By Leo Cutting, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Michael Palin is surely one of the world’s most well-traveled television presenters, as the former Monty Python star admits, he has become famous for being “the man who’s been everywhere.” Yet in 25 years of making travel documentaries for the BBC, it is only now that Palin has gotten around to visiting Brazil.
As was the case at the height of his comedy career, Palin’s timing is immaculate. The arrival of “Brazil with Michael Palin” on TV screens in the UK and Australia signals the beginning of four years of intense focus on Brazil during which the country will prepare for the World Cup in 2014 and the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
As Palin says in his introduction, Brazil is a country “whose time has come” and, by getting in early, he has ensured first pick of its many wonders.
This four-part series sees Palin begin his journey in the Northeast and then criss-cross his way southward. An entire episode is devoted to the Amazon region during which Palin visits some of the area’s indigenous communities.
We then join Palin as he takes in Brasilia, Belo Horizonte, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo before, finally, exploring the sights of Brazil’s deep South. Palin’s endless energy and enthusiasm make him an excellent host. Watching him dance capoeira and try his hand at Brazilian football (soccer) commentary makes it easy to forget he’s now 69 years old.
In keeping with most of his back catalog of travel programs, the tone for Palin’s current series is one of optimism. However, claims that Brazil’s social problems are swept under the rug in the name of feel-good TV seem slightly unfair.
For example, during his time in Rio de Janeiro, Palin deals extensively with the problems associated with the city’s favelas. In particular, Palin tries to draw a clear distinction between the crime and violence of the favelas and the normal people who live there.
He visits several community projects aimed at “reclaiming” the favelas, as well as spends time with the fearsome BOPE (Elite Squad), Rio de Janeiro’s first line of defense against the city’s drug gangs.
Alison McGowan of Hidden Pousadas Brazil told The Rio Times how she expects series such as Palin’s to increase interest in tourism in Brazil. She explained that such programs not only transmit “a real feel for the beauty and diversity of the country but also a sense of the warmth, exuberance and vigor which Palin himself found during his stay here.”
As Brazil’s upcoming Global sporting events draw closer, it is inevitable that more and more TV shows will jostle to present new perspectives of this enormous country. Brazil with Michael Palin has set the bar for future efforts high, but there is certainly plenty yet to be explored.
The series consists of four episodes, with the first episode showing October 24, 2012 on BBC1. Each episode; Out of Africa, Into Amazonia, The Road to Rio and The Deep South is 55-60 minutes long.