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Review: "Long Way Down"

August 1, 2008 |  9:27 pm

That I think Ewan McGregor must be a really nice guy is based entirely on having watched “Long Way Round,” the highly likable 2004 Bravo series that documented a motorcycle trip he made alongside pal Charley Boorman (a sometimes actor and the soCharlieewann of director John Boorman) eastward from London to New York. Now comes “Long Way Down,” documenting a three-month ride from the top of Scotland to the bottom of Africa.

The current itinerary takes them through Scotland, England, France, Italy and 15 African countries. (It is a kind of a younger-generation version of Michael Palin's “Pole to Pole,” but with motorbikes, and therefore the possibility of motorbike accidents, and with camping out, and therefore the possibility of being eaten.) The first episode, which airs Saturday, Aug. 2, at 9 p.m. on Fox Reality, is all about the preparation, which is considerable, and ranges from deciding what shoes to take to survival training, including what to do when men in masks point guns at your head.

Scenic grandeur is suggested only at its end, as McGregor and Boorman finally set off south (escorted by McGregor's father and brother) through some green Scottish countryside, and in the coming attractions. (There will be pyramids and zebras.) Still, there is drama: McGregor manages to break his leg in a London motorcycle spill even before they go, and Boorman gets himself detained by police by speaking the word “bomb” in an airport. There is trouble securing the Libyan visas, and there is the thorny question of McGregor's wife, Eve, who has never ridden a motorbike, wanting to join them partway. It is not great drama so far –- it is humorous drama, if anything. But this is just the start.

It would be easy enough for this to come off as self-indulgent –- good-looking rich boys on a lark –- especially given that they are trailed by a support staff that includes a security expert (who doubles on camera) and a doctor. But they aren't pretending otherwise. (Those people on “Survivor” -- they're not alone, either.) And even with the backup, what they're doing is not easy, possibly dangerous, and definitely dirty.

--Robert Lloyd