Sonsabitches. This is too much—in fact, it was enough to get me off my butt and write an emergency mid-month entry on this blog. Usually I agonize over what to write about and have to open a vein to come up with a topic once a month, but this one damn near wrote itself.
As all three of my regular blog readers know (hi mom!—oh wait, my mom doesn’t have a computer)…as all two of my regular blog readers know, I have written about Top Gear fairly frequently, here and here. This is not a Top Gear blog—although, judging by all those entries, it sure looks like it—but if the TG wonks keep up this nonsense, it might turn into one.
What am I on about? Why, the recent news that the ill-fated American version of Top Gear, the concept of which has been kicked around for…what is it, years now?…has reared its ugly head again. Just yesterday it was announced all over the intertubes that the History Channel (what?) is going to pick up the show and air at least 10 episodes this fall.
All I have to say is…is TG staffed by raving lunatics? Is the BBC office filled with lead paint fumes? Who in the world needs an American version of Top Gear?
Damn, this thing is worse than a horror movie villain—you just can’t kill it. Not that we haven’t tried. We don’t want it to live, and we keep smacking it down, only to see it return again and again, as unwelcome as the unbathed, greasy-haired, sweaty guy launching himself into the middle of a crowded dance floor, rubbing up against all the normal people trying to enjoy themselves.
You’d think the Top Gear head honchos would have learned, what with their debacle known as Top Gear Australia. I’ve never seen it, but judging by the comments in TG fan forums, it’s the awkward shirt-tail relative with bad manners that nobody wants to acknowledge is part of the family. In fact, just recently, to give the show more cache, they crammed one of the TG Australia hosts onstage with Jeremy Clarkson and James May when the pair went Down Under with the Top Gear Live show. “Look!” they seemed to say. “This guy is a Top Gear host too!”
Riiiight. Nice try, thanks for playing, here’s your Rice-a-Roni. Now get out of the way and let the proper TG guys do their thing.
See, that’s the problem. And it’s something that the money-grubbers at the top of the franchise don’t understand. The Top Gear concept is not the star. An hour about cars and weird stunts is not the reason millions of people worldwide are crazy about the original TG, and merely recreating it with country-specific accents will not capture the lightning in the bottle that is the original TG. What they don’t understand is that millions of people worldwide don’t tune in to watch a show about cars; millions of people worldwide tune in to watch the three original eedjits do weird things with cars.
Got that? It’s not the cars. It’s not the accents. It’s the three eedjits.
Jeremy Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond are Top Gear. It’s their chemistry, their dynamic, their intelligence severely compromised by their eccentricities, the illusion of their sheer…Britishness, for lack of a better word, smashed all to bits as they bicker with one another, crash their cars, and get all petulant about the oddest things. Yes, that “British propriety” thing is a stereotype—we all know that—but we still enjoy it when the mask of dignity is whisked off to reveal the massive amount of crazy behind it. In essence, just as we never tire of John Cleese’s silly walks, we never tire of Clarkson, May, and Hammond hitting things with hammers inappropriately, inexpertly “fixing up” their vehicles, and screaming with the perfect mix of euphoria, adrenalin, and terror as they roar around a track or down a winding road in a supercar that, let’s face it, they’d never be allowed to look at, let alone touch, if they hadn’t fallen into their jobs by some strange twists of fate.
Americans doing the same thing? Feh! Big deal. There’s no cleverness in that. There’s no hidden wackiness to be revealed, no mask of propriety to be stripped away. With Americans, what you see is what you get, so only doing more of that, except behind a wheel, is anticlimactic.
Oh—and stupid. Let’s not forget that.
Let us also not forget that for every All in the Family (Till Death Do Us Part), for every The Office, there has been a Coupling (ironically based on the British version of Friends). There has been a Payne (Fawlty Towers). There has been a Life on Mars, a Men Behaving Badly, a (shudder) Doctor Who, a Red Dwarf. Of course, I also hear they’re planning American travesties of Torchwood and Skins, so apparently the idiocy persists.
So let’s review: Recreating TV shows with the native accent of the target country does not guarantee success. Obviously. So how come the BBC suits, allegedly intelligent creatures, don’t get what we in the trenches know all too well?
Here’s an idea—maybe those allegedly intelligent BBC suits should spend more time giving us the original Top Gear in its proper format—uncut (eliminating the Cool Wall and the News segment in order to fit countless American commercials? bastards!) and closer to the original air date, not a year afterward, on a network besides BBC America, which most Americans don’t even get in their cable or satellite package?
Try that, TG wonks, and then get back to us. Just stop pandering to us with cut-rate versions of decent TV and expect us to lap it up. We’re not that desperate.
We have bittorrents, and we know how to use them.