Let’s call time on the Oz and James double act
The Top Gear presenter and his wine tasting sidekick drinking and bickering for Britain just isn't Antonia Quirke's poison
Some thoughts on the profound dangers of Oz And James Drink to Britain:
1: James May. The man is perverse. Only a true pervert would wear the floral shirt of a Tangerine Dream fan on his way to the planetarium, knowing that all it's going to take is a pedestrian approaching from the side and then glancing casually into his nervously defensive eyes to immediately comprehend that here, infact, is a former sub-editor on Autocar. Who else but a sicko gets off on other people's feelings of confusion and fear? May's shtick is that he doesn't care about his looks. ("Do I strike you as a person who cares about clothes?")
But last week he was caught on camera being very precious about his hair ("no cutting") and complaining that Oz had been so uncool as to go out leaving a pricetag on his shirt, when Oz had clearly had no choice in the matter, the shirt having been forced on him by some wardrobe mistress in the employ of the light entertainment unit of the Stasi, whilst May was off fulfilling his other professional obligations ie being Tristan to some vehicular Isolde on the popular motoring show Top Gear.
2: How people love him! He's even presented a Sky documentary about the great white shark, which is the equivalent of a knighthood. And even more people are going to love him now everyone's unemployed and at home watching the channel Dave (the 'home of witty banter.') A random glance at Dave's schedule: 12pm Top Gear 1pm James May's Top Toys 2pm Top Gear 3pm Top Gear 4pm Top Gear 5pm Extreme Survival 6pm Top Gear 7pm James May's Big Ideas 8pm James May's 20th Century 9pm Hitler's Last Days 10pm Hitler's Last Days 11pm Hitler's Last Days12pm Top Gear
3: 1am Top Gear 2am Top Gear 3am Top Gear 4am Top Gear 5am Top Gear Vietnam Special 6am Top Gear 7am Top Gear 8am Top Gear 9am Top Gear 10am Cooking In The Danger Zone 11am Top Gear 12pm Top Gear 1pm Top Gear 2pm Top Gear 3pm Top Gear 4pm Top Gear 5pm I Am Stuck Up A Fucking Mountain.
4: It is unbelievably boring. Last week they actually kept in the bit when Oz and James drove all the way to one side of a park attached to a stately home, looking for a brewery, and back again, slowly, on a tarmacked thoroughfare featuring not a single bump, dip, crack, pothole or cobblestone.
I am amazed Oz can siphon wine through his fascinatingly unyielding little mouth
5: Of course I know that nobody is actually supposed to believe the show is a spontaneous jolly across the country on the search for the nations favourite beverage, with two chalk-and-cheese eccentrics who can't stop needling each other, but must it so obviously be a programme whose every spat and snap has been green-lit at chino-level? You can practically see the production assistants with clipboards marking each fresh blossoming of the menopausal paunch with a tick.
6: I remember Oz Clarke when he was the wine critic on Food and Drink in the 1980's. Even back then, taking a break, as he was, from his other career as a member of the RSC, to bury his nose inside a wine glass whilst wearing the profoundly inconvenienced expression of someone whose brain has just been flattened against the back of his skull cavity in appreciation, he still managed to convey the impression he was a person with orifices no larger than a pin head. Twenty years later I am freshly amazed that Oz can actually siphon the wine into his body at all through that fascinatingly unyielding little mouth.
7: Yes, of course the two of them are acting all the time, but do they realise the level to which they are taking it? This is the third series the pair have worked on together in which they have been asked to exist in the dangerous hinterland between themselves, their telly selves, and their drunk telly selves - their programmes being about beer and wine. The results are beyond weird. Over the course of a mere five minutes Oz and May can present the viewer with a whole peacock's fan of lies, from a plain pretend drunken spat, to a real drunken spat with the pair unconsciously switching personalities, to a pretend drunken spat with both of them firmly in character and yet still completely unable to sustain the pre-agreed version 50 of the 'I can't take this kind of chaos' expression.
Like certain scenes in the later movies of Ken Loach, these moments can stretch, gobsmackingly, for minutes on end, entirely convinced of their verisimiltude - only Loach would never stoop to suddenly cutting to a voice-over involving the two protagonists bitching about the "intellectualisation of the sausage" (May thinks that putting anything more than a scrotum inside a sausage renders it "intellectual" ie A Bad Thing).
8: Of course the whole 'presenters-not-liking-each-other-but-secretly-liking-each-other-very-much-indeed-and-playing-on-the-viewers-desperate-and-inexplicable-need-to-know-that-they-do-in-fact-actually-like-each-other' rap was born on Top Gear. When Richard Hammond almost died in an accident the nation turned to Jeremy Clarkson needing to hear him say something nice about his 'hampster' in much the same way as they turned to the Queen after the croaking of Lady Di.
May and Clarke have reached the point of no return and are now quite, quite mad
9: Why am I watching? Because it's addictive. Acting is addictive. Doing it, watching it. Poison in the veins. I'm hooked. Help.
10: With only two programmes in this current series left, it's clear that May and Clarke have reached the point of no return and are now quite, quite mad. Last week some nice cider producer in Herefordshire said that if only three more of us decided to start drinking perry regularly he would need at least 40 years notice to build up the stock, so rare is the perry pear. Oz was actually genuinely interested and surprised - and responded by not saying anything at all. You could feel the tension draining out of the programme, the momentary relaxing of the terrible modern pretence of being 'in the moment'. On TV, and off, it's a disease that claims more lives than any other. ·
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