Friday, 23 September 2011
If I Had To Be Trapped In A Lift With Any Of Them, I'd Pick James May
The fact that this conversation is now coming up to two years old should tell you something about the capacity my brain has to niggle over things long since said, particularly things that irk me or that I wish I could have said more eloquently.
But let us go back slightly and explain for the benefit of those reading this who may be wondering whether the Hungry Pixie hasn't finally lost what few marbles he had.
Back in the 1980s, and even as recently as the 1990's Britain had a motor industry. In fact there was even a time when we were the leaders of the world when it came to car production. Back in those halycon days there was a BBC programme by the name of Top Gear.
This programme should not be confused with any current programme of the same name - because they bear about as much relationship towards one another as...well...two entirely disparate things. The Top Gear of the 80's/90's was a serious motoring programme that actually served as a guide to buying a good car.
Then the British motor trade collapsed, or rather self-imploded spectacularly in the style of an ego-centric Rock star: forever demanding more of a cut of the profits, refusing to record a new single or to tour and finally overdosing in a hotel room after being found in bed with a young pretender.
And as such Top Gear had to change. In came a new presenting team and a new feel. Out went fact and in came crazy challenges, controversy and humour.
Three presenters were chosen. Former journalist and opiniated oaf Jeremy Clarkson, former DJ and all round short angry person Richard Hammond...and finally, the classically educated Degree in music holding James May.
Don't get me wrong - I actually quite enjoy the new-look Top Gear. It's knockabout humour and endless daft antics of the presenters make for good entertainment, however for various reasons I am unable to watch either of the other two for any length of time when they present programmes alone. Clarkson takes a certain amount of pride in his boorish and occasionally rude behaviour, Hammond is just a bit too aware of his looks and thus comes over as slightly false.
But what irks me most about the programme, and thus is the reason for me picking May as the one I would chose to be trapped in a lift with: is the way that the programme, and lots of others on TV nowadays, seems to wear its ignorance on its sleeve as something to be proud of.
Whenever May, nicknamed Captain Slow due to his rather cautious and careful driving style, starts spouting facts the camera inevitably pans away and a comment is made about how dull it all is. When faced with a glorious view of some ancient edifice the crew of the show are only ever able to comment on how fast their cars can go and can find nothing to say of the history or current state of the place they are in.
Exactly when, I would like to know, did it become embarrasing and boring to know things and to be interested in learning new things? Why are we so keen to encourage ignorance over advancement? Why are we so afraid that if we show anything on TV that requires the use of our brains - people will immediately switch off.
This is, of course, no new phenomena - since the dawn of time anyone with half a brain has been ridiculed in entertainment. Science students are shown as being "dorks" hiding behind their glasses, incapable of social intteraction - whilst the dumb quarterback unable to construct a coherent sentence gets all the girls.
It seems then that we, as a society, are forever cautious of people who take the time to learn and be interested in things and would rather ridicule those that have aquired knowledge than take the time and effort to acquire knowledge ourselves.
And meanwhile our TVs and our instant-fame cultures seems to promote that its ok to be an idiot - talent shows like The X Factor tell us every week that you can be a neanderthal throwback with all the intelligence of a can of peas and it doesn't matter - because being famous for being thick and useless is just as good as being famous for achieving something.
Surely it is time to re-evaluate this? Personally I have a great many friends who have interests in all sorts of things and can quote chapter and verse on aircraft engines, IT protocols - hell even Toastmaster rules and regulations.
I may not always understand their knowledge or passion for their subject - but I hope that I will, at least, always be able to appreciate their drive to advance - to take the time and effort to learn something new...and that maybe, and by association, I may be able to learn something new too.