When People are Down is the Best Time to Kick Them
Today over breakfast, I watched the latest episode of Top Gear. I mean the real Top Gear, not the Australian mess or the twice-euthanized American version.
I must humbly confess; I was dumbstruck by the confirmation of my rightness.
A while back, I wrote that one of the Beeb’s mistakes was hiring Matt LeBlanc. I said it was a mistake because he was so much better than the other hosts. If they had filled his spot with another mediocrity, it would have taken fans longer to realize how awful Chris Evans, Rory Reid, and Chris Harris were. It would have taken them longer to realize Sabine Schmitt (did I spell it right this time?) belongs in a Stig suit, not a star’s dressing room.
WOW, was I right. I was so right it hurts. I may need Oxycontin to dull the pain of rightness overload.
Today the show started out with…someone…talking about…something. I’ve forgotten already. Once again, I was reminded of Top Gear’s most conspicuous new feature…the fast-forward button.
After that, I believe Rory Reid popped up. This is the guy your mom kept begging your sister to date. He is soft and comforting, and he would never cheat on your sister, and they would even share things like bunny slippers and needlepoint equipment. This time, I couldn’t take it. I zipped forward again.
Eventually, LeBlanc appeared on screen. Ahhhhh.
He was reviewing a bizarre retro 911. “Retro 911″…I repeat myself. Anyway, Porsche decided to build a new 911 with no turbo and a real stickshift. It’s not a computerized toaster. It’s not a smartphone on wheels that shoots around the track on its own and then emails you a Snapchat video. It’s a car, and it’s controlled by a part known as a “human being.”
In his reaction to the car, LeBlanc displayed something previously unseen on the new show: passion.
He hopped in the 911 and drove it around the test track. His voice grew soft. His eyes shone. His hands shook. He kept telling the crowd he was in ecstasy. Was it real? Who knows? He’s an actor. William Shatner wasn’t really mad when he fought Ricardo Montalban. But LeBlanc convinced me. At least as well as I was convinced by a bald Jewish sci-fi actor wearing shoe lifts and a girdle.
Car shows shouldn’t be about numbers and electronics. They should be about the pleasure we get from cars. In LeBlanc’s short segment, we got a taste of that.
I can picture LeBlanc lying under his car on a Sunday next to a pile of wrenches and snap-ring pliers, fumbling for a beer can standing just outside the limit of his peripheral vision. Chris Evans? Not so much. I can picture him calling a mechanic to run over and fix the low tire pressure on his frame-off-restored Lamboghini Miura. “It says 24! It’s supposed to say 35! What’s wrong with it?”
Evans is supposed to be a car buff and collector, but it’s not credible.
He did a ridiculous segment on companies that take old English sports cars and rebuild them with modern parts that make them work better. For example, the headlights actually come on. He started with an Aston DB5. Then he did something really dumb: he talked about the Jaguar E Type (pant pant) restoration made by Eagle. We’ve already seen that at least twice. Clarkson (PBUH PBUH) covered it already.
Then he did the unthinkable. He rolled out an MG that cost over a hundred thousand pounds.
Somewhere in his cranium, the wires just aren’t touching.
MG has never made a sports car. They have never made a good looking car. They made ugly-cute convertibles for women, gays, and old men.
NOBODY WANTS TO PAY A HUNDRED THOUSAND POUNDS FOR A HAIRDRESSER’S CAR.
Think, Evans. Think.
As I was watching the segment and listening to him talk about the car’s 300+ horsepower, I said out loud, “The only part they kept was the one they should have thrown out: the body.”
What the MG restorers did was like transplanting Isaac Newton’s brain into a cancer patient. They got the whole transplant ethos backward. You’re supposed to put good stuff into good stuff. You don’t scour the world looking for new kidneys for Charles Manson.
Evans (Clarkson is equally at fault) demonstrated shocking ignorance of a fact every American knows: any car can be restored and improved, and you don’t have to pay the cost of a house to have it done. Evans and Clarkson seem to think the Eagle people did something no one else can do. Hello? Here in the US, it’s so common we have a word for it: “resto-mod.” And there are hundreds or thousands of shops that can do it for five figures.
I record a show called Fantomworks. It’s about a guy in the DC area who restores cars. Personally, I wouldn’t think of taking a car to him, because he takes old cars that are worth maybe $20,000 in showroom condition and charges people a hundred grand to fix them. But whatever you want done, he can do. An Eagle E Type resto-mod runs around a million dollars. I guarantee you, the Fantomworks boys can do it for less. And there are a dozen shows about other garages that do the same thing.
Open any American hot rod magazine. What do you see? Stunning resto-mods that didn’t cost a million dollars apiece to make.
I paused the program when the ridiculous MG appeared. I want breakfast to stay put. Spending a fortune to fix this thing is like spending a fortune to remaster a William Hung album.
I guess I’ll turn the show back on and see if there’s anything else I can stand to watch. I already blew through the celebrity laps. They’re unbearable. That type of segment is inherently boring, which is why Clarkson kept it short and fast. Evans prolongs it! Insane! He always has two celebrities instead of one, and they’re likely to be boring English celebrities I’ve never heard of. It goes on forever. “What kind of motor did you have when you were 17? Fiat Panda? Jolly good. Let’s look at 15 grainy photos while I say things that aren’t funny.”
I’m fast-forwarding. Oh, no. There’s some sort of “challenge” thing, involving all 53 of the new hosts. No. No. No. I do not want to spend another ten minutes feeling sorry for Rory Reid and Chris Harris.
It has LeBlanc in it, but that’s no help. You can fix an Italian jacket by taking a stain out of it. You can’t fix a stain by adding an Italian jacket to it.
Evans is still wearing those smelly-looking jeans and the ridiculous 1975 punk rocker boots. Where did he get jeans with legs that thin? They look like they’re stuck to his skin. As much as he wears them, they probably are.
One good thing about LeBlanc’s tenure is that it shows that a US version of the show would work just fine. I mean a US version that wasn’t done really badly. A version without Rutledge Wood. A version with a test track, a live audience, celebrities, and writers.
A version with a trio of meat-eating Republicans who aren’t pansies.
It will never happen.
Imagine Top Gear with Donald Trump, Matt LeBlanc, and James Woods. Who cares if Trump doesn’t know cars? He’s the most entertaining conservative alive. He could criticize foreign cars and maybe start his own sports car company to crush Porsche.
Trump: My lap was the fastest.
LeBlanc: Actually, it was the slowest.
Trump: I won!
Woods: Excuse me–Carrot Top’s dad–you lost.
Trump: It was YUUUUUUUGE!
Instead of the Stig, they could have Ted Nugent. The Nuge. “My lap time would have been better, but I had to swerve to run down some hippies.”
Oh, well. Amazon’s show is supposed to air eventually, and maybe in a year it will be in syndication on channels people actually watch.
And the new show isn’t a total loss. I can think of three guys who are really enjoying it.