Monday, 19 August 2013

Top Gear v Fifth Gear. A triumph of nonsense over substance.

This post has nothing to do with Ireland or life in it, but we all need a break now and then.  Even me.

  It's about quality and public taste, and how the two are very often diametrically opposed – often helped by marketing people, all too keen and ready to exploit public dim-wittedness.

This is an international phenomenon.   History is littered with dubious, but successful,  products that eclipsed far better rivals. 

During World War Two, for instance,  the Luftwaffe had the Messerschmitt 109 – an aircraft inferior in most important respects to the Focke Wulf 190.   The later FW 190s were even a match for the mighty North American Mustang, yet the aircraft played second fiddle to the older BF109 throughout the war. The Messerschmitt was a bugger to fly and many of them were written off in take-off and landing accidents due to the wheels being too close together, a consequence of their weak wings.

Back in the 80s there was the VHS video system.  It was poorer than its rival Betamax, but that didn't stop VHS becoming the standard whilst Betamax was consigned to the cassette bin.   A triumph of slippery marketing types in large-framed Elvis Costello glasses and speckled suits.   You have to wonder how these people have made our lives worse than they could have been, with their cliche-crammed bullshit and bollocksology.

Then there is Top Gear and Fifth Gear.   Sweet suffering Christ, what an utter crock of shite Top Gear is, but that hasn't stopped it becoming one of the most popular TV series in the world, along with an execrable live touring show.    I stopped looking at it years ago, after they thought it would be a fabulous wheeze to take the wheels off a Jaguar XJS and put train ones on in their place.  They then drove the car on a track... a railway one.   Madcap stuff indeed, and quite possibly hilarious if you are three years old or are a public schoolboy.  

The only vehicle that features on the show these days is the one that carries the massive egos of its three journalist presenters, Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May. By contrast Fifth Gear, which of late has been on Discovery, boasts at least three ex-racing drivers who know their stuff and actually review motor cars... sometimes even motorbikes.  

Despite all this, Top Gear can count its viewers in multiple millions; Fifth Gear, on the other hand, is relatively cult viewing.   

I suppose it all comes down to popular taste, which tends to favour the lightweight – but the power of the Beeb and slick marketing must play a part too.

"Marketing" remarked Edwin Land "is something you do when your product is no good".


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Anonymous said...

British TV viewers are not all that bright. Take a good look at all the other shite on TV. I am British born and one of the thousand, maybe millions, who want the BBC closed down.

The Gombeen Man said...

There are a few of us here who wouldn't mind seeing Ireland's "national broadcaster", RTE, shut down either Anon.

Anonymous said...

Top Gear is definitely past it's sell by date and Jeremy Clarkson knows it. He recently sold his share of the controlling company to the BBC, shamelessly lining his pockets before the axe falls. The format is stale and repetitive even embarrassing and the presenters often uncomfortable with the bullshit they have to regurgitate. Please may it be put to rest and leave us with the happier memories of the first few seasons when it was fresh and new and innovative.

Nenad said...

Her's what somebody said on the subject "national broadcast" a few weeks ago:
The real point here is that nobody needs government-controlled broadcasters anymore. RTE should just be closed down and its premises turned into a shelter for stray cats and dogs, one-eyed parrots and hyperactive hamsters. :))

John said...

Hi GM. this is from the Mirror from some months past
"Jeremy Clarkson banked more than £14million from Top Gear last year.
On top of around £1million in presenter’s fees, he pocketed a £4.86million dividend from the company he set up with the BBC to exploit the show’s global success"

Would me you puke, he started as a salesman for Rupert the bear, I joke you not.

The Gombeen Man said...

@ Anon. Good move by Jezza, I think.

@ Nenad. I thought they had a few hyperactive hamsters in there already! Certainly plenty of parrots, though not one-eyed.

@ John. How are you doing? His old pair made stuffed Paddington Bears... I think it was quite a money spinner. But not as much as he's managed to extract from the Beeb... that's a lot of poke!!!

Sandy Beachcomber said...

I never thought I'd find myself writing in defence of Clarkson, but here goes:

I haven't owned a TV for many years, so consequentially I don't see much of it. I don't have much interest in cars either, so watching Top Gear is not on my agenda. Nor is watching the TV equivalent of a Lad's Mag or anything with Clarkson.

But I do have an interest in history. Some years ago I watched a documentary called 'The Greatest Raid of All', recounting the daring commando raid on the dry dock at St. Nazaire in 1942. For those who don't know, this was an operation to strike at Nazi Germany by destroying the dry dock and denying refuge to the German battleship 'Tirpitz' which was currently terrorising shipping in the Atlantic.
Imagine my dismay to discover that the programme was presented by Clarkson, but I watched it in spite of him.

By the end of it my opinion of him had changed somewhat - he had not only presented, but also written and produced a salute to a group of brave young men, most of whom knew when they set out on the raid that they wouldn't be coming back -and indeed most of them didn't (and they had all volunteered).

In an age of mediocrity where minor celebs, footballers, etc. are lauded as 'heroes', Clarkson reserved the use of the word for people who deserved it. One of the best programmes I've ever seen (but I did say I don't watch many), it was well-researched, stirring, and at the end very moving.
Catch it if you can on Youtube. It's a magnificent tribute, more so than the official government tribute which consists of a small commemoration stone in a sea-front car park.

On this occasion at least, his heart (and mouth) was in the right place.

Anonymous said...

Here is the simple fact that all of you seem to be missing. Top gear is far and away more of an entertainment show then a car show. If you want pure car info with only a slight hint of humor and almost no chemistry between the presenters, then fifth gear is for you. If on the other hand you want to be entertained as well a learn a thing or two about cars (cool cars too not just everyday cars) then top gear is far and away the better show.

Of course fifth gear has more "substance", it's meant to be a substance based factual everyday good car advice and reviews show.

Top Gear is meant to be a entertainment show about cars.

And by the way you all do understand that taste in things such as TV shows, music, comedy etc... is all completely subjective right? So how about not trying to tell ME what is funny or not, or what is entertaining or not. I think I can figure out what I like for myself. I don't need someone who clearly has a prior bias telling me how the show I love could only be found funny by a 3 year old.

Anonymous said...

same as above...

Got so riled up I forgot the whole reason I was gonna comment. The success of Top Gear has almost nothing to do with marketing tactics. Marketing can not convince someone that a TV show what is crap is really good once said person has actually seen the show for themselves.

There are certainly examples of TV shows that have been hyped beyond belief to the point where their first episode had crazy high viewership, but if that show is crap, no one is going to tune in to the next one and the show will bomb.

So go ahead and blame the success of Top Gear on "stupid viewers" or "marketing" but if people didn't like it, then it wouldn't be on TV. And while some of you seem to think that British viewers are "not all that bright" There are far more people outside the UK that watch Top Gear so can I safely assume that all those people all around the world are not that bright as well? Or where they just tricked into liking a show and watching is season after season by "marketing"?