I’m not a Top Gear aficionado, I’ve seen it once or twice, I know it exists. And I am aware of the pleasure it brings to millions of TV viewers around the world.
And if seeing Diana Ross driving around a race track in an Austin Maxi is your kind of thing then that’s fine by me.
But this is the first ever episode of Top Gear that I have actually intentionally watched, and only because I had a vested interest in the subject.
And I won’t be watching part two.
Did you know that in the UK it is possible, through careful channel hopping to view Top Gear twenty four hours a day, every day, and as far as the TV scheduling allows, and based on the number of programs that they have produced this could be possibly be continued for all eternity?
Perhaps this is what awaits us in hell, a giant TV showing Top Gear.
Though maybe there is a special place in hell for us real sinners that airs endless repeats of DIY SOS.
Anyway, if you aren’t aware, Top Gear filmed a TV special here in Myanmar last year, and part one of that special aired in the UK on the 9th March. It took me a while to acquire a copy – thanks Boli. Though I believe that this is available to ‘view-again’ on BBC I-player or something.
If you haven’t seen Top Gear before, it’s basically a poor imitation of ‘The last of the Summer Wine’.
There’s your shortish daft bloke who is the brunt of most of the jokes, the slightly boring sensible one who doesn’t do much, and then the tall one who’s a bit of a prat and thinks he’s in charge. And ooh, don’t they get into all sorts of hilarious scrapes and capers.
But try as they might, they’re never quite as funny as Compo and co, regardless of how many cars they accidentally roll down hills.
In fact had the ‘Top Gear: Burma Special’ been filmed in North Yorkshire I doubt you could have spotted the difference, (for all the interest they paid to Myanmar). Knackered lorries, some ‘deadly’ overhanging obstacles to overcome, running out of fuel in the middle of nowhere, narrow lanes to get stuck down, fords to cross, beautiful landscape that the camera can lazily pan across whilst playing sound bites of sort of relevant music, and of course (most importantly) funny folk to take the mickey out of.
The fact that the first scene of the program, where they introduce their vehicles, is filmed in front of one of the most beautiful images in the whole country – Shewdagon Pagoda, and not one of them even takes the time or interest to look behind them to realise this, let alone comment on their location, gave me an indication of how the rest of the program was going to pan out.
And they didn’t fail me.
For the next hour or so it was basically three (very well paid) blokes whinging about the awkward circumstances that they had manufactured for themselves to be in, with the idea that it might make good television. I do realise that Top Gear isn’t a travel program, it’s a car show, and I get that. But it escapes me why they would want to travel half way across the world to produce a programme that covers neither topic. They might as well have stayed at home in the studio and complained about the weather, and the price of petrol.
Perhaps that’s what they do every week. I don’t know.
But I do feel a bit let down by the good old Beeb, it was a poor show, and this is perhaps why it wasn’t actually used as the planned “Christmas Special”? An opportunity was definitely missed. This was a great chance to showcase some experiences and information about one of the least known countries, and certainly one of the most beautiful unknown countries to a global audience in a unique and interesting way.
But they didn’t.
They chose to ignore any reference to the culture, heritage, history, future, food, struggle, oppression, reformation, democracy, and everything else. They even managed to overlook the people. The trio of presenters seemed intent on not communicating at a meaningful level with a single person throughout their entire trip; and as anyone who has travelled through any part of Myanmar in any manner of vehicles will attest to, the real thing that will stand out as a lasting memory, and contribute the most to the whole experience is the people that you will meet along the way.
They ignored that and it is to their detriment.
In fact they came across as mildly insulting, about the people and the culture and history of Myanmar, that is, in the brief occasions that they actually recognised where they were. And this wasn’t in the manufactured naivety of Karl Pilkington kind of way, it was definitely a more set of ignorant bastards, who never took the time to find out, and couldn’t be arsed to find out anyway, kind of way.
I won’t be watching part two of Top Gear: Burma Special, it’s not worth the bandwidth.
Nor will I make any deliberate attempt to watch any other episode of Top Gear.
Unless, that is, they someday decide to record the ‘Top Gear: Somalia Special’ now that would be an interesting program. You can guarantee that if they paid Somalia the same disrespect as they did the people of Myanmar then that would make for a very short show.
I’d pay good bandwidth to watch that.