EWAN MCGREGOR – COLD CHAIN MISSION: Sunday 22nd April, BBC2, 9pm
âFrom LA I fly to London, then onto Delhi…â? And so it began. Ewan McGregor: Cold Chain Mission was always going to be tough; first you have the logistics of getting an A-lister and film crew to India and Nepal, and then the challenge of maintaining the Cold Chain itself. (For those of you who missed it, âCold Chainâ? refers to the process of keeping things such as Pharmaceuticals and Seafood at a cold temperature during transit. In McGregor’s case, it’s the former.)
Finally, there is the major hurdle, creating a television documentary about a celebrity helping impoverished third world children, without it being incredibly patronising. Effort has been made on this front; McGregor openly admits at the start of the program that it’s a combination of charity work and an exciting adventure, and sure enough, motorcycles, clearly his main passion, featured heavily. It’s the honesty of the program, McGregor’s charismatic and affable personality, coupled with acute awareness on behalf of the producers to spare viewers from the usual âcelebrity in a developing nationâ? experience, (something akin to passing a kidney stone whilst a twat in Havaiana flip flops gives an extended rendition of their gap year in Botswana) that allows you watch it without questioning the validity of altruism.
Whilst McGregor and the vaccines reach their destination, the same cannot be said for the program itself. In their efforts to avoid the usual celebrity-charity vicarious sadomasochism, the human interest angle was somewhat discarded. Due in part, perhaps, to the nature of the task, which involved arduous trekking to remote villages, an upstream journey in a dilapidated boat, and, with much credit to McGregor, landing an aeroplane on an almost impossibly precarious landing strip, the programme becomes more of a travelogue, albeit an enjoyable one.
The Travelogue format of McGregor’s cold chain is both it’s greatest strength and greatest weakness. McGregor provides both humour, and at times, touching poignancy. However, like the dirt paths that McGregor traipsed, the focus of the programme was too narrow, and one would be forgiven if they thought that the only social issue at play was the geographic remoteness of the locales. Perhaps more social issues could have been explored in a different âCold Chainâ? mission, where McGregor travels in a refrigerated van from a Trout Farm to a supermarket distribution centre near Kettering.