Chris Evans is the perfect presenter for Top Gear, as he is clearly responsible for destroying culture
“Spice Girls! New Labour! Egg from This Life! Seinfeld! Windows 95! Good Simpsons episodes!”
What’s Granddad* babbling on about? Don’t worry children, he’s just having a flashback to his youth thanks to a one-off episode of TFI Friday (Channel 4).
Who knows what a man from 1996 makes of the world today with its phone “apps” and faux ronic moustaches and Islamic terror and Kanye West? If he could text or Instagram or Snapchat or Periscope, he could tell you. Sadly he cannot text or Instagram or Snapchat or Periscope and using all those words as verbs freaks him out.
“Am I having a stroke?” he screams regularly.
“Silly Granddad,” you think. But the revived TFI Friday should help you understand him better.
Ah, the mid 1990s. The distant past. Picture it: see Granddad’s tribe wandering across the land bridge chasing mammoth and using the Alta Vista search engine. Communism was dead, western wealth and dominance was uncontested. These were “post-political” times, so the biggest conflict was, confusingly, that between impaired vision and a renewable desert water source (Blur versus Oasis). It was before 9/11 and social media and reality television. It was the End of History.
All they needed, really, was a messiah.
And yea, a ginger, bucktoothed man baby arose in the East.
His name was Chris Evans. He realised that what this infantilised, booze-addled, financially-fortunate generation needed was an updated version of the children’s programmes of the 1980s.
Evans made programmes which were cleverly stupid: The Big Breakfast, Don’t Forget your
Toothbrush, TFI Friday. They were shouty, irreverent, and “zany” (much 1990s youth culture was “zany”, except, ironically, deadpan music dullard Zane Lowe). And they self-consciously toyed with traditional television formats and engaged in elaborate pranks.
These programmes privileged smug self-awareness over insight and confused loudness with excitement. Nonetheless, they were hugely popular because Granddad’s generation are the worst.
Eventually, Evans’s ego exploded in public and he slunk from view with his teen bride Billie Piper. Then 9/11 happened (I’m not necessarily saying these things are connected). And we forgot about Chris Evans, presuming him a myth: a tale told to frighten children.
Until one evening in 2015 he suddenly appeared on a one-off “final” TFI Friday (I know he’s on The One Show, but Granddad doesn’t watch The One Show).
The set is the same. Evans is the same (he probably ages backwards like Benjamin Button or Miriam O’Callaghan). The musical acts are the same. Blur play Coffee and TV. Liam Gallagher and fellow Oasis alumnus Bonehead (a respectable Christian name in the 1990s) perform with Roger Daltrey. “I hope I die before I get old,” they sing, which is, at their age, like crawling around the stage squawking: “Kill me!”
There are retreads of old items where members of the public perform freakish activities (Freak or Unique) thus presenting harbingers of a coming apocalypse (twins sway ominously, a girl weeps milk). We also meet several ex-babies (people who were on the programme as children) and experience Evans’s trademark behind-the-scenes footling and audience interaction.
Jaded starlet Amanda Seyfried appears and is fake interviewed by redundant Jedi Ewan McGregor. She has huge eyes and an oval head and is clearly bored by our Earth ways. There are further celebrity non-interviews with Ricky Wilson, Rita Ora, Kirstie Allsopp and Shaun Ryder, none of whom have anything to say. Shaun Ryder even has tape across his mouth. Then brum-brum-driver Lewis Hamilton is allowed talk for 10 minutes about meetings he has attended.
Top dog again
This is probably because, as has just been revealed, Chris Evans is going to host Top Gear. He even drives a car with haunted shadow man Jeremy Clarkson. When Clarkson’s dead eyes meet Evans’s dead eyes you need to adjust the ennui-setting on your flatscreen.
Still, without Evans, the big silly pranks of Top Gear would never have happened, nor would the celebrity good-sportsmanship of Graham Norton. And you could argue that Evans’s “behind-the-scenes” shenanigans and courtship of random attention-seekers paved the way for reality TV.
In a way, Chris Evans is responsible for the television ecosystem of today. “Look,” his smug orange head seems to be saying. “It was me. It was me who destroyed culture.”
“I hate you so much Chris Evans,” screams Granddad. Poor Granddad, you think. If you feel that Granddad’s generation is obsessed with nostalgia, Channel 4 donated much of Monday evening to being nostalgic about Made in
Chelsea: a programme that started all the way back in 2011 and has now reached 100 episodes.
What would a person from 2011 make of the world today? In 2011 the human race had invented the wheel and was using the iPhone 4s. But the world was still young and Sexy
and I Know It was in the charts. Now, in 2015, we’re tired. We have the iPhone 6 and fire and
Uptown Funk but the old Made in Chelsea joke isn’t funny any more. And while we can laugh as toffs named Binky, La La and Po do dog yoga and throw wine at one another, at the end of the day, they’re still rich and idle, and we still snark emptily at our televisions.
This is driven home this week, at several points. First, when Jamie (skinny Boris Johnson) mentions that a former cast member is “now in Ghana building a gold mine”. And second, when resident cad and philosophiser king Spencer (emplumpened Russell Brand) drunkenly murmurs: “I was thinking how funny it would be to purchase an owl and write a little note and clip it to its talon, that says ‘I belong to Spencer Matthews’ and see if it’s ever returned to me.”
That would be funny, I think bitterly, if it didn’t sound like something Spencer might actually do. YEAH, IT WOULD BE SO GOD DAMNED FUNNY.
Oh dear, you think, Granddad is screaming again. Maybe we should just turn the television off.
(*Granddad is me)
These programmes privileged smug self-awareness over insight and confused loudness with excitement. And they were hugely popular
Back in the driving seat: Chris Evans is announced as the new
Top Gear presenter.