In the wake of the lamentable Philip Green satire Greed, its a relief to discover that Steve Coogan plus Michael Winterbottom plus Greece neednt be a recipe for a complete sense-of-humour failure. After England, Italy and Spain, The Trip to Greece (Sky One) takes Coogan and his long-standing partner-in-jolly Rob Brydon on a tour through the Hellenic lands, from Turkey through modern Macedonia and Greece. Winterbottom directs. 
Although the programme has hopped from the BBC to Sky Atlantic and Sky One, the format is unchanged.Over the course of six half-hour episodes, Steve and Rob visit salubrious restaurants and hotels. Between fancy meals, impressions of celebrities and mocking each others careers, they privately worry about their home lives. It isnt easy, being a star.
This time around, the hook is a retracing of the route of the Odyssey, starting in Turkey, with a new journey every day. Nobody is watching for the plot, but the conceit is a clothesline from which to hang the series familiar pleasures. Midway through their first lunch, Brydon starts quoting passages from Aristotles Poetics, in between impressions of Ronnie Corbett. Originality is overrated, Coogan says, arguing that his performance as Stan Laurel in Stan and Ollie was impressionistic rather than imitative. Its like they never went away.
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Coogans character is less anxious and vain than before, and he laughs more freely at Brydons antics. Brydon has been given slightly more edge, asserting himself more often. It feels as if there has been a subtle shift in dynamic, and Brydon is no longer the Sancho Panza to Coogans Don Quixote. 
Nearly 10 years after the first The Trip, we are deep underground in self-reference, and nobody bothers to pretend otherwise, although given the tragic recent history of their route, it is not all cosy. When they land on Lesbos, they are spotted by Kareem, a real-life refugee actor who also appeared in Greed. They give him a lift to the refugee camp while Brydon talks about Coogans large collection of cars. That was sobering, says Coogan.
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1/10 Elder Millenial, Iliza Shlesinger
If you didnt think you could possibly laugh at more joke about the trials of womanhood, think again. New York native Iliza Shlesinger brings a fresh take on topics from modern dating to wedding planning headaches. Her show is a delightful mix of reality checks and insightful takes.
Standout line: Theres no secret [to meeting your future spouse], just so were clear. Dont buy the books, dont buy the hype. Theres no secret, OK? Im gonna be 35 when I get married. If there was a secret, I would have f****** used it. Theres no secret. Theres no special magic to it. Im never going to be like, GATHER ROUND, LADIES! Off the 405, lies a toad hole. You must go to it.
2/10 Nanette, Hannah Gadsby
In 2018, Nanette pushed the boundaries of the stand-up special and indeed its so, so much more than a comedy show. In a little more than an hour, Hannah Gadsby deconstructs the makings of a good joke, explains why shes done with self-deprecation, and delivers an unforgettable, incredibly powerful take on the trauma shes experienced as a lesbian in Tasmania.
Standout line: I have built a career out of self-deprecating humour and I dont want to do that anymore. Do you understand what self-deprecation means when it comes from somebody who already exists in the margins? Its not humility, it’s humiliation. I put myself down in order to speak, in order to seek permission to speak, and I simply will not do that anymore. Not to myself or anybody who identifies with me.
3/10 Hard Knock Wife, Ali Wong
If you liked Ali Wong in Always Be My Maybe (which she co-wrote!), then youre going to love her in Hard Knock Wife (her second Netflix special and a follow-up on her 2016 debut Baby Cobra). Her unapologetic takes on motherhood and marriage (did you know she makes a lot more money than her husband and shes not sorry?) are gold.
Standout line: Now, I make a lot more money than my husband by, like, a long shot. My mom is very concerned that hes going to leave me out of intimidation. I had to explain to her that the only kind of man who would leave a woman who makes more money is the kind of man that doesnt like free money.
4/10 Relatable, Ellen DeGeneres
After 15 years of not doing stand-up, the comedian and talk show icon returned to the stage and, of course, turned the experience into a Netflix special. Under the pretence of pondering whether shes still relatable, Ellen DeGeneres basks in the (well-earned) glory her accomplishments, reflects on her personal experiences including her 1997 coming-out and how it was received in Hollywood and riffs on the absurdities of daily life. What a treat.
Standout line: [On losing her sitcom, then struggling to sell a talk-show to TV executives after coming out as a lesbian:] A lot of people didnt want to buy it, because no one thought theyd watch. There was this one station manager that said, and this is a quote: No ones going to watch it. No ones going to watch a lesbian during the day. And I said Well, they werent watching me at night. What time of day is good for a lesbian?
5/10 Son of Patricia, Trevor Noah
Trevor Noah has been starring in comedy specials for a decade, so its no surprise that he can take just about any topic (tourism in Bali, trap music, a conversation with President Barack Obama) and turn it into incisive jokes.
Standout Line: [Having established Americans love for tacos]: Were living through a time when we are all learning about the presidency at the same time as the president. Thats never happened. How wild is that concept? You wake up every day reading the news, and youre like Wow, I didnt know that. And somewhere, at that exact same moment, hes reading the same news, going, Wow, me too.”
6/10 Glitter Room, Katherine Ryan
Katherine Ryans second Netflix special (the follow-up to In Trouble, which came out in 2017) tackles some of her trademark topics, from dating to co-parenting, in a lighthearted, self-affirming way. A delight through and through.
Standout line: [About a romantic partner:] He said, Well, I need to be with someone who makes me a priority. And I suppose, because you have a child, I will never be your first priority. I shall always be second. And I was like, Hah! Second? Oh no.
7/10 Weirdo, Donald Glover
Back in 2012, Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino, was appearing as the unforgettable Troy Barnes in Community and spared a little time to record a Netflix special, which remains available to this day. Throughout this one-hour show, he shows off his range, reflecting on his music career, reaching his late twenties, and that brief time when the internet really wanted him to play Spider-Man.
Standout line: I lived in Downtown LA, and Downtown LA is kind of like the Eighties decided to stay there. Theyre like, Oh, OK, you guys go ahead and be the Nineties. Go enjoy Ace of Base well be here practicing the Moonwalk and selling crack.
8/10 Not Normal, Wanda Sykes
Theres perhaps one person on Earth who can make the Mueller report genuinely funny and that person is Wanda Sykes. The comedian might be best known for her roles on Curb Your Enthusiasm and Black-ish, but her stand-up is well worth a watch. She has impeccable timing, sharp writing, and an apparently effortless ability to connect with her crowd.
Standout line: In the Mueller investigation, how does [Trump] not know that hes Individual Number one? Come on. Everybody whos been indicted or going to jail Papadopoulos, Gates, Flynn, Manafort It all says in the Mueller report that they co-conspired with Individual Number One. Motherf*****, thats you! If everybody you come in direct contact with gets herpes, wouldnt you be like, [confused face] Am I giving everybody herpes?
9/10 Growing, Amy Schumer
Amy Schumer was expecting when her special was released on March 2019, so its no surprise she discussed pregnancy and the overall business of existing in a female body with her trademark honesty for a large part of her show.
Standout line: Its a new invention called THINX. Theyre just this underwear that you just bleed into [during your period]. Which I guess makes me a f****** inventor. Who knew? Should I go on Shark Tank?
10/10 Live Shows, Daniel Sloss
This special is actually made up of two shows, Dark and Jigsaw. The Scottish comedian refreshes the fish out of water archetype by delivering his take on the US and that time he told a joke about being an atheist in Indiana. His smart writing enables him to tackle topics, such as disability and yes paedophilia, in a way few comics could pull off.
Standout line: As a parent no, Im not a parent, but I like speaking for other people, because Im white, middle-class and male, and thats what my people do.
1/10 Elder Millenial, Iliza Shlesinger
If you didnt think you could possibly laugh at more joke about the trials of womanhood, think again. New York native Iliza Shlesinger brings a fresh take on topics from modern dating to wedding planning headaches. Her show is a delightful mix of reality checks and insightful takes.
Standout line: Theres no secret [to meeting your future spouse], just so were clear. Dont buy the books, dont buy the hype. Theres no secret, OK? Im gonna be 35 when I get married. If there was a secret, I would have f****** used it. Theres no secret. Theres no special magic to it. Im never going to be like, GATHER ROUND, LADIES! Off the 405, lies a toad hole. You must go to it.
2/10 Nanette, Hannah Gadsby
In 2018, Nanette pushed the boundaries of the stand-up special and indeed its so, so much more than a comedy show. In a little more than an hour, Hannah Gadsby deconstructs the makings of a good joke, explains why shes done with self-deprecation, and delivers an unforgettable, incredibly powerful take on the trauma shes experienced as a lesbian in Tasmania.
Standout line: I have built a career out of self-deprecating humour and I dont want to do that anymore. Do you understand what self-deprecation means when it comes from somebody who already exists in the margins? Its not humility, it’s humiliation. I put myself down in order to speak, in order to seek permission to speak, and I simply will not do that anymore. Not to myself or anybody who identifies with me.
3/10 Hard Knock Wife, Ali Wong
If you liked Ali Wong in Always Be My Maybe (which she co-wrote!), then youre going to love her in Hard Knock Wife (her second Netflix special and a follow-up on her 2016 debut Baby Cobra). Her unapologetic takes on motherhood and marriage (did you know she makes a lot more money than her husband and shes not sorry?) are gold.
Standout line: Now, I make a lot more money than my husband by, like, a long shot. My mom is very concerned that hes going to leave me out of intimidation. I had to explain to her that the only kind of man who would leave a woman who makes more money is the kind of man that doesnt like free money.
4/10 Relatable, Ellen DeGeneres
After 15 years of not doing stand-up, the comedian and talk show icon returned to the stage and, of course, turned the experience into a Netflix special. Under the pretence of pondering whether shes still relatable, Ellen DeGeneres basks in the (well-earned) glory her accomplishments, reflects on her personal experiences including her 1997 coming-out and how it was received in Hollywood and riffs on the absurdities of daily life. What a treat.
Standout line: [On losing her sitcom, then struggling to sell a talk-show to TV executives after coming out as a lesbian:] A lot of people didnt want to buy it, because no one thought theyd watch. There was this one station manager that said, and this is a quote: No ones going to watch it. No ones going to watch a lesbian during the day. And I said Well, they werent watching me at night. What time of day is good for a lesbian?
5/10 Son of Patricia, Trevor Noah
Trevor Noah has been starring in comedy specials for a decade, so its no surprise that he can take just about any topic (tourism in Bali, trap music, a conversation with President Barack Obama) and turn it into incisive jokes.
Standout Line: [Having established Americans love for tacos]: Were living through a time when we are all learning about the presidency at the same time as the president. Thats never happened. How wild is that concept? You wake up every day reading the news, and youre like Wow, I didnt know that. And somewhere, at that exact same moment, hes reading the same news, going, Wow, me too.”
6/10 Glitter Room, Katherine Ryan
Katherine Ryans second Netflix special (the follow-up to In Trouble, which came out in 2017) tackles some of her trademark topics, from dating to co-parenting, in a lighthearted, self-affirming way. A delight through and through.
Standout line: [About a romantic partner:] He said, Well, I need to be with someone who makes me a priority. And I suppose, because you have a child, I will never be your first priority. I shall always be second. And I was like, Hah! Second? Oh no.
7/10 Weirdo, Donald Glover
Back in 2012, Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino, was appearing as the unforgettable Troy Barnes in Community and spared a little time to record a Netflix special, which remains available to this day. Throughout this one-hour show, he shows off his range, reflecting on his music career, reaching his late twenties, and that brief time when the internet really wanted him to play Spider-Man.
Standout line: I lived in Downtown LA, and Downtown LA is kind of like the Eighties decided to stay there. Theyre like, Oh, OK, you guys go ahead and be the Nineties. Go enjoy Ace of Base well be here practicing the Moonwalk and selling crack.
8/10 Not Normal, Wanda Sykes
Theres perhaps one person on Earth who can make the Mueller report genuinely funny and that person is Wanda Sykes. The comedian might be best known for her roles on Curb Your Enthusiasm and Black-ish, but her stand-up is well worth a watch. She has impeccable timing, sharp writing, and an apparently effortless ability to connect with her crowd.
Standout line: In the Mueller investigation, how does [Trump] not know that hes Individual Number one? Come on. Everybody whos been indicted or going to jail Papadopoulos, Gates, Flynn, Manafort It all says in the Mueller report that they co-conspired with Individual Number One. Motherf*****, thats you! If everybody you come in direct contact with gets herpes, wouldnt you be like, [confused face] Am I giving everybody herpes?
9/10 Growing, Amy Schumer
Amy Schumer was expecting when her special was released on March 2019, so its no surprise she discussed pregnancy and the overall business of existing in a female body with her trademark honesty for a large part of her show.
Standout line: Its a new invention called THINX. Theyre just this underwear that you just bleed into [during your period]. Which I guess makes me a f****** inventor. Who knew? Should I go on Shark Tank?
10/10 Live Shows, Daniel Sloss
This special is actually made up of two shows, Dark and Jigsaw. The Scottish comedian refreshes the fish out of water archetype by delivering his take on the US and that time he told a joke about being an atheist in Indiana. His smart writing enables him to tackle topics, such as disability and yes paedophilia, in a way few comics could pull off.
Standout line: As a parent no, Im not a parent, but I like speaking for other people, because Im white, middle-class and male, and thats what my people do.
Both men are towers of neediness, unable to go for more than a few seconds without seeking a laugh or some other physical form of affirmation. When its just the two of them, they turn to each other, but otherwise it is waitresses, passers-by and their own assistants on the phone. Its all very sad and very funny. The direction is deceptively sharp, and it commits to the joys of its setting. Traditional food and travel directors could learn plenty from Winterbottoms sense of place. The Greek landscape bathes in honey-golden sunshine. In the cutaway shots to the kitchen we hear knives clopping down on wooden boards, the hiss of lamb as it sears on the grill, the tinkle of cutlery and wine glasses.
The Trips genius is that the format lets two of Britains best comic performers the chance to have their cake, eat it, and then have some petits fours with the coffee afterwards. If all this self-love winds you up, you will be hurling the remote at the screen within minutes. For the rest of us, though, the cake gets richer with each new layer. We laugh at the dialogue and mimicry, even if it feels they reached the limits of their repertoire by season two, because we know part of the joke is precisely this fatigue. We laugh at them sending themselves up, but we know that they are only versions of themselves. Everyones in on the jokes. In this hall of mirrors, the real Coogan and Brydon vanish, leaving only the impressions. They are more than enough.