Eugene Levy returns to his roots in the new season of 'The Reluctant Traveler'

PASADENA, Calif. — Eugene Levy admits it takes a lot to get him out of the house.

“There isn’t one place I’m dying to get to,” the “Schitt’s Creek” star and “SCTV” alumnus told TV critics gathered in Pasadena, Calif., last month.

Suggest a jaunt to the Philippines or India, for example, and Levy believes he would probably say, “You know what? Maybe not this year.”

But for the second season of AppleTV Plus’s “The Reluctant Traveler with Eugene Levy,” he agreed to explore Europe on what would be a dream itinerary for most people. There are stops in Sweden, France, Italy, Germany, Greece and Spain. He shares cocktails and caviar with Dame Joan Collins in Saint-Tropez.

And while there is no stop in the fictitious nation of Leutonia – home of the polka duo Shmenge brothers, played by Levy and the late John Candy on “SCTV” – he makes his first visit to Scotland, the birthplace of his late mother.

That trip was a revelation, Levy said.

“My mom was born in a section of Glasgow called the Gorbals,” he said. “And that was a very, very tough working-class tenement situation.”

She was one of 11 family members crammed into a three-room apartment, where the kitchen doubled as a bedroom, he added.

Levy’s mother was 12 when her family immigrated to Canada, eventually settling in Hamilton. The actor said he was surprised to learn that there is a Hamilton, Scotland – near where his mother was raised.

He said she had no desire to return to her homeland.

“She never talked about how bad it was in this place,” said Levy, who visited the site of the original tenement. “Being there was much more meaningful to me than I really ever thought it would be.”

The first season of “The Reluctant Traveler” forced Levy to step outside his comfort zone as he visited unfamiliar places such as Tokyo, Finland and Costa Rica. In Season 2, the balancing act continues with the 77-year-old award-winning comedian, writer and producer playing a version of himself, with one expressive eyebrow tilted toward a possible punchline. That’s the Levy grousing about getting swarmed by mosquitoes in Sweden or spitting out oysters in France.

In the Scotland episode, however, he is who he is. That trip, he admits, “really put a charge in me. I’m glad I did it.”

Not for the haggis, however.

“It’s a horrible thing. I mean, it’s every part of an animal’s body you would not want in a recipe,” he said.

Nor was it for the pure, unrefined Scotch whisky he sampled at a distillery. Levy may be half Scottish, but said “it was like drinking gasoline.”

That episode of the new season, as executive producer David Brindley said, was “very different to any we had made before.”

It wasn’t so much about travelling to another country. For Levy, it was more like going home.

That’s because he found himself surrounded by people with a familiar, droll sense of humour. The people he met stirred memories of “my uncles and aunts and my mom… the same sensibility.”

One of the funniest fellows helped him pick out a tartan for a kilt.

“He was a riot,” said Levy. The pattern chosen – a Jewish tartan – seemed specially woven to tie together two sides of his heritage.

He plans to display it in a case at home, relieved that he did not have to model it for his wife Deb.

“These legs are not for showing,” said Levy. “I try to keep them covered as much as I can.”

Levy's sense of humour recently secured him a spot in Canada's Comedy Hall of Fame and he will soon join another Hall of Famer and former “SCTV” mate Martin Short on the fourth season of Disney Plus/CTV's murder-mystery comedy “Only Murders in the Building," which also stars Steve Martin.

Asked what an “SCTV” parody of “The Reluctant Traveler” would look like and who would play him, Levy did not have to think twice.

“I think it would be hysterical,” he said. “I’d want John Candy, because John did an impeccable impersonation of me ordering food in a restaurant. That’s one scene I would love to see.”

All seven episodes of Season 2 of “The Reluctant Traveler with Eugene Levy” begin streaming March 8 on AppleTV Plus.

— Bill Brioux is a freelance TV columnist based in Orangeville, Ont.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2024.

Bill Brioux, The Canadian Press