Down with all that

Blame it on my advancing years or becoming a curmudgeon before my time, but I’ve reached a point in my life where I no longer like Top Gear.

I’m talking about the antics of the three amigos – Clarkson, Hammond, May – on the telly. Their collective ability and that of the production team, to recycle ideas isn’t in question. In fact, the revenue generated from the sale of the show and the associated merchandise around the world proves that they’re all doing something right.

Success, financially at least, of this magnitude makes taking the position of critic or dissenter something of a token act in the eyes of the appreciative masses. It’s a bit like saying you don’t like what BMW’s done with the Mini. I can hear the “So what?” comments already, but there’s method in my lone-man-shouting-in-a-vacuum madness.

For all the glossy production values, you’ve got to remember that Top Gear on the telly is little more than three blokes messing about with other people’s cars and money. That in itself is never going to be a sustainable worldwide hit, which is why they routinely inject a bit of controversy for good measure. Know any good Mexican jokes? No? Good.

Such behaviour wasn’t funny when the revamped show first hit the screens, and it’s no different now. The same goes for the Z-list celebrity attempting to look dignified in a crash helmet whilst trying to flog their latest book or film. Didn’t we used to have chat shows for this sort of thing?

The same is true when it comes to blowing stuff up. For me, this is the hardest thing to understand. The stars of the show profess to be car nuts and regularly lament the loss of the UK’s motor industry. They even own some very nice motors themselves. And yet, they derive an unhealthy level of pleasure from blowing up, crushing, flooding, sinking and crashing all manner of vehicles.

For some there will always be comedy value in crashing a Morris Marina or blowing up an Austin Maxi, but the people who chuckle at such destruction don’t have the right to call themselves car fans. Yes, they are rubbish cars to drive, but they are still appreciated and needed by existing owners and enthusiasts. Thankfully for BBC compliance officers the trio don’t stop at the destruction of UK cars – they’ll destroy anything.

At a basic level it shows a monumental lack of respect for like-minded individuals. Does this mean that, although too pompous to admit it, Top Gear only likes nice old cars and not the crap ones? On second thoughts don’t answer that.

And don’t get me started on the road trips. The stereotypes and cliches come thicker and faster than Tim Vine’s one-liners, but this is another format that’s way past its prime. I guess it’s entertaining if you like seeing flash cars used and abused in a foreign country. It was fine when it was an occasional feature but, like repeats of Morecambe and Wise Christmas specials, when you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all.

Don’t worry, I’m not the type who pines for William Woollard, and Chris Goffey. I readily accept that the current format is all about entertainment. What I object to is the unchecked schoolboy antics and the appreciation of all things motoring to be no more genuine than the glare of Mr Hammond’s teeth. It’s time to grow up guys, you’re all better than this.

By Iain Dooley

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