TV Review: Asian Provocateur, BBC Three

One of the television joys in 2015 was seeing Romesh Ranganathan looking pissed off in the first series of Asian Provocateur when he tracked down his Sri Lankan relatives. Now there is the chance to see him looking pissed off again in the second series in which he tracks down his North American relatives. And he has even more to be pissed off about, because this time his eccentric, nagging mother Shanthi has come along for the ride. 

In fact he spends much of the first episode trying to shake her off - "it's the trip of a lifetime except I've got to take my mum." Having arrived in Florida his plan is to settle her down into a retirement home and go out and have a good time with his cousin Pratheep. Thing do not exactly go to plan though in a show that treads a very wobbly line between travelogue and real-life sitcom. 

Romesh sees Pratheep as an alternative version of himself - what he might have been like if he hadn’t grown up in boring Crawley. But he is not so keen on Pratheep when the first thing he sets up is a spicy food eating competition. Ranganathan does one of his beautiful trademark scowls to the camera about racial stereotyping when he is not complaining about his stomach being on fire. And - spoiler alert - he loses the competition anyway.

There’s more fun to be had when he goes monster truck driving with what turns out to be quite a nice bunch of rednecks. Despite initial misgivings Ranganathan gets well into it until the start pulling out AK47s and having some shooting practice. Well done to the director for not playing the duelling banjo music from Deliverance over this scene. And well done for playing down the antics during a fraternity initiation ceremony when our hero has to strip and put his dick in a shoe.

We don’t actually see a lot of Shanthi in this episode as her son wants to get away from her, but finally they are reunited thanks to a gospel choir and a donkey. We won’t say any more but considering that Ranganathan used to be a rapper (aka The Lazy-Eyed Assassin) his singing is not much to write home about. In fact he’s got the kind of voice only a mother could love…

Asian Provocateur is available on BBC Three here.


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