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Asian Persuasion: Mum’s American Dream

Romesh Ranganathan returns with his unique style of travel and heritage discovery. The new season of Asian Provocateur sees Romesh travel to the US with his mother Shanthi, to meet his family living across the pond and to experience North American culture.

His style takes a little getting used to, but his talents as a stand-up comedian are not lost in this documentation of Romesh and his mum’s trip across the states. Starting in Tampa, California, Romesh and his mum hire a yellow mustang, take part in an eating contest and go monster truck driving, amongst other ludicrously American pastimes.

This programme is one of the stranger things I have watched recently, but I got weirdly into it. Romesh and Shanthi’s mother-son dynamic puts a new spin on an otherwise quite average format: slightly awkward British comedian tries out typical things to do as a tourist in America. However, in the first episode, Romesh ships Shanthi off to an old peoples’ home. This is presumably a stab at constructed humour but is clunky and bizarre, totally ruining the show’s individual dynamic.

The most interesting part of this programme was when Romesh spent the day with ‘rednecks’. They were all incredibly friendly to him and, by his own admission, he genuinely enjoyed their company. However, as Romesh astutely noted, their attitude to him would most likely have flipped if he so much as spoke to one of their daughters. His dilemma, enjoying their company while being aware of the potential for racism, provides an interesting spin on the normal ‘redneck’ rhetoric.

Furthermore, there is a moment of tension when he refuses to join in their shooting. One man even seems to take it as a personal insult when Romesh politely declines the offer. The men reel off a list of the guns they have owned, complete with demonstrations as to how certain bullets do more damage than others. A declaration from one that he has been shooting ever since he was four years old is accompanied with footage of one of their young sons shooting an AK47.

Whilst the humour was a bit hit-and-miss, there were some genuinely laugh-out-loud moments. The first episode might not have been brilliant, but there is hope for the rest of the series.

Image: Conal Gallagher @ Flickr

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