The underlying basis of "Stephen Fry in America" is the fact that Fry's father almost took a teaching post in New Jersey when Fry was not even thought of yet. So, guided by an enthusiasm for his subject (and his stomach), Fry goes to discover a nation of treasures. Making his way right across the United States in six episodes, Fry gives us a quite unique tour of that shows its diverse culture, exceptional characters, immense contradictions and incredible attractions. Fry maintains the right balance between the entertaining and the informative and impressively manages to represent the melting pot nature of America. Though, as Stephen frequently remarks, everything feels "very American" but yet for every mainstream cliché (roadside diners, full-gusto American football games and wild west fantasizing) our man finds a minority story such as those of homeless people in St. Louis, the Navajo peoples who still live in pueblo dwellings and the hippy family holed up in a former missile bunker in Kansas. Fry is a likeable travel companion and refreshingly rarely succumbs to cynicism. He is a gracious guest who genuinely enjoys the company of his hosts and takes interest in their real experiences. America is so big and so diverse that it is impossible to sum it up in a six-episode series. The idea of getting to the heart of each of the fifty states' idiosyncrasies and individual identity is an ambitious goal anyway, so of course there are several regions that don't really get a satisfactory look-in. In Colorado, for example, we only see Fry at Aspen drinking hot chocolate and Ohio receives nothing more than a brief reflection on the Kent State University by running through an archive photo-montage.
There are some interesting extras--alongside the full-length episodes, the double DVD set includes a few select sequences that didn't make the main broadcast; the most extensive being a conversation with a role-playing pilgrim at Plymouth Rock where the Mayflower landed centuries ago. There's little else beyond these six outtakes which is a bit of a let-down and it would no doubt have also been helpful to have a handy scene-selection menu to enable quick browsing. Overall, it's a solid example of the BBC documentary standard and a fine addition to the celebrity travelogue genre. It's captivating, compelling and slightly eccentric, as only Stephen Fry could give us. Mr., Fry skewers Americans as only an Englishman can. With wonderful photography and a manner that is disarming, we see Middle America as never before and I loved the dance for the elderly Jewish retirees in Miami. Again this is America that we do not know or do know but will not admit to it,
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About the reviewer
Amos Lassen (amoslassen)
I am an academic who reivews movies and books of interest to the GLBT and Jewish communities. I came to Arkansas after having been relocated here due to Hurricane Katrina. I was living in … more
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Stephen Fry travels through each of America's states in his black London taxi to discover, in his own charismatic style, what makes the country unique and to get under the skin of American life. His journey across the vast country takes him to a whiskey distillery in Kentucky, a brothel in Nevada, an Amish community in Wisconsin and the lava fields in Hawaii. He also goes hunting in New York State, sailing on an America's Cup yacht in Rhode Island, basket weaving with Navajo Indians and meets environmental activists in Oregon. Proud citizens show Stephen their country as he drives across the continent, uncovering the differences that make each state individual and the similarities that make America distinct.
Episodes: New World / Deep South / Mississippi / Mountains and Plains / True West / Pacific