Top Gear

NZ Autocar - - Road Watch -

ike 19th Cen­tury gun­fight­ers fac­ing off against each other in some gawd-aw­ful street in the wild west, two of the world’s largest me­dia or­gan­i­sa­tions are about to go for their Colt 45s and pull the trig­gers. The BBC and Ama­zon are locked into the great­est face-off since the shootout at the OK Cor­ral, as the for­mer’s new ver­sion of Top Gear is about to take on the new web-ac­cessed mo­tor­ing show from Ama­zon hosted by the Un­holy Trin­ity – Clark­son, Ham­mond, and May.

Both shows will be celebrity-heavy, the BBC pack­ing in the pre­sen­ters to counter the col­lec­tive ap­peal of the three most pop­u­lar mo­tor­ing com­men­ta­tors on the globe. The cars will fly, the rub­ber will burn, vomit will be en­cour­aged for its comedic ef­fect, and the odd TV pro­ducer may still get punched out. Can’t wait.

Yet some­where in the re­cesses of my mind I can hear echoes of the warn­ings that the great British satirist of the 1960s, Mal­colm Mug­geridge, is­sued about the takeover of con­tem­po­rary cul­ture by the celebrity cult. A half­cen­tury ago, this ar­tic­u­late for­mer WW2 spy was say­ing that if celebrity be­came the dom­i­nant fea­ture of tele­vi­sion then civil­i­sa­tion was headed for its great­est re­ver­sal since the dark ages. The com­mit­ted moral­ist and jour­nal­ist, who ex­posed the geno­cide of 4.5 mil­lion Ukraini­ans by the Rus­sians in the mid1930s, did all he could to hold the ris­ing tide of fan­dom back, call­ing the Bea­tles ‘four va­cant youths’ and the British

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