Top Gear gets stuck in reverse
TOP GEAR (BBC2, Sun) THE IFTAs (RTE1, Sat) HOME OF THE FUTURE (C4, Sun)
IT'S A fact of television life that every programme, if it hangs around long enough, eventually grows stale.
Its reputation as an export and merchandising cash-cow notwithstanding, BBC2's petrolhead entertainment show Top Gear has been stuck in reverse for several years now.
But since it returned two weeks ago it's been accelerating backwards down a very steep hill.
Its three presenters, however, are too busy admiring their own cleverness in the rear-view mirror to notice. Or perhaps they have noticed but simply don't care any more.
Even Top Gear's USP, Jeremy Clarkson's effortless ability to offend (it's only February and he's already p***ed off people with facial deformities by comparing a Japanese car to the Elephant Man) has turned into a forced running gag.
"Who will you have shot and in front of who?" smirked a knowing Richard Hammond, whose decision to have his middle-aged Bon Jovi locks chopped in favour of a quasi-jugend simply makes him look even more tragically unhip. "Moving quickly on. . .," boomed Clarkson.
The programme has become a slave to a tired, worn-out format. Between the juvenile banter, the gimmicky road tests (how will a Fiat Panda perform with three obese passengers on board?) and the increasingly tedious Star in a Reasonably Priced Car segment -- during which Hollywood actor Ryan Reynolds seemed faintly alarmed at the zeal with which Clarkson tried to wedge his sycophantic nose between his A-list buttocks -- the centrepiece of any Top Gear is the stunt.
Last night's, a lame, long-winded affair in which Clarkson supposedly staged a car chase on the set of the new Sweeney movie and Hammond repeatedly pretended to get Ray Winstone mixed up with Bob Hoskins, seemed to drag on forever and must have tested the patience of even the most loyal of Top Gear's five million viewers in Britain.
And since we're on a downhill track, let's detour to the IFTAs. After the Baftas and the Grammys, which were overshadowed by the death on Saturday of Whitney Houston, this was the third most sparkling showbiz even of the weekend.
That it singularly failed to sparkle as entertainment had less to do with the shortage of genuine star power (you didn't really expect Meryl Streep and George Clooney to interrupt their Bafta plans, now did you?) than with the peculiar, broken-backed way the whole thing was packaged.
Bizarrely, the T in IFTA got short shrift.
The television awards weren't so much relegated to the backseat as locked in the boot, with several fairly major categories, including best TV director, writer and supporting actor -- all of which deservedly went to Love/Hate -- being disposed of in a round-up of awards handed out earlier in the evening.
I predict Sunday night television has acquired a new and unlikely hero by the name of Tony Perera, the Sri Lankan-born patriarch of the family featured in Channel 4's Home of the Future.
The Pereras -- Tony, wife Michelle, plus their four grown-up children and two grandchildren -- agreed to have their house gutted and rebuilt as a £250,000, computer-controlled futuristic marvel.
Every modern gizmo a sci-fi writer could imagine, and then a few more they probably hadn't thought of, are included here, including a fridge that's linked to the internet and doubles-up as a daily planner, a toilet that's programmed to wash the user's bum, a robot lawnmower that cuts the grass all by itself, and a front door that uses a thumbprint sensor instead of a key.
After initial reservations, the family took to their new surroundings with glee.
Well, except f or Tony.
While he loves the labour-saving lawnmower, he's finding it harder to cut out his lifetime habit of going around turning off all the electrical appliances at night -- including son Joel's swanky new electric car. Uh-oh.
TOP GEAR HIIII
THE IFTAs HIIII
HOME OF THE FUTURE HHIIII