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Anton & Giovanni’s Adventures in Spain review: A bit like The Trip with the jokes and plot taken out

There comes a time in every celebrity’s career when they must embark on a televised journey around a European country with someone they know from work. It’s practically the light entertainer’s form of jury service. Last year, Strictly Come Dancing pros Anton du Beke and Giovanni Pernice got the call-up, and headed to the latter’s native Sicily during the Strictly off-season; now, Du Beke is returning the favour by taking Pernice on Adventures in Spain for BBC One (his mum hails from the north of the country).

Their jolly begins in Seville, where the pair’s dynamic is quickly established in broad strokes. Pernice, 33, never misses an opportunity to crack a joke about his 57-year-old co-star’s more advanced years (“90 years old... almost your age,” he deadpans as they visit the spectacular Plaza de España). Du Beke, meanwhile, takes a performatively head-shaking “Oh, what is he like!” attitude to his younger colleague’s foibles, especially when Pernice makes a linguistic slip-up (he’s left in stitches after the Italian confuses maracas with Caracas during a chat about flamenco dancing, which pretty much sums up their banter).

They do at least seem like genuinely good pals, even if the programme strains a little to paint them as the classic “odd couple” duo. Thanks to scenes showing the two friends singing in the car while driving (song choice: “Y Viva España”, obviously) and Du Beke’s resemblance to Rob Brydon, the whole endeavour starts to feel a bit like The Trip with the jokes and plot taken out.

As our guides head on to the mountaintop city of Ronda (a recommendation from Du Beke’s mum), the action is even lower stakes than the average celeb travelogue. There is an entire plot point devoted to Pernice drinking too much orange juice and needing the toilet, which makes an enjoyable contrast with his suave Strictly persona. Then we have a segment in which they get their car clamped and must negotiate with the parking inspector who is trying to give them a ticket.

By the time they reach the Caminito del Rey, the vertigo-inducing Málaga walkway once known as one of the most dangerous hikes in the world, there are more bladder updates (now it’s Du Beke that needs the loo). Pernice is not good with heights, and doesn’t enjoy having to wear a hairnet underneath his helmet; walking so close to a precipitous drop induces a miniature meltdown (albeit a very polite one, less TV diva and more reluctant teenager who has been forced to do activities on a family holiday). “My hair is a mess, I’m sweating, I don’t have my aftershave,” he laments. Cue more paternal eyerolls from Du Beke.

It’s inevitable, given this duo’s particular skill set, that the show also gives Pernice a chance to perform with a flamenco champion while Du Beke proudly looks on from the sidelines. And there’s also a bit of a jump scare when the pair rather jarringly segue from having a totally normal chat into a song-and-dance performance of “Together (Wherever We Go)” from Gypsy (are they trying to soft-launch a Christmas album of musical covers, perhaps? Alfie Boe and Michael Ball, watch out).

Giovanni Pernice and Anton du Beke in ‘Adventures in Spain’ (BBC/BBC Studios)
Giovanni Pernice and Anton du Beke in ‘Adventures in Spain’ (BBC/BBC Studios)

For all the jazz hands and quick steps, though, the show’s best moment is one of its most banal. Sitting in the car, waiting for Pernice to return from the toilet, Du Beke scrolls through his phone. “Look at that, Nick Knowles has got engaged again,” he says, in the world-weary tones of someone who’s been navigating the sleb circuit for decades. It’s an intriguing glimpse of an off-duty Du Beke. Perhaps the next series should just feature fly-on-the-wall footage of him reacting to celebrity news. It might not be as telegenic, but it’d certainly be cheaper.