- Feb 11, 2007
- Wollongong, Australia
- Golf GTI
And what is an "Ultra"?
So its another name for a fanboy then?
"It's true - as of next week, TGA will be on at the special time of not at all. Sorry to the open-minded people that gave it a go and enjoyed!" Pizzati tweeted.
"We're told the last three episodes will make an appearance in the summer. Or try Blockbuster Video in the BetaMax section."
For quite some time now - since half way through series 1 in fact - I've been pretty sure that I have figured out what the makers of TopGear Australia are doing wrong. I haven't made a post about it because... well frankly, I'm lazy and I expect this to be a long, rambling post that will ultimately just make me look like a metaphor-happy idiot who has no idea what he is talking about. But here goes-
I think they are trying to capture the magic of TopGear as it looks on the surface, without truly understanding what needs to go on underneath. TopGear is a thin layer of cocking about covering a thick base of solid motoring journalism. Without the base,the cocking about seems meaningless and empty. Water cascading down a waterfall may look beautiful, but it wouldn't work without the rocks that the water is flowing over. It is the same with TopGear.
Jeremy, James and Richard all had a history of motoring journalism under their belts before joining TopGear, but it was Clarkson's many years spent on the old format of TopGear that really gave the new show a certain gravitas when it launched back in 2002. But even though their audiences already trusted that they knew what they were talking about, the boys still spent a few years building up their journalistic credentials by doing a lot of regular car reviews and keeping the silly stuff restricted to one or two small segments a week, such as jumping motorbikes in a bus, or teaching grannies to do hand-brake turns. Only after they completely built their solid base, did they start covering everything with the layer of cocking about. They started by making the reviews a little more abstract by putting the cars up against Apache helicopters, racing them against trains or using them to scale Scottish mountains. Eventually they started making their own amphibious cars and ended up trying to launch a car into space. But they could never have reached the point where people were willing to watch them try to turn a Reliant Robin into a shuttle if they hadn't first established themselves as the UK's most trusted authority on cars.
Yet even as the sillyness took hold and TopGear made the transition from an information programme to an entertainment show, they almost always held true to the mantra that TopGear guru Andy Wilman instilled from the beginning-
"The car is the star."
When they raced the DB9 against a train to Monte Carlo it was to see how well it performed as a GT car. When they put the Lotus up against the Apache it was to show off the car's agility. The car was always the star. Proving or investigating something about the car was always the reason they did things. Richard and James didn't just spend 24 hours living in a Smart car because it sounded like great television. they did it to test out the cars new "lounge concept" seating. Even in the cheap car challenges when they aren't actually reviewing a new car they still make cars the heroes of the story. Think of the heart-break of Oliver sinking in the river in Botswana. Think of the triumph when the Lancia Beta made it to the border.
The Aussie hosts doesn't have the journalistic credentials required to make the leap into fully-fledged cocking about. They need to build a sense of trust in ther audience by proving that they know what they are talking about with a series of good, usefull and very honest car reviews. They haven't done this. The UK boys cop a lot of flak for all the reviews they show of unattainable cars, but they test plenty of everyday cars aswell. The Aussie hosts needs to do a little more of this. They need to test some everyday cars (and not just Commodores and Falcons). There are plenty of Australians out there who would like to know how the Mazda3, Corolla, Swift and i30 compare to the Astra, Focus, C4 and Golf. They need to review more cars, build a base of credibility. Only then will their layer of cocking about seem like it has some substance.
As it is, they are trying to recreate the cocking about without a base and it isn't working. Because they have no credibility as hosts of a motoring programme. This isn't the boys' fault, they haven't been allowed to create any. The problem is, they aren't even getting the cocking about right. They are coming up with ideas for segments that sound like something TopGear woud do, without asking themselves why TopGear would do it. Why is this a problem? Because they aren't paying any attention to Wilman's mantra-
"The car is the star".
The Astra lawn bowling is the perfect example of this. On the surface it sounds like something the UK boys would do. It sounds like the Toyota Aygo football segment. But the car football was to test how nippy the new little car was, because that is important in a city car. It served a purpose. All the Astra lawn bowls taught us was that if you park one on a slope and take off the hand-brake, it'll roll. Most of us knew that already.
Please - if anybody from TopGear Australia is out there reading this - stop trying to come up with ideas that sound like something the UK show would do. Instead, take the car you want to review, decide what you want to find out about it, then think of an interesting challenge to test that quality in the car. I promise, the results will be better. And while your at it, cover the walls of your production office with posters bearing these five little words-
THE CAR IS THE STAR!!!
THE CAR IS THE STAR!!!