Around the World in 80 Days (2021) is a stylish retelling of a familiar classic

Promotional image for Around the World in 80 Days (2021). Passepartout (Ibrahim Koma), Phileas Fogg (David Tennant), and Abigail Fix (Leonie Benesch) all stand atop a cloudy globe, looking ready for adventure.

Around the World in 80 Days is an uncomplicated but confident adaptation of the original Jules Verne novel, one that answers the question “is it worth doing this again?” with a resounding “yes, if you do it this well.”

It starts with a wager in a private club, as this story always does: Phileas Fogg (David Tennant) bets another member of the Reform Club that it’s possible to circumnavigate the globe in 80 days, and then sets out to prove it. He’s joined by Passepartout (Ibrahim Koma), a waiter looking for a quick way out of London but doesn’t expect the journey to last much longer than that, as well as Abigail ‘Fix’ Fortescue (Leonie Benesch), a journalist determined to carve out a name for herself and thinks that chronicling Fogg’s travels is the best way to do that.

Their voyage takes them from France to India to America, and it’s easy to appreciate Around the World in 80 Days’ episodic format. With a new location and guest cast each week, and a sense that the characters are developing and changing with each new situation they find themselves in, it’s a welcome reprieve from the “eight-hour movie” format that’s increasingly dominating television. (It’s not difficult to imagine, say, a Netflix adaptation of the Jules Verne novel that ends rather than begins with Fogg setting out on his voyage.) Around the World in 80 Days is a television series that knows it’s a television series, one that both understands and is able to take advantage of the strengths of its medium – it sounds like a simple thing to remark on but it’s not, and it adds to that sense of this show as being a particularly confidently made piece.

Really, really loved this show – it was just a properly huge amount of fun. (It also, after a few years of slightly lacklustre efforts from Chris Chibnall, has quite a nice “not quite but almost Doctor Who” quality to it, which I get into a bit in the review.)

Quite looking forward to the second series!

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