Karl Pilkington’s Sick of It is one of the best shows on television, and not ironically or as a guilty pleasure. It’s a clever, funny, moving delight.
Karl Pilkington doesn’t write jokes, which is why Sick of It is so funny. It’s one man divided in two, discussing with himself how he sees the world’s peculiar rituals and traditions – which happens to be hilarious, especially if you have followed Karl’s Manc musings over the years.
Sick of It’s third episode is largely a reiteration of amusing things Karl has said before, particularly about the values of enjoying your own company and the notion of what he calls “forced fun” (basically regular fun, which he can’t see the point of). Karl goes for a weekend away to get his mind off his breakup and to get out from under Norma’s roof, and he’s looking forward to just hiding away and being on his own for a while. No chance. The overly friendly locals take his desire for solitude to mean he needs help, and continually badger him to participate in activities including tandem mountain-biking with a depressed local.
It’s a funny episode, especially if you’ve ever tried to avoid a neighbour (“If he sees that light on he’ll be over here like a moth!”) but it’s the fourth episode where Sick of It announces itself as one of the best, most thoughtful shows on television.
It begins, as a lot of things do, with a clear-out of old rubbish. After taking a box of unopened presents and bits of tat to a local charity shop, Karl realises he has accidentally given away a photograph of his late uncle – which Norma wants back. Only problem is that in the photo he’s in blackface as part of a minstrel show, and the (black) store attendant has torn it up. This leads Norma and Karl on a journey of beachfront reminiscences, as Norma combs through her history in an attempt to find something by which she can remember her husband. It’s a poignant, clever half-hour of television that builds to a fantastically bittersweet ending, and reveals Karl Pilkington not as the shaved chimp his reputation suggests, but a man with a more profound sense of goodness and what’s important in life than perhaps any one of us.