Wrong Gear / Right Gear


The Presenters Check Out The Wreckage

It’s a funny thing, although I don’t particularly have any interest in cars, I am a big fan of Top Gear. It has a charming irreverence and light-hearted approach, and it’s presenters are clearly passionate about their subject. A couple of months ago, I was going to write a review of a recent installment of Top Gear. The trio of presenters had headed off on a caravaning weekend to prove, once and for all, that their much heralded view (i.e. that caravans have no redeeming qualities whatsoever), was a fair reflection of reality. As the item progressed, and Jeremy was cooking lunch on the hob he started a fire that quickly went on to destroy both their, and their neighbour’s caravans. I was pretty shocked at this, not because of the inherant recklessness but because it looked genuinely like an accident and it made me wonder about the health and safety precautions that the producers of the programme were taking, or not.

Unfortunately, the discussion has moved to a new level following the much-publicised, 300mph accident involving Richard Hammond 8 or 9 days ago. Two questions have been levelled here, (i) “Should presenters be allowed to participate in dangerous events”, and (ii) “Does the show glorify speed and dangerous driving?” Firstly, I am sure that Mr Hammond was thoroughly enjoying himself, as he always seems to do, when he spent that day driving in his jet car. However, it gives me great relief that there has been no output from the various investigations that have taken place, to suggest that this was anything but an unfortunate accident. There are wider issues though. We have all seen programmes like Jackass and the like, where the object commonly seems to be to risk injury in the name of cheap laughs. So, with the rise of deregulated, internet TV and the fact that making TV shows is getting cheaper and cheaper by the day, surely it can only be a matter of time before these two trends combine to lead to worse accidents as people try to shock their audiences more. I can see a long debate opening up about the merits or otherwise of this “cheap TV”.
Moving onto the second question, does anyone genuinely think that there are people out there who watch a TV programme with fast cars driving round a track, who then decide that it’s okay to ignore the Highway Code and drive like an idiot in their own car. Nobody does that, surely?! People drive like idiots because they are idiots, not because they’ve seen it on TV. What we see on television is a symptom and a reflection of the society where we live, and I’ve yet to be convinced by an argument that it’s the other way round.

On a more positive note, I hear that Richard Hammond is on the long road to recovery and that he has been transferred to a hospital nearer his home. And finally, proof if proof were needed that the viewing public are not all muppets, the fund-raising on behalf of the Yorkshire Air Ambulance is up to nearly £150,000, go do your bit.

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