“For years,” says Stephen Fry, “I have been intrigued and enriched by what seems to be America’s most characterful region. A place of cotton, courtesy, gospel music, mint juleps, divine accents and sultry southern belles.”
In the second episode of his tour of America, Stephen gets back into his trusted taxi and heads for the Deep South – a distinctive part of America that has always intrigued him. Starting in West Virginia, where 50 per cent of the energy comes from coal, he joins a shift of coal miners on a trip deep underground. It’s hot, dark and, for a man of Stephen’s height, very uncomfortable.
From Virginia it’s on to Kentucky, home of the Kentucky Derby, where Stephen visits the auction house where the most expensive horse flesh in the world is traded.
In Tennessee he experiences the highs and lows of life, from a Bluegrass music jamming session to a more sombre scientific site known as a “body farm”, where a team of scientists help in murder cases by work with corpses to research “time since death”.
Needing a lift from grim thoughts of mortality, Stephen takes to a hot air balloon across the skies of North Carolina.
Stephen spends Thanksgiving in Georgia before heading to Miami where, as he drives his taxi along Miami Beach, he reveals his disdain for the southernmost part of America: “I’d rather be curled up in a snowy cabin with a hot whisky or, quite frankly, a Horlicks than I would spend half an hour in this rotting place.”
Finishing up in Alabama, Stephen enjoys the extraordinary hoopla of a college ball game, complete with air-force jets.
Stephen Fry was very nearly an American. Just before he was born his father was offered, but turned down, a job at Princeton University. In this six-part series, the writer and actor explores the country that he might have called home.