PA­TRICK FREYNE

Chris Evans is the per­fect pre­sen­ter for Top Gear, as he is clearly re­spon­si­ble for de­stroy­ing cul­ture

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - TICKET STUBS -

“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.

Clev­erly stupid

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

Pho­to­graph: John Stillwell/PA

Back in the driv­ing seat: Chris Evans is an­nounced as the new

Top Gear pre­sen­ter.

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