Gervais, Merchant send pal to Science net

Cabler acquires eight eps of 'Idiot Abroad'

Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant are taking their quirky pal Karl Pilkington to the Science Channel.

The Discovery-owned Science cabler has acquired eight episodes of “An Idiot Abroad,” a travel documentary show from Gervais and Merchant that originally aired in the U.K. on Sky1.

The show reunites Gervais and Merchant with Pilkington. The three of them star in HBO’s animated series “The Ricky Gervais Show.”

For “An Idiot Abroad,” Gervais and Merchant send Pilkington around the world, to China, India, Jordan, Mexico, Egypt, Brazil and Peru. On the trip he’s asked to visit the Seven Wonders of the World and complete strange challenges — like walk the entire length of the Great Wall of China.

“We fell in love when we saw ‘An Idiot Abroad’ in the U.K.,” said Science Channel general manager Debbie Myers. “Ricky has a science background, and when he approaches something with humor, he also makes you think. He’s a perfect fit for our network.”

Myers said she was drawn to Pilkington, whom Gervais often describes as a “real-life Homer Simpson.”

“The cool part is watching Karl, with childlike wonder, asking the questions that everyone is afraid to ask,” she said. “It’s a fish-out-of-water experience.”

To make the show fit a bit better inside the Science brand, the channel plans to add humorous pop-ups that will provide more information about the locations and attractions that Pilkington visits.

Myers said the show, which follows Science Channel programs from other high-profile names like Morgan Freeman, reps the latest example of how her team is looking to bring a bit more A-list power to the channel.

“What we’re finding is we’re the home for passion projects for some,” she said. “We’re the first to say we don’t have tons of money, but we’ll give you the freedom to do something new and different.”

Gervais and Merchant first met Pilkington on their London radio program. In 2005, Gervais and Merchant decided to turn it into a podcast — and brought Pilkington along. The podcasts began to focus particularly on the eccentric mind of Pilkington.

The HBO show, which adds animation to those podcast discussions, launched last year, and it returns for season two in January.

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