In this referendum year the BBC is under close scrutiny. Are they biased in favour of a No vote? Are they pushing too many British-themed programmes at us? Then, of course, there is the perpetual debate about whether they are putting our licence-fee money to good use.

So the new series The Trip to Italy has been a gift for those who like to grumble about the BBC's supposed cavalier attitude to our cash.

Following on from the first series, The Trip, it takes Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, who play exaggerated versions of themselves, and sends them off around glorious Italy as food critics to sample the Barolo and the bruschetta, where they eat in splendid restaurants and indulge in brilliant banter.

Loading article content

This is a waste of licence-fee money, some have cried. Why should we pay to send celebrities off on a jolly? We're stuck on the couch in drizzly Britain watching these sunglassed celebs live la dolce vita at our expense. In this era of austerity how dare they be so frivolous?

It's true there's no precise need for this to be filmed in sunny Italy, except that the show's title may have needed to be tweaked had they had been sent to Butlins, but in the last series they toured the Lake District so obviously a change of scene was needed to present it as a separate entity. However, the setting is quite irrelevant as the notion of them gallivanting across Italy to review food is simply a device to have these two men sit down, pour some wine and start talking.

So they don't need to be in Italy. They don't even need to be food critics. They could simply be in a draughty motorway café having chicken nuggets off papery napkins because the important thing was the conversation between the two which was always brilliantly funny. The food and the scenery are irrelevant. It just so happens that every now and then Rob Brydon stops in the midst of a hilarious impersonation to twist some spaghetti round his fork, or we might see some beautiful Italian scenery as the two men travel and bicker. But otherwise, judging from the first episode, Italy is unnecessary. Put these men in a pub or at a bus stop and it would be just as funny.

One particularly brilliant scene was where their rambling, surely improvised, conversation takes them to the subject of eating game. Coogan opines that eating game is the equivalent to eating Mo Farah as they both spend their life in the open air, becoming fit and lean. They then lurch onto imagining a plane crash with them, Mo Farah and Stephen Hawking. Let's assume, they say, we were on our way to some Celebrity Krypton Factor and we crash in the Andes. They agree they'd eat Mo Farah's legs first, with him being so fit, but when it came to Stephen Hawking they'd chow down on his brain then use his wheelchair to scoot down the mountain.

No doubt some folk will be offended by this, but I wasn't. I was too busy on the floor, laughing and grabbing for my inhaler.

So, yes, there was probably no need to set this programme in Italy, and money could surely have been saved by sending them off to Skegness instead, but undeniably it is money well-spent as it's so damn funny. And for those still itching to grumble about value for money in their licence fee, consider that the BBC are sending 272 staff to Brazil this summer and chew on that instead.