Top Gear and reality TV

  • Hadyn Green,

    I came to a realisation yesterday while writing in this thread (mainly) about boy racers. I was able to figure out why I don't like Top Gear.

    It's not because Jeremy Clarkson is a smug prick (though that does influence my decision a lot), it's because he's a critic. See, I love car shows like Monster Garage, where people who live and breathe mechanical art put together beautiful machines that thunder and roar and look like 100mph while standing still.

    It's like the difference between an art show that talks to art critics and an art show that talks to artists.

    For this reason I was able to understand why I can watch shows like Project Runway and Top Chef but can't stand shows like Survivor. The people in Runway and Chef have talent. Real, honest to gods, talent!

    Even the person voted out (or whatever) on the first show is more talented at what they do than I will ever be. Same goes with Monster Garage (and it's bretheren like American Chopper). Every week a new group of experts in their field would come in and design and build something spectacular. And the best episodes are not the ones where they bicker, the best ones are the ones where all of the experts collaborate to make ...well, art!

    What do we think?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2090 posts Report Reply

13 Responses

  • Anne M,

    Errummm. Top Gear makes up about 50% of my viewing so I'm not a dis-interested commentator.

    Clarkson does know know about cars and he is a reasonable driver, so it's not arguing from ignorance (which some film/TV criticism is).

    He can be vitriolic - but vitriol is often funny (see Hitchens, C. for more of the same). And he's not dull.

    As for Survivor, that'd be much more interesting if they just left them (filming of course) until all but one died. I'd watch that.

    Since Nov 2006 • 104 posts Report Reply

  • James Green,

    Somehow to me, Clarkson doesn't stack up as an 'average' critic. He's extremely opioniated, but it always seems like his opinion. He can pan a car as much as he likes, but I don't think it every moves me much. And I guess as opposed to a text-only critic, you also get to see him interact with the car, so you're exposed to more than just his opinion.

    Personally, I can't really abide Monster Garage or American Chopper, but I lurve Scrapheap Challenge(!)

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 703 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    Clarkson apparently gets the chick vote, which is so not supposed to be his demographic. What I like about Top Gear is the presenters, whom I kind of view as playing the parts of Richard, James and Jeremy rather than as real people. They're a good team and entertaining to watch even if you don't like cars which I don't. It's kind of like the way I'm happy to read Fiona Rae or Diana Wichtel review television I'd never watch: because they're entertaining in themselves. I find Jeremy hysterical even when I violently disagree with him.

    The other thing I appreciate is that they really love cars. As drivers, not mechanics, but they have a genuine love of driving and that really comes across.

    Personally, I can't really abide Monster Garage or American Chopper, but I lurve Scrapheap Challenge(!)

    I'm the same, and I also really love Mythbusters and Brainiacs. Maybe it's because they don't take themselves quite so bloody seriously?

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4589 posts Report Reply

  • Hadyn Green,

    Personally, I can't really abide Monster Garage or American Chopper, but I lurve Scrapheap Challenge(!)

    you guys need to see the final episode (actually it was a two parter) of Monster Garage. They made an actual hotrod, nothing gimmicky, and had a best-of-the-best crew. It was fantastic.

    I still don't see the difference between the Top Gear guys (I quite like the other two) and art critics. Just because you can't get into a piece of art doesn't mean you don't like it. Food critics are constantly consuming what they're reviewing (and with some gusto).

    But it's never the same as talking to the artist or chef themselves, asking them why they decided to do something, while they're doing it.

    Mythbusters is good but it does have a lot of "pap" in it.

    ps. Really? Jeremy is there "for the ladies"? wow.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2090 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell,

    I know a car nut who does like Top Gear... but it's successful 'cos people like my wife and I who are pretty indifferent to cars and could barely tell a lamborghini from a lada find it amusing. It's entertaining 'cos they do stupid things with great gusto, and because Clarkson can pen a memorable line. (Writing off a huge swathe of vehicular transport in one line: "I'd rather have a vasectomy than drive a diesel") As a non-enthusiast, American chopper and the other one- where despite the joshing, they take it VERY seriously- make me yawn.
    Underlying that, you're pushing a critic/artist line that's just not viable. Critics in a subject (disclaimer: I've been a movie reviewer) usually are picked/choose to do it because it's something they know and care about. Few have no involvement with the form. Many are actively involved, or have been, or- and this isn't always bad either- want to be.
    If yr making (say) a programme about an artist, and you just talk to critics- it could be valid and valuable, but there's a big, central element you're not covering. If you just talk to the artist, however... you're not necessarily getting the whole story either.
    The truth is that the artist is the first reader/consumer/critic of their own work. Artists work in context, and part of that context is being a critic/consumer of art themselves. Writers are also readers- and readers of their own work. On the other foot, really good criticism is often genuinely creative. But their "job" is to distill/evaluate/comment on what's in it for the reader/consumer - not what's in it for the artist.
    I get what you're saying, but it just ain't black and white...

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2006 posts Report Reply

  • Evan Yates,

    I admire and enjoy Top Gear and ALL its presenters. Admittedly there is no way in hell that I would ever be able to afford any of the vehicles that they test, but as a car-fancier, I like the way that they level the playing field when testing all the machinery to give an idea of which car is "best" (whatever that may mean).

    Maybe Clarkson doesn't do the creating himself, but if there was a show which pitted "Monster Garage"-like teams against each other to build projects on a common theme, I think he would great as a judge to determine which team built the "best" vehicle.

    Actually wasn't Clarkson repsonsible for the concrete-floored-wood-stove-equipped-mercedes-benz-mobile-front-room? That was funny. Didn't he also build a floating (sinking) Toyota Hilux? Who says he doesn't create automotive art?

    Hamiltron, Te Ika-a-Māui • Since Nov 2006 • 197 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Rowe,

    Clarkson is one of those guys, like Basil Fawlty, that you watch and cringe at the same time. He has his persona and it works for him, I mean, seriously, he is all over the media in the UK, for better or worse. I find, now that I'm older, the less seriously I take him, the more entertaining he is.

    One of his lines from Top Gear, which will always stick with me:

    "Buying a car because it's reliable is like marrying someone because they're punctual."

    Lake Roxburgh, Central Ot… • Since Nov 2006 • 574 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Rowe,

    Oh, and Anne's idea for survivor - brilliant! Can we start with a celebrity version? There's a few z-graders wasting oxygen I'd love to see go all Lord of the Flies!

    Lake Roxburgh, Central Ot… • Since Nov 2006 • 574 posts Report Reply

  • reece palmer,

    I watch Top Gear for the asides. Clarksons are usually quite funny. Some of the cars are quite nice but they use much the same footage (cut and paste vehicle here) for most reviews. I've no dramas with opinionated presenters, agree or not they do tend to hold my interest more than the bland trying to be top gear talking heads on the AA torque (thats sooo clever) show.

    the terraces • Since Nov 2006 • 298 posts Report Reply

  • Markos,

    Mr Green is clearly a confused individual.To even link Top Gear to Project Runway shows his poor taste and ignorance.

    Whilst Jeremy Clarkson may have a "stiff upper lip" when discussing cars and the like,his opinion however, is so influencial within the industry, that car makers actively seek out his appraisal.Where else do you think the 6 figure cars come from ?. A rental outlet?

    I dont see Louis vittion or even our own Karen Walker fronting up on the camp offering that is Project Runway to seek approval.

    I actually feel sorry for you mr Green, your sad existence only brightened by pathetric catfights and predictable scriptwriting that ia any reality offering can only lead to eventual suicide.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4 posts Report Reply

  • Madi Day,

    I have been a devoted Top Gear fan for as long as i can remember and i cannot see how you can relate Top Gear to a reality TV show. It is ridiculious!

    I like the fact that Jeremy Clarkson has his own opinion and tells it how it is. Everyone is welcome to have their own opinion anyway. And when Jeremy does express it, it is always hilairious! In fact, anything he says is hilairious! And as for Hammond and May, well they just make up the show.

    But you can't say Top Gear is related i anyway to any reality TV show. Simple as that.

    But i'm not too sure about Jeremy being there for the ladies. Would'nt it be more like Hammond?

    Since Jul 2008 • 1 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie,

    Our same spammer is back again. It's confused writing makes it sound like a bot.

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1289 posts Report Reply

  • linger, in reply to Alfie,

    And the comment just above it (from 7 months earlier) is actually another spam in the same series, albeit a much subtler variant: the entire text content is copied from Anne's comment at the top of this page, and the user homepage is ... a link to another "dissertation services" site.

    Both already reported (makes for cleaner removal than explicitly commenting on the buggers).

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1599 posts Report Reply

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