Jack Whitehall has been gracing our screens for nearly 10 years now, starting off with his break-out hosting gig on Celebrity Big Brother’s Big Mouth (little known bit of trivia). He started stand-up straight out of college when he was 17, and since then has appeared in the likes of Fresh Meat, Bad Education and is as a regular on A League of Their Own. Now, he returns to a time period before all of his success occurred, as he takes his 77 year-old-father, Michael Whitehall, with him on a gap yahhh, a 5-week one at that, which he was never able to experience himself in his new Netflix original series.
Whitehall takes his dad to some traditional gap year spots in South East Asia: Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Having originally intending to stay in a hostel, Michael quickly vetoes the idea, the two instead start off their authentic gap year trip in a 5 star hotel in Thailand, wearing suits and feasting on steak dinners. Proclaimed ‘posh folks’, this is a style that sticks with them throughout the weeks.
Michael Whitehall is not only the father of Jack; he has been involved on our screens for some time, having been an agent representing the likes of Colin Firth and Judi Dench, and coming back to sit in front of the cameras with his son in the talk show Backchat. The two co-authored a book which was released in 2014 – an autobiography entitled Him & Me. We are frequently reminded throughout all of this that Michael sent his son away to boarding school at the age of 8 (something Jack clearly hasn’t forgiven him for) which leads to constant – but usually light-hearted – bickering.
When speaking to the Guardian, Jack said that he considers his father to be one of the funniest people he knows, and the humour really carries well on screen. Jack and Michael as a duo create a really interesting dynamic and provide some witty commentary throughout the series, despite the fact that Michael makes a reference to Norfolk being “full of slightly odd people”. Come on now, UEA, put the pitchforks down!
Interestingly, the two occasionally spend time apart in the series – such as Jack getting a massage on a beach in Thailand (really university-student-esque there, Jack) and Michael checking into a rather expensive hotel simply to use the “facilities”. But it’s when they’re together and both trying to please the other that their relationship really shines through. One particularly touching moment is when they are gifted a luk thep (“child angel”) doll by their Thai guide in a bid to help them bond. The luk thep, said to be a doll which brings luck and fortune, is christened Winston and accompanies them throughout the rest of their journey around South East Asia. Whether this aided or hindered their relationship is a discussion for another article…
At times the dialogue and banter between the two does feel extremely scripted, Jack often setting Michael up for his rather controversial opinion on a certain food, lifestyle or group of people. However, this occasionally forced humour will be familiar to you if you watch Whitehall along with James Corden, Jaime Redknapp and Freddie Flintoff on A League of Their Own with its lad-ish banter and their relentless set-ups for each other’s jokes. While the humour is less lad-ish in this, it still relies heavily on Jack’s posh silliness and Michael’s ultra-conservative views – and the rift between the two that this difference of opinion causes.
Overall, while the whole taking-your-parents-on-a-road-trip scenario is becoming a little overdone, Jack and Michael are a real duo that make this a hilarious mini-series which you can watch very easily with your own parents. I, for one, think that it would be great fun to take my father on a ‘gap yahhh’ trip to a foreign country, and if I ever did, at least I have two pretty good predecessors to follow.