander/ an amiable, food and wine-filled meander at Amazon’s expense