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Sunday, 09 May 2010

Comments

Consider the series Intelligence, made by the same folks as Da'Vinci's Inquest. Cut too short, probably came too close to home. A lot of the writing for both shows spun around real events, the tragedy of the missing women for one (DVI), the drug trade and rival gangs for another (I).

Hey a couple of quick asides: if you like'd DaVinci's Inquest (which is in my opinion, actually one of the best drama's to come out of the Great White North), you will probably like Intelligence as well. I would rate is as a 8.5 to DaVinci's Inquest's 9. And then there is the grand daddy of them all which I am certain you have seen. HBO's The Wire.

On to the subject at hand, the juxtapositioning you decided to go with is quite interesting esp that middle coupling. Not sure just how to read it... humor? The fact that they both seem to be so completely out of it?


- Steve

In case you didn't know, Top Gear is the most pirated shows world. This is because people are hooked on the earlier series and are downloading all the ones shown in the UK first to catch up.

Top gear has a very long history (started in 1977) but has changed formats along the way. I don't watch it anymore, but from hearing other people who have watched it all it apparently went into the doldrums at some point trying to be too balanced and neutral and appealing to everyone who might be interested in cars.

Since the relaunch in 2002 it has apparently been much more about "toys for the boys" and the stupid stunts they pull off, along with occasional insults towards the French (a summary of a compilation of reviews of different makes: "Let's see if your car is any good, or French"). If they actually review a car that people watching can feasibly be expected to end up owning, that is an unexpected by product.

So the summary is: whatever the show is about now, it ain't car reviews.

I tried but didn't really get into the "The Sopranos" or "The Office". I will have to check out "DaVinci's Inquest" some day, as yours is the third glowing recommendation I've gotten from smart and picky viewers.

The one TV show so far that I obsessively devoured on DVD is HBO's acclaimed "The Wire". It deserved all the acclaim.

Via various media over the course of a few years, I obsessively followed the intelligent and provocative reinterpretation of "Battlestar Galactica" from the former "SciFi Channel" (now idiotically rebranded "SyFy"). And via Netflix streaming, I quickly watched all of the harrowing BBC psycho-crime drama "Wire in the Blood", which is definitely too intense for kids and probably too gruesome for most adults; otherwise, I'd recommend it.

Thanks to hulu, I was able to catch up with the only season of the entertaining space-western "Firefly", while some of my friends are happily discovering "Arrested Developement" years after it's cancellation.

Any UK links for the left hand column of pictures? They are a bit lost on this Brit... (how'd your golf go btw? "A good walk spoiled" captures it but each to their own, hope you got some birdies or whatever!).

Hahaha, you nailed it, Mike!

Thumbs up on "DaVinci's Inquest", also. Have you tried "Firefly"? Love it!

Have a great day!

Gordon.

"Any UK links for the left hand column of pictures? They are a bit lost on this Brit..."

Really? Okay...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_three_stooges

Mike

I laughed like a drain! Why did I never notice before? Curly and James especially look like they were separated at birth.

Richard Hammond went up in my estimation when he referred to his crash in a jet powered car in 2006 as a 300 mph parking incident, especially as I have been in a bad enough crash myself.

You can see it here, with him back on the show some time later. Be warned that the lip sync is off.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1_o3g8MzrTE

It only lasted two seasons and the second season was a let down compared to the first, but IMO, the first season of Murder One is well worth seeking out for your next TV marathon.

The Wire is, indeed, spectacular. I couldn't watch it when it was initially broadcast. The subject matter was just too 'difficult' for me. But, about a year ago, i tried again, and i went through all of the DVDs in a few months. Couldn't watch them fast enough - sometimes four or five episodes in a day+night.

If you like UK tv, look for Green Wing. I think it's available on hulu. Quirky-funny. Especially, pay close attention to "Sue White" — she kills me.

That 'photo essay' is hilarious. Bravo.

When it comes to television, I've seen a handful of shows that tickled my funny bone with some intelligent, quirky humor. Totally agree about Firefly; Nathan Fillion shows the same sardonic wit he displays in the hilarious pulp Sci Fi flick "Slither".
I also love "Wonderfalls", a squirrely show about a cranky, spoiled young woman shamed into good deeds by talking tchotchke's at a Niagara Falls tourist trap. No, really; it's very funny. It's by the same demented team that created "Pushing Daisies".

The Wire really is excellent, if you can deal with the subject matter

That's a two pointer for you Mike. I have a wee problem with it though - the Three Stooges were genuinely funny and you always knew that. Nothing funny about the "Top Gear" crew - boring at best and downright irritating at worst. Jeremy Clarkson .... Nah! I won't go there.

Hook, line, and sinker.

I second (or third?) the "Firefly" recommendations. If you're a fan, make sure you catch "Serenity," the movie made a few years later to wrap up the series.

Andy

The Three Stooges allusion is one I never considered, but is perfectly apt.

I don't have the cultural background to really comment on the relationships and inside jokes in which the Top Gear crew indulge, but I would like to point out that Richard Hammond is the "Danger Man" on the show and managed to survive a 300 mi/hr crash in jet-powered dragster. He may be called many things, but being a weenie isn't one of them.

Hammond crash story (BBC)

Apropos "The Office", have you seen the original version?
Gervais and Merchant had the sense (as should be expected) not to try to milk the series too far and ended the thing with the resolution of the tension between Dawn and Tim by their geting together in the Christmas Special. (NB Dawn and Tim are the originals of Pam and Jim)

Top Gear do occasionally drive/test 'normal' cars but it's not really what the show's about. My favourites would be the specials - in particulat Vietnam, Polar and Bolivia. Brililant entertainment.

Although I never watched "The three stooges" I found the comparison very very funny.

A good start to the week.

Talking about the Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond, you may not be aware that he crashed a jet powered car at 280mph (not a misprint) while a high speed run was being filmed for the programme. He subsequently made a miraculous recovery and returned to Top Gear a few months later. The crash footage was shown on the returning episode, after which he requested that the crash should not be referred to again.
It may seem to be all fun and games on Top Gear but clearly it's not always so.

Back when I was unemployed, I remember you could do a whole lot worse than watching old episodes of "The Rockford Files" in the afternoon.

I'm too cheap to get BBC America on cable, so about the only time I watch "Top Gear" is on the BA in-flight entertainment. My favorite episode was when they shoved the 2CV and the Ford Montero into the jet blast of a 747 cranking up takeoff thrust. The Montero flipped several times, and the 2CV was blown to bits.

This has nothing to do with your post, but I'm experiencing some weirdness that I thought I'd pass along. I'm traveling a lot this month, so I bought an iPad to take along. When I got on the first flight (Delta), I noticed that they were advertising inflight wifi. So, I signed up, and I just read this blog post at 35,000 feet over the Rockies.

A couple of nights ago, I saw "Hot Tub Time Machine" which I thought was hilarious (who couldn't laugh at the sight of a squirrel hit by projectile vomiting, I ask you?). Anyway, there was a scene in the 1980s in which a guy is skiing down a hill while shouting into a cell phone the size of a brick, "Hey, guess where I'm calling from on my telephone?" That's what I feel like sitting here. And I expect that a couple years from now, I'll recall this post with some embarrassment.

By the way, the iPad's keyboard is barely usable.

JC

Hi!

You might also like James May's "Top Toys" which started off just as one documentary, followed by "James May: My Sister's Top Toys" (never saw that one) and then a series along the same line but featuring only one toy per episode, called "James May's Toy Stories," of which I've only seen part of the Scalextric episode, where he organises a competition to set a land speed record using Scalextric slot cars, and the Plasticine episode where he entered a Plasticine garden in the Chelsea Flower Show. Twas funny.

I have to second the motion: HBO's "The Wire" is peerless and perfect. And they had the rare courage and taste to ring down the curtain before any decline was in evidence.

Mike,
I suspect your assessment of the interpersonal dynamics may be affected by the cross-Atlantic cultural difference; from the Australian perspective, that word "contempt" should be replaced by "affection".
It would be interesting to see how your UK readers see it.

I also highly recommend The Wire, and also Six Feet Under. It takes an episode of two to get into it, although the pilot (first episode) is certainly excellent. Then by episode three you're hooked and can't stop watching. Also, The West Wing, especially on DVD, where it's without commercials.

--Marc

No you haven't quite got it yet. But close. It's three very English gentlemen. You might call them buddies in the States but they're not that either. They are blokes. There's the rivalry, the contempt, the friendship and the respect. They like each other - but don't tell anyone else about that because it might be misconstrued as being too familiar and certainly they won't admit it to each other. They egg each other on to be outrageous. They are wary of anything that might be intellectual - even though one of them, at least, has an academic background. It's very male and it is about middle aged men acting like adolescents. It is hugely successful. It is TV for men that also appeals to women. And it's funny and carefully watchful of any one of the presenters getting too big for his boots. It's what blokes do best together. It's English male humour.

Hi again.

This is not a comment to the above post, but just to pass on some info some of your readers may be interested in. With the recent passing of Jim Marshall, music photography seems topical, so I'd like to mention some upcoming rock related photo exhibits, one of which features Marshall's work.

Graham Nash has selected photos for an exhibition in San Francisco, running now until May 23rd, called "Taking Aim: Unforgettable Rock 'n Roll Photographs." It includes Jim Marshall photos, along with the likes of Mick Rock, Annie Lebovitz, Lynn Goldsmith, Daniel Kramer, etc. Viewers / users of the website can even submit their own rock photos for a competition to win the catalogue.

http://www.empsfm.org/

Also, running until May 29th in London's Snap Galleries in Piccadilly Arcade, are Pixies' album photo artworks by Simon Larbalestier (this one plans to offer an iPhone / iPad app if you can't make the show!).

http://www.snapgalleries.com/exhibitions/simon-larbalestier/

Take care

While Top Gear started off as a "Serious Motoring Programme" in which earnest men some of whom wore suits and ties seriously discussed the features of family saloons, since the return of Clarkson it's been effectively a motoring-themed sitcom.
Although their special episodes are rather marvellous, I still think the episode where they built a Reliant Robin Space Shuttle (the Reliant Robin is a three wheeled 'car' made out of glass fibre and drivable on a motorbike license) and launched it to about 4000 feet (the largest, most powerful non-commercial rocket launch in Europe) was worth every penny of my television license!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_b4WzWFKQ20

Mike,
You absolutely have to see (what I considrer to be the top series):
-The Sopranos
-The Wire
-Mad Men
-Six feet under
and...
-Lost!
I'm a great fan of Top Gear,too
...and of course a daily reader of TOP!!!

I swear I get more out of this blog than anyone else. Every time I write about something I learn things about the topic that I wouldn't have known otherwise. Thanks for all the recommendations.

Mike

Great article on Soprano's Creator, David Chase:
http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/features/2007/03/chase200703

Top Gear is marvellous, and I'm not a car guy at all. Their segment where Captain Slow drives the fastest production car ever (Bugatti Veyron) on a closed circuit is the pinnacle of video editing and tingles my spine - it is sublime.

And the episode where they pitch a steam locomotive against period car and a motorcycle is great, as well as the one when they take the Top Gear approach to fuel economy racing - Mr Hammond chooses a big Jag and cranks up the AC and stereo to full power for unexpected results. Or the episode in Romania where they drive in underground tunnels underneath the second largest building in the world. The list goes on...

Their polar special is another incredible achievement: two guys try to do something which has NEVER been done before: reach the North Pole by car. Think about that for a while. This done while sipping gin&tonics. Not only funny, but an impressive show of just how far technology can take us.

As for other shows which have not been mentioned. The Shield is the best cop show ever, period. Brutal, honest and ugly portrait of what it takes to deal with the dark side of humanity. The makers have a new show about a biker gang called Sons of Anarchy which is quite good, as well.

I highly recommend "The Wire" which is, without a doubt, the best series ever made. I even rank it higher than every movie ever made, since every season is like a 12 hour movie. The most realistic (but still funny) characters I have ever seen on the screen. When I watched the last episode of "The Wire" I was depressed for weeks, knowing I will never "meet" the characters again.

And with that brief photo essay, you highlight your peculiar and catholic taste in TV. I wonder how many from either side of the Atlantic would recognise both sets of faces. Personally, I've never seen a Stooges show although I get the reference.

I think you might be surprised at the results of a poll asking your readership (at least the non-North American Part) who they are more familiar with. There is an oft quoted figure of 350 million viewers worldwide for Top Gear, though I've been unable to work out where that originated from.

Rod (above) has just worded what I consider to be the best short description of Top Gear's presenter interaction I've ever read. And that interaction is one of the many reasons why it's so popular worldwide.

But know this. Like the stooges, this is a carefully crafted team. This is not an accident. These personalities, just like the Stooges need each other if they, themselves are to shine. The chemistry is real but the producers who built this team have used the same forthought and intelligence as those that put the Stooges together many years ago.

There is a presenter for everyone. One you like, one you like to see fall over, one you'd like to be. Doesn't matter which is which. That depends on you.

Combined with the fact that Top Gear has the best television cinematography of any show in the world at the moment makes it hard to miss.

And don't tell me when you see three soft, middle aged men driving like madmen around an airstrip in the world's most desirable cars you don't, for a second think, "I could do that". It's all part of the appeal.

Gordon

Very little television can hold my attention. One series I was glued to in the early eighties was Connections, narrated by James Burke. There are also two 6 hour BBC drama's from the early eighties available from from Netflix I can recommend. The first is 'Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy' and the follow up 'Smiley's People' really ripping spy yarns.
We don't have cable except for our home phone and internet so I'm out of touch with what is current. My wife does like some TV sitcoms she can get on Netflix instant view like 'Flight of the Concords' and '30 Rock'. Sometimes I can watch these things but often I can't sit through a whole show. There are some documentaries that are good and I used to like some stuff on the History channel and Wing's channel when we had cable.

There is an episode of Top Gear in season 10 that concerns British Leyland cars. I have shown it to many people and every one of them has laughed so hard they have had trouble breathing! It really is ridiculously funny and enormously entertaining.

Also, if you like Science Fiction, Firefly is the best show that has been made in about 5 years. It is absolutely amazing that it didn't do that well when it was being broadcast, because everybody I know who is familiar with it thinks as highly of it as I do... Luckily it has found it's audience, albeit after the fact and on DVD...

Here in Southern Ontario we are lucky in that we have all the US broadcasters plus all the broadcasters in Ontario, all being available "out of the air,"
without the encumberance of cable or a dish.

Granted there are some available only by other methods. however a 4 foot by 6 foot bow-tie for digital pointed towards Toronto and similar pointed towards the USA allows the digital channels to come in quite nicely thank you, from the top of a 15 metre tower.

As to content we do receive TVO , which is available throughout Ontario and brings to us many UK produced shows many residents of the USA have never heard of; and it is our provincial public television. it survives from our taxes, and donations. However we don't put up with or have those stupid fund-raising campaigns the US based public funded stations have to do so frequently.

Maybe some of you should look north for your television programming; there are some of us who enjoy entertainment other than world-class winning Olympic hockey.

People who love cars love "Top Gear". People who love sensible transportation should just go polish their "Al Gore" bumper stickers.

The Three Stooges reference is brilliant.

Mike,

It must be a cultural thing - I didn't get the humour in the US version of The Office (didn't even find it all that funny), but loved the UK version. The US can make funny TV - witness Frasier and Becker. Ahh well, strokes for folks, as they say.

Rod and Gordon,

between you, you have explained it so much better than I could have. The most succinct analysis of a TV show I have ever seen, and right on the money, too.

I could be wrong but I think the intro to the post should read "This post might be of interest only to readers outside the USA." Clarkson mentioned either in this season or the last, that the US is the only country on earth that doesn't air the show, it was probably a bit of an exaggeration, but only a bit!

for English humour like The Office try "I'm Alan Partridge" series 1 & 2.

Patrick McGoohan's series "The Prisoner" still enthralls after 40+ years. Watch it in the order recommended by Scott Appel (KTEH).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_The_Prisoner_episodes

Ignore the recent remake.

Love Top Gear. One might find the latest episodes on bittorrent sites. Of course I would never pirate anything copyrighted. I second the recommendation that you view Josh Whedon's one season of Firefly. I too learn more from this site than any other. Thanks much.

For those few who are not Top Gear fans here are the boys doing "real" work.

James May did two a very good shows called At the Edge of Space and On the Moon commemorating the 40th anniversary Apollos moon landings. http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=78BCD60CA8A6D34D

Richard Hammond's show on Evil Kenevil is excellent. The show (7 parts) can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/user/fulbore#g/u

Jermey Clarkson's show about the Greatest Raid of All Time is as good as it gets.
Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mgF0R4dhUqk

Top Gear is my favorite TV show. The show has fallen into a rut but as other has said the cinematography is the best. Every once in a while one will catch a glimpse of the crew (last season while getting the 4x4s off the barge in the Amazon) that makes the show look as great as it is.

This is my favorite review of a "real" car from season two. Jeremy reviews a Vauxhall Signum (Malibu Maxx) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Phm6fREnK-A

My Top 6 Top Gear's
1) The Space Shuttle, they came so close to making it work.

2) Evo vs Lambo. TG at its best, show how great a car is and then tear it down by showing its warts.
Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ees2aZcDUn8
Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VVt1IjIdLxY

3) Budget Supercars
Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lx0S3cIW-q8
Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vqaxt-Kfx70
Part 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tFbG-4VWqpA

4) Supercars do France, sucker for anything with a Pagani Zonda and cinematography is top notch plus getting out of the parking garage is a typical TG cockup.

5) Jeremy tests the Ariel Atom: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WaWoo82zNUA

6) Sabine Schmitz's attempt to drive a transit van around the Nurburgring in under ten minutes. Love Nurburgring (visit if you get the chance) and Sabine is everyone's favorite (Ring) taxi driver.
Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BQJKQjXpGQA
Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5KiC03_wVjc

Those of you who liked "The Wire" should go back and watch "Homicide: Life on the Street". My favorite cop show, period.

I also second the recent version of "Battlestar Gallactica". Excellent, except I did laugh at the ending.

Hi Mike.

Compulsive viewing? Try the BBC's Spooks and if that isn't sufficient, Raising the dead.

Top Gear? Down here on the Southern Tip (of Africa), we've been fed a diet of daily digital TV re-runs for the last couple of years. Too much spoils most things.

To quote May; Cock

Oh boy... Last November, I watched the first episode of Lost on Hulu...

Ended up watching the rest of the first season, in the next two days. Just like you in all night marathons!!! And, watched all the other episodes before this season started !!!!

I never thought TV would ever get as good as The Sopranos- until I saw The Wire.

Watching them via DVD was an addictive delight of the highest order- each packing a withdrawal of equal magnitude (particularly the latter).

Now take the occasional small delight of a Doc Martin episode on PBS, a light hearted (god, how I hate that term) British comedy of one "very English" doctor in the absolute lovliest of coastal hamlets.

I forgot to mention EXTRAS, Ricky Gervais' (brief) series for HBO. Fantastic stuff by Ricky and Ashley Jensen, along with a slew of wonderful cameos.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/comedy/extras/clips/

I think one of the bonuses with this photography blog, is the extra stuff. Please keep it up.

I too, love Josh Weedon's "Firefly" and Patrick McGoohan's "The Prisoner". There's also the two series each, of the BBC "Life on Mars" and "Ashes to Ashes".

I watch "Top Gear" intermittently. I prefer "Captain Slow" -- he's very nice.

Here are a few more you might enjoy: Cracker, Spooks, Silent Witness, Foyle's War, The Fixer, The Hollowmen, The Thick of It, We Can Be Heroes/Summer Heights High, Flight of the Conchords and Peep Show.

There's also the obvious ones like The Sopranos, West Wing, The Wire, etc.

Funny thing is, until I wrote that out I didn't think I watched a lot of telly!

I barely watch television, but I still managed to collect a couple of favourite series.

Deadwood. Yeah, about that Deadwood and about that period. Ian McShane is absolutely brilliant.

Rome. About Julius Caesar, Marcus Aurelius and Augustus. History, sex and intrigue.

If you haven't seen it, Seven Ages of Rock is an excellent BBC series about the history of rock music, from Jimi Hendrix and the Sixties to Grunge and the Nineties. Quite a lot of photographs were used to present particular events or bands. Plus they had somebody who's terrific with lighting to do live interviews. I really like the way he (or she) kinda layered the lights and got a lot of depth in the scene.

Hmmm. All of them are basically mini-series for all that Deadwood had three seasons and Rome two. Maybe that's one of the reasons I didn't like Lost.

BTW, Mike, if you haven't watched the original British version of Couplings, it's a must. The funniest series about men-women relations I've ever seen. Only the first three seasons, though. In the fourth and final season one of the original actors was gone and the season is really not worth watching.

Actually the dynamic is a lot less clear cut as it is with the Stooges, it is more like the Marx Brothers - not least because none of the current Top Gear presenters is set as a complete idiot. OTOH, this all goes back farther, into old [British, then American] vaudeville double act tradition.*

*It is so ingrained into humans that it must be a universal, you find the same all over the world, in completely different cultures, from Italian Commedia dell'Arte to Chinese theatre to German [political] Cabaret.

When I was working at a big, prestigious dvd retailer, we had a saying... "There are two kinds of people in the world: those that consider The Wire the greatest show in the history of television, and those that have never seen The Wire." That has remained true in my experience with only one exception.

Much of the same creative team is responsible for HBO's Treme, which in my opinion is very nearly just as good.

Arrested Development is easily my favorite comedy of all time. Priceless. ABC's current Modern Family is my favorite current comedy.

Breaking Bad is probably my vote for the best show currently on TV, but it is as bleak as it comes. Worth it though.

Mad Men also deserves its acclaim and accolades. I'd say it is likely to be a good fit for your sensibilities, as much as I can assume to understand them.

And if you ever liked Twin Peaks, then you'll love Lost.

Battlestar Gallactica is the one where I'll disagree. For more than three seasons, it was amazing, but the end disappointed me beyond words.

The original Top Gear was a good programme for car enthusiasts. (Anybody remember Raymond Baxter ?) I only watch the current version after recording it. Fast forwarding through the crap cuts the total length down to about 15 minutes. The remainder is self indulgent twaddle.

Paul Mc Cann

Seems nobody's mentioned another good (imo) TV series: Generation Kill, about a squad of soldiers in the first Gulf war. Very much from their perspective, and a realistic view, rather than the gung-ho kickass attitude you get in movies.

Top Gear has probably mined its particular schtick to exhaustion now. There's a limit to how many more stunts and concepts they can contrive for the same entertainment value, and it's now hard to believe that every moment isn't scripted to the last second. The show's producer has admitted pretty much the same thing. (Rumour also has it that the contemptuous banter between the presenters is now no longer purely for the cameras. May's recent xmas cash-in book carried the tagline "The best thing to come out of Top Gear".)

James May's solo shows are worth catching, but again suffer from the use of horribly contrived setups that now appear to be prevalent throughout TV peak time documentaries; it's amazing how many subject experts the presenter just happens to bump into while bimbling around casually.

In fairness, I agree with the commenter who highlighted the superb cinematography (although TG itself has an overused signature style of Velvia saturation and heavy vignetting). Almost any still frame from a modern BBC documentary would make an excellent image in its own right; I watched a modest little series called "Return To Pembrokeshire Farm" with Griff Rhys Jones recently that put most landscape photographers of south west Wales to shame.

...I forgot David Lynch's "Twin Peaks" (the serie, not the movie)
A little bit strange, but very addictive...

And ,by the way, I've watched AGAIN and in a raw, with great pleasure, the first five seasons of Lost, before beginning season 6 !
...and still miss something, with the polar bear stuff...

I haven't seen Firefly, but as a science fiction reader since the early seventies who has seen some rotten films alleged to be science fiction, I too have to recommend Serenity. You do not even have to be a science fiction fan to enjoy this film, just a fan of good films.

Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes are quite good, but before them was The Sweeney. This programme about the police's Flying Squad in London ran for 53 episodes in the 1970s. I looked forward to every episode when it was first shown.

Mike

When you suggested that this post might only be of interest to readers in the UK who liked Top Gear, you were actually talking to an even smaller population – those who’d heard of or even seen the 3 Stooges.

The 3 stooges have never really entered the British consciousness like they have in North America. I lived in Canada for awhile in the late nineties and had to “look them up” as I couldn’t get the references to them which cropped up regularly.

One Top Gear episode nobody has mentioned which might be worth a look if you can find it is their drive across the Southern States in what would be called in the UK “Bangers”.

If you’re looking for some more UK comedy references:

Green Wing - Channel Four - Hospitals in the UK are actually like this
Peep Show – Channel Four – Funniest thing on UK TV
The Mighty Boosh – BBC 2 – Truly Bizarre
Black Books - Channel Four – If I ran a bookshop I hope it would be like this

At least one of these shows and several of the people involved in the others started off on Radio 4 (not connected to Channel 4) in their late night comedy slots. Try the shows that are normally broadcast late at night, 11pm or so. It can be a bit hit or miss, but there are some gems.

A couple of the longer running comedy slots are also worth a listen:

“I’m sorry I haven’t a clue” – particularly those hosted by Humphrey Lyttleton (now unfortunately deceased) are often works of comic art. His introductions laced with extraordinary double entendres (the shows are broadcast at tea time) are wonderful. Radio 4 often received complaints about them but defended them by pointing out that any filth was purely in the mind of the listener. Humphrey Lyttleton was also a noted Jazz Trumpeter. He also served in the Infantry during WW2 and landed in Nazi held Italy with a pistol in one hand and a trumpet in the other

“Just a Minute” – A simple idea that just runs and runs

Thanks for the blog and I hope you enjoy some of above

Gavin

Great Post!
Now, I second the recommendation for "Spooks" or as it is known here in the States, "MI-5". The first 5 seasons will just kill you with tension.

and another strong second is "Connections, narrated by James Burke". Don't know if you can find that on Hulu or Netflix but try. It is amazing, thought provoking TV and Host, James Burke is a beautifully quirky Brit who really makes the show.

Everybody has a favorite! but you are getting some really fine recommendation here. You will enjoy Firefly and Serenity, Battlestar and Pushing Daises.

Top gear is pure entertainment, using car reviews as a premise for new weekly content.
There is actually a top gear magazine which contains reviews of more pedestrian cars, but the TV show is purely a fun hour of TV.

If you can, check out some of the special episodes, such as Top Gear's attempt to send a car into space, the indestructibility of the Toyota Hilux (e.g. setting it on fire, parking it on top of a tower block and detonating the building and so on) and the American road trip episode.

In terms of series I would highly recommend Band of Brothers and the Pacific, but they're pretty much a sequence of films. Brilliant nontheless.

Any BBC documentary series by David Attenborough is well worth watching, there are no better nature documentaries than these.

"The remainder is self indulgent twaddle."

Those are the best bits!

MI-5, Doc Martin, some parts of Torchwood. Oh, and Californication...

good stuff.

Top Gear's a bit of an acquired taste -- some people love it, others think it's not funny in the least.

Recently one of the producers acknowledged in an interview that the the show was veering too far off the central automotive theme and presenters were sometime acting like charicatures of themselves. He pointed out a recent piece about Lancias that seemed to recover the "old" feeling -- decidedly focused on the cars and the presenters' love of them, but with enough silly bits to keep it very entertaining. That same producer also managed to set off a flurry of misguided "save Top Gear" efforts on the Internet when he suggested that the show is "closer to the end than it is to the beginning" in its current incarnation.

My personal favorites are the cheap car challenges. Those are cars that the average person can actually buy, the challenges are creative and often hilarious, and the presenters seem to genuinely enjoy them (and, of course, "rubbishing" each others' choices). Also, if you ever get the chance to watch some of the shows Jeremy Clarkson has done on his own, you'll find that he really needs the other two blokes around to take him down a peg or two on occasion.

Photography angle -- if you buy the U.S. boxed set that contains the drive across Botswana, there's a commentary track that includes the cinematographer talking about the kinds of shots they take (one of the other guys even asks him about "the rule of thirds").

Love Ways of Seeing! What a classic. I still have my copy from my college days!

I know 30 people have already mentioned it, but, yes, The Wire. The 4th season is one of the most powerful pieces of art, of any kind, that I've ever seen. Haunted me for weeks afterward. But all five seasons are great, individually and taken together.

As has been noted (and as I commented on the previous post on "Top Gear") it's not really about objective car reviews. It's about visceral want, cars that are utterly impractical being driven by the utterly irresponsible. Anyone can tell me the 0-60 time of a car, Clarkson's giggles as he destroys a set of tires blasting through the cloud figured, sun dappled English countryside is why people who love cars love cars. And it all is filmed so wonderfully.

I'll concur with many others on Firefly, Wire In the Blood, and MI5 (Spooks). Modern Family is starting to grow on me. I'll inject Hugh Laurie's "House", which has stayed fresh by becoming less of a medical drama and more of a character study. The writers have consistently refused to pull punches or make characters learn their lessons via "very special episodes". I disagree most vociferously on the "reimagined" BSG. Melodramatic, poorly lit scifantasy dreck, with a storyline that was all setup, no payoff and filled with more holes than a sponge. And that wouldn't have been so bad if it hadn't taken itself so very seriously.

And I'm coming to love Netflix streaming to XB360, since they've got a decent selection of old and current US and BBC shows in addition to movies.

I'm surprised to see so much discussion about the good and bad sides of Top Gear and not a single mention of The Stig! He's the crankshaft without which the other pistons (personalities) could produce no power at all. Without The Stig, there'd be no reference for comparison of the performance for the multitude of cars reviewed. And the fact that he doesn't speak makes him the perfect 'yang' to balance all the 'yin'. He's the unsung hero of the show.

I confess guilty to pirating Top Gear. I get it here on cable but with a horrible Spanish voiceover dub. I've watched some older shows, and it was an average, boring, car review show till someone came up with the Three Stooges idea. By the way, a brilliant association, Mike. Never occured to me.

I am these days obsessive about In treatment, an American series about a psychiatrist and his patients. Each episode is a one hour therapy session, just two actors (the shrink is Gabriel Byrne) talking, for the most part. It's makes incredibly powerful drama.

Another good Canadian series (drama with a bit of comedy) was Slings and Arrows, which features a behind-the-scenes look at actors preparing to present a Shakespearean play. Each season (there were 3) featured a different play.

I love many of the BBC TV productions that have come down the pike. Try "Foyle's War" starring M Kitchen as a Deputy Chief Inspector in a small city in England during WW2. Good stories and wonderful period scenery. Find it at Netflix.

"Top Gear" *is* indeed bloody marvellous. It's not a car review show, and never pretended to be (in its Clarkson era, of course.)

I am a big fan of James May, especially since learning he was selected as a co-host after a contest he won because he owned a Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow that was too big for the garage he rented far from his home.

It takes a, let's say peculiar, love of cars to do that.

I loved The Wire.
I ordered complete series on dvd and received it couple of days ago. Can't wait to check it out again.

Hi Mike, I have speed-read the comments, so please forgive me if this has already been mentioned. The mangling of iPod into "ippod" by the TG presenters (generally Clarkson) is a comic foil and not something you'll ever hear in the UK. Another of his favourites is referring to facebook as "bookface" or "myface". Much of the script is written by the automotive comic genius Richard Porter, who writes a brilliant column in EVO magazine and publishes (and writes most of) sniffpetrol.com, an online automotive satire monthly. I'm a bit of a petrol-head y'see, as we're known in the UK. But you probably guessed that already.

James Madelin> Thanks for the mention of sniffpetrol. I did not know this site, and I've been laughing my arse off for a solid half-hour!

Hi Mike

When I first saw Top Gear Clarkson was by himself and was funnier solo than he is now with his two foils. Then he went off to do a non-car talk show and appeared in a few specials. The new shows didn't do particularly well so soon he was back on Top Gear, this time with his two friends.

Time to run to Netflix or wherever and get all the Soprano CDs you can find. It is far and away the best thing ever to appear on TV, particularly in terms of writing and acting. I wish I was discovering it all over again.

Oh, btw on the pronunciation thing - they get it wrong on purpose. The things are pretty universally known as eye-pods here too. May gets things wrong on purpose as does Clarkson (Hammond is supposed to be more street wise). Clarkson tends to refer to golfers as 'golfists', and according to him they need room in their cars for 'golf bats' for instance.

On vacation; just found this thread.

What? No Spartacus: Blood and Sand? It shames HBO's Rome. Takes the graphic FX of the movie 300 and uses them to tell a powerful drama. That's 'graphic' as in 'graphic novel' although the violence is VERY graphic too. As is the sexuality. Neither is gratuitous, however. Raw, biblical (in the lit. crit. sense), romantic. It's mini-series as art as fine as any.

I'm personally a great fan of Top Gear's more minor stunts and challenges - teaching the team's mothers to do handbrake turns, or playing conkers with caravans. (And I'm not even going to try translating that into American!)

The point is that it's just about the only mass-audience, reasonably grown up programme (although we have to use the term in its loosest sense) on British TV which still celebrates anarchy, which thumbs its nose to the "'elf and safety", politically correct and liberty-limiting obsessions which have come to dominate our lives.

So, in that spirit, can I please heartily recommend to Mike and other American readers the Top Gear fly-drive from Miami to New Orleans (the programme which oficially got the trio banned from working in the US!) :)

Slightly more on-topic, I've always felt that Top Gear ought to award themselves one of their annual awards "for dis-services to photography", for persistently reminding the world of the existence of the graduated colour filter. Now, perhaps some other readers understand why British photograpers refer to a "Top Gear" (orange) sky.

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If you want to watch a drama series which celebrates the visual, have a look at the Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes created by Granada in the late 80s and early 90s. I've just re-watched the entire canon, and it's a visual feast as well as a masterpiece of adaptation, acting and direction. "Wisteria Lodge" is a particular tour de force, shot using mirrors and stained glass windows to great visual effect.

Andrew

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