Around The World In 80 Days

Comedians Frank Skinner and Lee Mack meet at the Reform Club in London to kick off the first leg of the Around The World In 80 Days challenge which will see them travel across Europe.

In just eight days they need to be at the border between Turkey and Iraq to hand over the baton to Apprentice stars Nick Hewer and Saira Khan. This is the ultimate relay race, against the clock and all in aid of Children in Need.

In preparation for the challenge Frank wisely asks Michael Palin – the original voyager – for some advice. Advice he kindly hand writes in the opening pages of the Around The World In 80 Days journal, which the travellers will keep with them in their carpet bag.

London to Turkey sounds easy enough, but Frank and Lee can’t even find their way out of the train station in Paris. With just 15 minutes to catch their connecting train Frank manages to find time to pose for a French caricaturist, and their first souvenir for the Children in Need auction is in the bag.

The duo whistle through Europe and spend their first night together on a train to Vienna.

To keep to schedule they have to catch a boat to Budapest and, onboard a turbo-charged monster, Frank and Lee hurtle down the Danube. With a brief wave at Bratislava they fall out in a heap in Budapest.

In 24 hours they have travelled a thousand miles, but they still have a way to go.

The next seven days are jam-packed with adventure for the pair. In Budapest Frank gets to indulge his passion for football, meeting the only surviving member of the ‘Mighty Magyars’, the Hungarian football team that inflicted the greatest ever defeat on England in 1954.

In Serbia the boys take to horseback and have an audience with the Serbian Royal family. Then on to Istanbul, where the sheer unrelenting pace of the journey appears to be taking its toll.

With just 48 hours left on the clock and a thousand miles still to go in order to make the handover, the boys are now in serious doubt that they’ll do it.

Exhausted and fed up, are the funny men about to fall at the first Around The World hurdle?

Leg two of the Around The World In 80 Days challenge is under way and Apprentice stars Nick Hewer and Saira Khan are already up against it.

Funny men Frank Skinner and Lee Mack didn’t make it to the border between Turkey and Iraq to meet them as arranged so the leg two celebrities had to travel further out to Cappadocia to collect the all-important baton.

In just 14 days they have to be in Kazakhstan, over three thousand miles away through war-torn Iraq and volatile Iran, to hand over to Countryfile presenters Julia Bradbury and Matt Baker.

As Nick and Saira set off, they receive bad news. Iran’s borders are closed due to civil unrest sparked by the Presidential elections. This is a big setback and Nick and Saira must find another way.

They decide to travel north into the old Soviet Republic of Georgia and then east to the shores of the Caspian Sea in Azerbaijan. They hope to catch a ferry to the little-known country Turkmenistan, drive through Uzbekistan, and finally cross the border to Kazakhstan.

Through Georgia and making good progress, with only 200 miles to the Caspian Sea, the duo take a moment to relax. Saira heads for the shops with the Children in Need auction in mind and Nick opts for a haircut.

Back on the road they hitch a lift to the shores of the Caspian Sea, but again their plans are thrown into turmoil.

They get news that their visa applications to Uzbekistan have been rejected, meaning the only option is to sail direct to Kazakhstan, which involves a huge detour across one of the most hostile deserts on earth.

With confusion over when the next ferry leaves for Kazakhstan, the duo take up their previous Apprentice roles and Nick sets Saira a task – to commandeer a boat to take them across the sea, but the language barrier proves too much and she fails. Nick tells her “You’re Fired!”.

Stranded for some three days on the shores of the Caspian Sea they finally board a ferry and are back on their way. It will take Nick and Saira a week to drive to the handover point on the terrible Kazakh roads, but they don’t have that much time.

Fast running out of options it looks like there is no way they can meet their deadline. Will this resourceful pair make it to the handover in time?

Six pairs of celebrities race against the clock in an ambitious global relay, re-enacting the epic odysseys of Phileas Fogg and Michael Palin for a 21st Century audience.

Around The World In 80 Days is a new six-part series narrated by multi-award-winning comic Frank Skinner, who also takes the first leg of the journey with fellow comedian Lee Mack.

It will follow the celebrities as they circumnavigate the globe in 80 days to raise money for this year’s BBC Children in Need Appeal. All money raised by the programme will go towards helping disadvantaged children and young people in the UK.

Other celebrities picking up the baton in the six-leg relay race against the clock are: The Apprentice stars Nick Hewer and Saira Khan (leg two); Countryfile presenters Julia Bradbury and Matt Baker (leg three), BBC Breakfast presenter Bill Turnbull and BBC News presenter Louise Minchin (leg four); Torchwood and West End star John Barrowman and TV and radio presenter Myleene Klass (leg five); and actor Shane Richie together with actress and comedienne Josie Lawrence (leg six).

Beginning and ending at The Reform Club in London – the starting point for the real Michael Palin and the fictional Phileas Fogg’s Around The World In 80 Days – each duo must complete the required part of their voyage and then pass on the baton in the form of a carpet bag containing the 21st century requirements for this challenging journey, including a GPS phone and satellite tracker.

Respecting the heritage of Fogg and Palin, the Around The World In 80 Days travellers shouldn’t fly, although any other means of transport, from camels to bullet trains, is acceptable to make their relay deadline.

Each celebrity will be raising money for BBC Children in Need as part of the challenge through private fundraising, sponsorship and by collecting souvenirs and curiosities along the way, which will be auctioned off online after each episode in aid of the charity.

The original Around The World In 80 Days voyager, Michael Palin, said: “I’m delighted that this time someone else is doing all the work – and for such a great cause.”

Frank Skinner, who travelled through Europe, said: “It nearly killed me. And our leg was supposed to be the easiest. I’ll always treasure my four minutes in Slovakia.”

His travel partner Lee Mack added: “Going across Europe overland was a great way to help BBC Children in Need and by going with Frank Skinner I also felt I was contributing to help the aged.”

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