James May: Our Man In Italy season 1 review – a charming enough jaunt around a beautiful country

July 15, 2022
Andy Punter 5
Amazon Prime, Streaming Service, TV Reviews
3

Summary

James May: Our Man in Italy sticks to a reliable formula and mostly gives its audience what it wants. If you like this sort of thing, you’ll probably like this.

 

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3

Summary

James May: Our Man in Italy sticks to a reliable formula and mostly gives its audience what it wants. If you like this sort of thing, you’ll probably like this.

 

James May: Our Man In Italy season 1 was released on the Amazon Prime on July 15, 2022.

I spent a couple of years in my teens working in a Deli in a very middle-class town. A pretty sizable chunk of our clientele were people like James May; avuncular middle-aged men with limited fashion sense and a ready supply of Dad Jokes asking detailed questions about cheese. Armed with this experience, there was something rather pleasant and quite nostalgic about James May: Our Man In Italy, now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.  

Each episode sees the former Top Gear host sashay around a different part of Italy paired with a knowledgable local to act as a guide. He visits points of interest, makes food, and learns more about the local history. 

The tone strikes the infotainment balance pretty well. You learn a bit more about local history and customs and get to laugh along as May is ‘forced’ to badly play musical instruments, do sports and make food, etc. He does it all with his customary deadpan delivery and pretends to be annoyed at the production team for once again putting him in the position of facing public humiliation. 

May is an affable screen presence and does a nice line in middle-aged English bloke bumbling around gorgeous surroundings, good-naturedly allowing himself to be the butt of the joke. He makes for a decent companion, and you can imagine that they all had a lovely time making this show.  

There are plenty of nods and winks that draw attention to Italian stereotypes, but they manage to do this without going full Daily Mail (take note, Clarkson, your mate does this stuff better). This is in large part because May gets stuck in, makes an effort to speak the language when he can, and treats local people and customs with genuine interest and respect. 

This is exactly the sort of show I can imagine watching on a Sunday evening with family. It’s entertaining enough, largely inoffensive, and gives you exactly what you expect. It’s charming, has beautiful cinematography, and really milks fish out of water humor. 

The running gag that the director is out to get James has some laughs but starts to get a little bit old after a couple of episodes. Another joke deployed regularly is that James is dispatched to learn how to prepare some local food, only to spend hours producing nowhere near enough food for the number of mouths he is supposed to feed, to much hilarity. 

James May: Our Man In Italy is totally formulaic and predictable, but to complain about this is to totally miss the point. This sort of TV show is supposed to be formulaic and predictable. We want wonderful photography of stunning locations, charming locals to meet, and an affable host to laugh at. James May: Our Man In Italy gives us all of this in a very watchable package. This isn’t hard-hitting TV, but it really isn’t trying to be. 

What did you think of the Amazon original series James May: Our Man In Italy season 1? Comment below.

You can watch this series with a subscription to Amazon Prime. 

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5 thoughts on “James May: Our Man In Italy season 1 review – a charming enough jaunt around a beautiful country

  • July 16, 2022 at 11:01 pm
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    Greatly enjoying James May’s Our Man in Italy. I thought I knew everything there is to know about Italy but the programme revealed quite a few things I didn’t. Did anyone spot the ghost caught on camera in Pompeii btw? I so hope it was a ghost and not the editor, poorly editing out a passerby gesticulating rudely. Watch out for the ghost. May does a speech to camera just after the part where they talk about elephants. During his speech, watch out for when he stops gesticulating with arm and looks towards the camera. At that point a transparent figure walks across the street from left to right. Spooky! Well done my wife for spotting it. My only criticism of this programme is the same criticism I have all programmes set in Italy, and that is that nobody seems to employ a pronunciation coach when it comes to Italian. I’m not talking about the charming way May seems to learn a bit of Italian and improves as he goes along like when in Italy he pronounces the Tuscan sport Bracciale as Brakkee-ahlay but in the commentary added later he pronounces it correctly as Bracchee-ahlay. This is sweet but it’s the mispronunciation of Medici that I find annoying. It’s Médici with the stress on the first syllable like “medical” not Medìci with the stress on the second syllable. Come on programme makers! Sort it out. If you need a translator or pronunciation coach for Italian, give me call. My rates are competitive! Lol!

  • July 17, 2022 at 12:10 am
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    I just watched the first 2 episodes, Sicily and House of Pain, and laughed so hard I nearly asphyxiated myself. I have taken several arranged tours of Italy with my sisters and can’t wait till we 3 can watch these episodes together. I immediately ran to my laptop to find out more about this guy James May. Never heard of him before, but glad I did. Well done.

  • July 19, 2022 at 8:05 pm
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    I largely agree with the review. But think that 3 is a tad mean. I’d rathe have less silliness, but I understad why its part of the formula. If it pays for the production standards – that’s a win

  • July 24, 2022 at 8:31 pm
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    I enjoyed Stanley Tucci’s “Searching For Italy”, so maybe I’ll give this one a try if it’s streaming on Amazon Prime.

  • July 28, 2022 at 1:12 pm
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    This series is nowhere near as good as James in Japan.
    He seems obsessed with himself and the programme suffers his pathetic attempt to make jokes that are not even funny is grating .. watched the first 3episode’s up to now

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