RHODES - the Sunshine Isle


    Joanna Lumley's Greek Odyssey

 Joanna properly mesmerized by the greatest of all Greek iconic buildings, the Parthenon

About Time! (quite literally actually)

I was duly excited and very pleased to learn of a new British ITV travelogue series being made that featured the national treasure Joanna Lumley, traveling across and around Greece and her lovely islands.  This, I thought, was long overdue!  So what is this new series all about?

Joanna Lumley explores the immense variety of the Greek landscape, people, history, mythology and resonant cultural heritage that is the true glory of Greece.  All in a superb new television series that brings to light the often overlooked wonders of ancient and modern Greece.

Well done to Joanna and the production team for producing what is a first rate evocation and presentation of just a few of Greece's many thousands of wondrous sights and experiences.  The depth of inquiry is very good indeed and also admirable.

What MS Lumley highlights, essentially, is that Greece is a land of incomparable beauty, variety and  astounding interest.  People will invariably, or surely must, get a sense from her travelogue the reason why so many Brits and other nationals, fall in love with Greece - why so many are truly proud to be Hellenophiles.


Thanks Joanna - you've done a great job!


KMW 2011


Series Overview

(Extract from the ITV press release website)

Joanna Lumley sets out to explore one of the most diverse and surprising countries in Europe, where much of western civilization began.  On her odyssey, Joanna encounters both the ancient and modern aspects of Greece, touching on how the origins of drama, democracy, science, philosophy and medicine can be found here, and how they have left an enduring legacy on the fabric of our everyday life. 

Following in the footsteps of the ancient Greeks, she visits some of the most significant sites of their empire, exploring the history, gods, beliefs, myths and legends which hail from this profoundly significant chapter in European history. Delphi, Ancient Olympia, the Gates of Hades and Mount Olympus all feature within her travels. So too does the British influence on this land, from the occupation of Corfu to its connection with the most romantic of all poets, Lord Byron.

Joanna provides a glimpse of the diversity of cultures within Greece and provides an insight into the range of lifestyles existing there today.  She meets Nana Mouskouri, the most famous of all Greek singers, who performs for Joanna at Epidaurus, and the flower-throwing hedonistic nightclub goers of Athens, as well as venturing off the beaten tourist trail to find the remote villagers of the Mani Peninsular who eek out a living from the land, cooking wild asparagus picked fresh from the hillside.  She spends time with the shepherds of Crete whose forefathers helped defeat the Nazis, meets a rare breed of islanders who are continuing to speak with one another using an old language based on whistling, and she explores the remote border lands of Greece, home to established Muslim communities who grow tobacco to make a living

Daily Telegraph Article

Joanna Lumley on Greek Odyssey: interview

In Greece’s darkest hour, Joanna Lumley recalls its ‘shining glory’ as she visits for her new ITV1 series.

Joanna Lumley visits the Parthenon in Athens for her Greek Odyssey
Joanna Lumley visits the Parthenon in Athens for her Greek Odyssey Photo: ITV

If this article came without a headline or a picture, you’d know who it was about as soon as you read the following quote. It’s just so very, very her. “We were skimming along on this marvellous millionaire’s yacht. In my heart, I thought, ‘Oh, I wish I could see dolphins’ – and at that very moment, two came bulleting out of the water. And they rode the waves with us, and everyone was going, ‘Dolphins, dolphins!’ Because it’s like a blessing.”

You could hear it as you read it, couldn’t you: the breathy zest, the voice dark as chocolate, the theatrical stresses. It is, unmistakably, the voice of Joanna Lumley, and she’s describing her favourite moment filming her new travelogue series for ITV1: Joanna Lumley’s Greek Odyssey.

Why Greece? Is the 65-year-old actress and campaigner (for green issues, threatened Indian tribes and most famously the Gurkhas) using her powers of persuasion to convince us that the place isn’t going to Hades in a handcart? Actually, she says, the series “had been planned before Greece hit the skids quite as badly as it has”. The inspiration was vaguely to do with the Olympic games: they’re coming to London next year, they originated in Greece, so… Yes, a bit woolly, but never mind: as we know from Lumley’s series last year about the Nile and her 2008 programme about the Northern Lights, she makes a terrific guide, insatiably fascinated by all she meets and sees.

Still, it has to be said: Athens these days is in a state. Graffiti everywhere, stray dogs sprawling in the streets… “Athens did look strangely down at heel,” concedes Lumley. “It was so odd to see places where Socrates had taught – just a sort of car park with a broken gate and old bits of crumbling pillars. And you think, ‘Here on this very land, where these great men who changed the shape of the world have been…’”

It isn’t in the Lumley nature, however, to knock and carp. “Not every city can remain as bright as day all the time. Thirty-five years ago when I first went to New York, you couldn’t go to Times Square, it was so dangerous and filthy and frightening, with so many pickpockets. And now you can take the whole family there. So things do change. From the shining glory of Greece it’s become dark and strange for a bit. But it’ll come back again.”

In any case, her series isn’t an analysis of Greece’s economic miseries; instead it’s a thrilled gaze at its history (Olympia, Delphi, the Parthenon), its geography (“There are 1,400 islands… They catch ferries the way we catch buses”), its landscape (“The wild flowers down in the Mani Peninsular made it look as though Chelsea Flower Show had tipped its basket open, you know?”).

Of course, Lumley isn’t the first well-heeled English visitor to take a shine to Greece’s relics: as any local tourist guide will hotly remind you, about 200 years ago a certain Lord Elgin brought home a trove of treasures from the Acropolis in Athens. Where does Lumley stand on the Elgin Marbles? “It’s difficult, I just don’t know what to say about this,” she begins – but her view seems clear enough. “The Parthenon was very run-down and falling apart and everybody was taking what they wanted, so he hacked off some stuff, gave somebody some money and brought them back, where they were treasured and looked after. Whereas the stuff that was left behind degraded terribly… I know how passionately [the Greeks] feel about [the Elgin Marbles] now, but I also know they didn’t feel at all passionately about them 200 years ago.”

Lumley’s been the subject of a fair bit of attention lately, in part because she’s got an autobiography out, and in part because there’s been a campaign, of sorts, against the campaigner: some inhabitants of Aldershot and Farnborough reportedly resent Lumley for the influx of Gurkhas to their towns since she persuaded the government in 2009 to let veterans settle in Britain. Still, as she stoically told the Telegraph last month, “If you receive undeserved praise, then you have also to expect undeserved blame.”

Aldershot and Farnborough will need to find something else to do this Christmas, then, while the rest of the country is watching the return of perhaps the biggest hit of Lumley’s career: Absolutely Fabulous. Being reunited with Jennifer Saunders and the rest of the sitcom’s cast was, she says, “Just fantastic. We looked at each other and went, ‘Oh my God. Twenty years since we began!’ And I suppose we all look a bit older – except for June Whitfield, who looked younger. And we realised that we measure each other nowadays by children, and our children’s children – because some of the ones who were little tiny babies have suddenly grown up into, well, grown-up people.”

Lumley herself is now a grandmother: her son Jamie has two daughters. Fans, however, need not be alarmed by this outpouring of familial fondness – the sozzled, fashion-mad gorgons she and Saunders play will be as irresponsible as ever. “Yes, I’m pleased to say they’re still stuck on that,” says Lumley, with a breathy chuckle. “Stuck on the party button.”

- Joanna Lumley’s Greek Odyssey is on ITV1 on Thursday, 13 October, at 9.00pm


Daily Express Article 
(just click on Joanna ↓ to access the Express newspaper)



Story Image

Joanna Lumley’s Greek Odyssey, 9pm, ITV1

[Episode 1]

Thursday October 13,2011


By Travel, 9pm, ITV1

IN this exciting four-part series the evergreen Joanna Lumley travels to Greece to explore both the ancient and modern aspects of the country.

She begins her journey at the Parthenon in Athens, which was created by the Ancient Greeks 2,500 years ago. Next she travels around the southern region of the country to the Peloponnese, visiting spectacular mythical and historic sites.

En route she meets villagers who communicate by whistling, a fisherman who takes her to the gates of the underworld and marble-cutters who use the same tools as their ancestors. Finally Lumley catches up with singer Nana Mouskouri at the amphitheatre of Epidavrus overlooking the Saronic Gulf.


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