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Sunday, January 30, 2005

More Distractive UK Tellie.... (with corrections...)

Several posts back, I wrote about the TV game show "Distraction" which was making its way from Channel 4 in the UK to Comedy Central in the US. This evening I'm sitting in Belfast watching still another very British TV show, but this one is unlikely to make a similar transition. It's called "Top Gear," and is broadcast every Sunday evening on BBC Two. As I was watching segments of the show this evening (a "best of" compilation from the past two months), I was once again drawn to the same three basic questions: (1) why would anybody produce such a show, (2) why would anybody watch it, and (3) why is it so enjoyable to do so???

Put briefly, this is a show about cars -- and the things people might do with them. But it is also a “politically incorrect" show in which the central host, Jeremy Clarkson, constantly berates environmentalists, public transport, American cars, and Americans in general at some points. Example: in one demonstration of how nimble a particular vehicle handled, a British helicopter warship was assigned the task of "locking in" its missile guidance technology on the car as it took evasive measures around the track. Within the confines of the track, the car successfully evaded the technology. But given some distance, the helicopter was able to lock in on its target. To dramatize the point, the TV producers simulated the destruction of the car. In a comment afterwards, the hosts noted that of course the British pilot would never do such a thing because, unlike their American peers, the British soldier would never attack an ally. (And a good chuckle followed....)

But for the most part, it's a show about racing cars against time and other things. For instance, in one segment there is a race staged between one of the three hosts Clarkson again) driving a Ferrari from the UK to a ski resort in the Swiss Alps while the other two hosts traveled by combination of public transport and air through Geneva (this was, by the way, a follow-up to an earlier race between the same ‘teams’ that pitted a car against UK and French Rail between the UK and Monte Carlo – which the car one, as I recall). A little over 11 hours after the start of the race, the Ferrari pulled past its competition (by this time on foot after dismebarking from a bus) just down the street from the hotel that represented the finish line. In still another segment, the car was challenged to beat a bobsled team running along a comparable course.

What all this proves, I have no idea. But it was great fun to watch.

One of the regular weekly segments of the show (appropriately titled "Celebrity Laps" according to the website -- but Ciarán comments below that it is actually called 'A Star in a Reasonably Priced Car!') features a well-known guest who is put behind the wheel of a vehicle and challenged to beat the time of previous guests. Being a very "British" show, I only recognize a few of the names on the celebrity list. However, in tonight's show they replayed two recent laps involving people I actually knew. In one segment, Roger Daltrey of the Who did a fair job on a wet track to end up with a decent lap time. But the highlight was the lap time scored by Jimmy Carr -- yes, the same Jimmy Carr who hosts the "Distraction" game show in both UK and US – with a list topping time of 1:46.9.

Now how is that the wasting time!

PS: My thanks to Ciarán for turning my on to this show – which is very strange when you consider that he has never (according to his admission) driven a car more than several inches in his life.
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