Monday, 10 June 2013


Did you know, Top Gear is the world's most widely watched factual TV program?

No, really, more people watch it in more countries than any other non-fiction program ever, in the history of the known universe?

It's a good format, much better than the old one. Essentially it's three 'Great Mates' (tm) Who know about cars (to a greater or lesser extent) sat on a sofa, having a bit of a chat and a cuppa.  Occasionally they scoot about a bit, test-driving (And I use the term loosely) the sort of cars we'd all like to be able to afford... It's, like, inspirational, innit?

They also cater to the celebrity lovers by letting us see famous people drive a car around a Mildly Moist track, proving that they're not brilliant at everything (apart from the tremendously annoying ones that are at least) - It's great, real family entertainment of the old school.

The three main characters play off each other perfectly,

Richard Hammond plays the diminutive, eyelid creasingly stylish one, who specialises in letting his inner child out.  He revels in the wonderment of the very act of driving and whips up tumultuous enthusiasm for every, single, solitary thing that he does.

James May is at totally the opposite end of the scale, he embodies everyone's inner 'normal bloke in the street'.  He eats pies, drives sensibly, owns a trainset, and has a healthy contempt for the flashy and corporate.

Both of these fine gentlemen do a great job of representing the audience at home of the show, and they both ride motorcycles, which obviously defines them as members of the next level of evolution.

The third member of the team, whose idea (along with producer Andy Wilman) the whole shebang was, is Jeremy Clarkson. Who does he play?  I've thought long and hard about this, on the toilet, this morning, and the best description I can come up with is The lottery-winning juvenile uncle, who after years being stuck in a dead end marriage has started his midlife crisis with pockets full of crumpled tenners, and wants to take us along for the ride and show off a bit.

So, Great show, great presenters, great cars, great premise... What's it famous for?

Well, controversy for one...

I know that most of the planet nowadays seems to be populated by swively-eyed jobsworths who claim racism, sexism, heightism, weightism, spoonerism and speciesism, homophobia, zoophobia, triskadecaphobia, coulrophobia, xanthophobia or ipovlopsychophobia about every sentence that has ever been spoken by anyone ever - But they do seem to target Top Gear more often than anything else.

OK, so occasionally they've said things about those lovely, hardworking, people, who through no fault of their own, have the misfortune to have been born in places that aren't England.  They've re-enforced the odd cultural stereotype, citing Mexicans as being lazy for instance or Romanians as all being gypsies (Which, of course, we'll all find out isn't true in 2014 when Romanian nationals are allowed to apply for permanent jobs in the UK with impunity). They also may have claimed that Albanians lean towards organised crime and added an extra part into their Albanian roadtest by trying to fit a recently deceased Albanian gentleman (Killed especially for the show) into the boots of various cars to see which the best one for a local person to own would be.

They've been accused of destroying areas of outstanding natural beauty, running into the odd tree, setting fire to campsites and promoting drinking and driving whilst becoming the first people to drive to the (magnetic) North Pole.

They're also constantly berated for not droning on and on about electric cars - Which are, most definitely, the future... So 'they' say, whoever 'they' are.

But I think that the common denominator in all of the things that Top Gear has gotten itself into trouble about is that they're all things that we'd say to each other in the pub after a few pints, then there'd be a minuscule pause followed by raucous laughter.  Even one of Mr Clarkson's more complained about diatribes, the one where he noticed that that there was a propensity for long-distance lorry drivers to murder prostitutes.  I myself may have made this connection to a couple of my lorry driving friends, who took it as the good natured ribbing it was intended to be - I would forever greet them after they had been driving a lorry, for long distances, by saying 'Alright [Insert name], where've you been? Murdered any prostitutes?' and we'd all laugh and he'd disappear into the toilet to wash his carving knife and change his clothes, which he would then burn and bury.

And a lot of the other notoriety comes from people's irrational hatred of Jeremy Clarkson.  He's just a Yorkshire lad, who came from a family that made cuddly toys and jam-jars who went to the same school as one of my mates (not at the same time though).

His character thinks the Government interferes too much in our day-to-day affairs, thinks people who vote for the Green Party are a little bit odd, Champions the cause of political incorrectness, Dislikes Rover and GM (That's the car firm, not those wonderful mutated crops that people keep committing suicide over), thinks that too many trains get delayed because loonies keep throwing themselves in front of them and has a healthy disregard for farcical speed limits.

In short, the same things that most of us think.

The only difference that I can see between us and him is that he, arguably, has the best job in the world, and we don't - So I'm just going to go with jealousy.

And bearing in mind that he's also punched Piers Morgan repeatedly in the face, you should all be jealous too.

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