‘Good’ TV CONDEMNED! Top Gear

For one week only, Andrew is a little too irate about Top Gear's newly-appointed status as a national treasure to write nice things...

At some point in the last two years it seems to have become de rigeur to love Top Gear. Make a list of all the people who have bleated on at you about the ‘hilarious’ limo episode, that one where they did Le Mans, or the number of Facebook group invites you have received called things like ‘I love Top Gear…and I don’t even like motoring!!!!!!!!11111!!!!111!!!’ and, if you’re anything like me, you’re going to run out of ink.

You can always spot the worst of the fans. They continually bleat on about how they don’t like cars but the programme is so hilarious and why don’t you just watch it? Most seem unable to grasp that it’s possible to have seen the programme and just not like it. I don’t care about motoring; I also don’t give two hoots about cooking and will happily watch Gordon Ramsay.

More than that, those who can grasp that I have watched it and don’t like it regardless of my enormous disinterest in cars can’t seem to wrap their head around the fact that I don’t like because I find something vile and abhorrent about the programme itself.

Here’s the real problem with Top Gear – there are certain aspects of the show that it not only does well, but seems to do better than any other show on telly. It makes blokeish telly, and does so in a way that doesn’t reduce it to a beer-and-tits combo. We could do with a heck more of that on TV. It also used to – at least with Clarkson, if not the simpering faux-sincere ‘Hammond’ – showcase someone who was passionate about their chosen field. BBC Two, in its current incarnation as an underfunded, largely lifestyle channel, could and should have a lot more programmes that show people getting enthusiastic about such niche topics.

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But that doesn’t give the show a carte blanche to demonstrate the swaggering, agree-with-me-or-fuck-off attitude that it panders to. It is like banter from the pub that has mutated because it knows that it is being watched. What may have once been affable witticisms has turned into a dick-waving competition between three admittedly enormous cocks. The end opinion is an exercise in reductivist thinking that Jon Gaunt would be jealous of, and is offered up on a plate for those too mentally-enfeebled to think for themselves.

On top of that, Clarkson’s one redeeming feature, his passion for motoring, at some point got sidelined for dickish stunts that have about as much to do with cars as Ready Steady Cook does. It’s become Jackass for the intellectually snobbish.

Fortunately for them, there’s quite a market for it. The programme serves as a substitute for men (and women) who used to have this kind of chatter in the pub themselves, had they not long since stopped going. Instead, the poor sort of alienated sod who watches this has to snigger behind their hands at omni-directional jokes from their friend-substitute. Jeremy Clarkson does for the 30- to 50-year-old man what local radio does for the senile; it provides a friend for those who have none left in the world.

Just watch the crowd in any given edition. They’re not really laughing at what is going on; they’re just sniggering behind their hands, following a herd mentality of a more base kind than Zoo magazine. At best they are there to be rallied into some battlecry by Clarkson about Fiats or buses or something equally trivial. But they don’t care; listening to this is the most fun they’ve had in years. They got to leave their houses and everything!

Now you can’t even move for the damned thing. Thanks to its runaway success on Two, it’s now screened constantly on Bastard Dave. The programme may have once provided the ‘witty banter’ the channel so keenly declares it is home to; but at some point that has just turned into inane bellowing.

My only hope is that the Yorkshire Air Ambulance runs out of funds before ‘Hammond’ takes the other two presenters on a driving tour of the Dales. Either that, or the audience strap on a pair and go down the pub themselves of a Sunday evening, instead of relying on someone else to provide them with the only vague glimmer of humour in their otherwise miserable lives.

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