Stephen Fry was very nearly an American. Just before he was born, his father was offered, but turned down, a job at Princeton University. The writer and actor explores the country which he might have called home and which has always fascinated him. Stephen hires a US cab and sets about visiting each and every one of the 50 US States, to experience for himself the variety of people and places that make up the country.
In this first episode, Stephen explores the states that make up New England, before heading south to the nation’s capital and ending up at the Civil War battlefield of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania, where Abraham Lincoln made his famous address.
Stephen’s journey begins in the state of Maine in the easternmost corner of the country, where he learns how to catch a lobster with the Macpheil family before venturing to New Hampshire where the presidential primaries are in full swing. Passing through the autumnal splendour of the White Mountains, and pausing to reflect on America’s economic power at Bretton Woods, he boards the world’s first cog railway to the summit of Mount Washington.
From there, he heads into Vermont and stops at the Ben and Jerry ice-cream factory, to mix his own flavour; “Even Stephens”. Driving into the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York, Stephen visits Topridge, and, donning a plaid shirt and baseball cap, goes native and becomes an unsuccessful deer hunter.
Next stop is Boston, followed by New York City, where Stephen escapes the clutches of some “Goodfellas”, who spring to life as if from a Scorcese movie in their social club in Queens. He then takes musician Sting for a ride in the back of his cab to see what an Englishman makes of New York.
Passing swiftly through Delaware and Maryland to Washington DC, Stephen meets up with Wikipedia founder James Whales and learns a thing or two about politics from satirical group Capitol Steps, before meeting up with Gettysburg’s very own Lincoln impersonator.
Stephen Fry in America is on BBC One at 9pm Sunday 12th October 2008