I just finished watching Paul Merton’s Adventure to Ibiza and I enjoyed it much more than I expected. Appropriately for the White Island, the theme was hedonism and loosening one’s inhibitions, which Merton managed impressively.
Overall, the programme tended to stick to familiar ground: clubbing, beaches, questions about drug culture, the Hippies. But, those who complain that the “alternative” Ibiza wasn’t shown enough are missing the point of Merton’s show: to visit places; show them to a wider audience; and experience what they are renowned for. Hedonism and clubbing are what Ibiza is renowned for. That’s what makes it unique in the world, and what will be most intriguing for the audience. But this programme approached those topics from a more subtle angle than a lazy production would: instead of just going along to nightclubs, Merton explored topics through engagement and conversations; rather than visiting a Hippy Market, Merton went to Benirras Beach and joined the Hippies for an evening of drumming; rather than showing stock footage of Manumission, he meets Keith Holden and goes to Es Vedra with him. Being a fish-out-of-water worked well in this regard: his initial awkwardness with DJ Guru turned into a really fun little segment where Merton ended up creating a new track with the eccentric genius who tells him that “Ibiza is a magnet for like-minded souls.”
We saw some less over-exposed aspects of the island: the fact that his guides are of an older demographic (Keith Holden, Jon Sa Trinxa) makes the place more accessible to those outside of the perceived Ibiza bracket of young, bronzed party animals. Merton also visited San Juan to see a genuine local fiesta and lunch with a retired opera-star-agent, who showed him a side of Ibiza that Norman Lewis would have been comfortable with.
The production team get some good commentary from Merton after each of his experiences, giving us a philosophical exploration of travel as much as a geographical one. He’s also incredibly willing to do everything the production team conjure up for him, from dressing as a chicken at the Zoo project to joining the Amnesia parade as a cross-dresser. Merton’s natural comedy and performing abilities come to the fore here, and it’s clear that he’s more open in this role than when he’s himself.
Overall, it was a great introduction to Ibiza by a true professional. Merton’s shows are really becoming some of the best in travel journalism, but there is so much more to be said about Ibiza. As a programme for the audience Merton brings, it was perfect. As a deep insight for people that already know or love the place, it was (understandably) limited. But as a fun and entertaining programme that showed Ibiza in a positive light, it was excellent and I recommend you head on over to the Channel 5 Video On Demand site and watch it immediately.