SLOUCH POTATO: 27/01/16 - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Every Wednesday Tom Pheby shares his views on the good, the bad and the ugly of British multi-channel television.

It feels like an eternity since Jeremy Clarkson lost the plot, thumped a producer, got sacked and found himself a likely much more lucrative job. In between, the BBC chose Chris Evans to replace, not one but, all three previous Top Gear presenters. The radio and TV star, who incidentally denied that he would ever take the job, took the job and set about creating a giant smokescreen as to who would join him.

Evans then promised to consider anyone and everyone to co-host, and as a result he clogged up the Beeb's  inbox with a thousands of half-baked Hammonds, a Collection of Clarkson's and a mountain of May's, but no one was daft enough to believe that he was seriously considering untried and untested newcomers. I also suspect no one believed this new incarnation of Top Gear would be anything but Chris Evans led, with him as the front man, the star of the show. So when he allowed various names to become the subject of speculation, such as Jenson Button, David Coulthard, Zoe Ball, Jodie Kidd and Guy Martin, it all just felt like headline grabbing to me, and sure enough it wasn't long before Evans revealed that he would "probably" front the programme alone, opting for guest presenters instead.

But now it seems that he will, as Oasis might say, definitely maybe be joined by Sabine Schmitz and Chris Harris.

Quite why Evans feels the need to spout so much misinformation and crap is beyond me. It's not helping the show one bit. The poor Top Gear fans have lost their much loved presenters for the price of a set loin steak, and the show has been thrown into doubt by the BBC, who, let's be honest, have a knack for creating chaos out of calm. They might be grabbing headlines, but its maybe the wrong sort they were after, and the tabloids are having a field day reporting on anything they can think of that's a bit negative (as they always do). We're told that Evans nearly walked, as he 'wasn't feeling the love' from the BBC, and then there were pictures circulating of him throwing-up after a little bit of fast driving. Not all that encouraging is it?

Let's just hope the series has some fans left by the time it premieres later this year because, potentially, the line up could be quite good. German Schmitz is a racing driver with immense pedigree and is known as the Queen of the Nürburgring. You may recall that she once took up the challenge to beat Top Gear's fastest lap in a transit van, only narrowly missing out. You have to ask yourself, though, with Schmitz's arrival is The Stig on his way to the job centre? Let's hope not.

Chris Harris is less well known, but as any petrol head knows he can be found on YouTube waxing lyrical about the latest high end sports cars. His energy and presenting style are going to perfect next to Schmitz's driving prowess and Evans quirky irreverent 'seat of the pants' style.

If you listen to the papers Top Gear is only one step away from oblivion. I very much doubt that's true as when you cut through the BS, it all looks rather promising. Of course it won't be the same, it can't be, but being that Top Gear is one of the BBC's crown jewels I'm quite sure it won't be awful either.

Now, while we're on the subject of Chris Evans...

We all have our own little prejudices, whatever they may be, some might seem reasonable, some rather irrational. Both could easily apply to opinions on men that are born with ginger hair.

According to Being Ginger, a documentary to be found on Netflix, there are 4.2 million unhappy and lonely redheads out there. Quite how this figure was arrived at is open to debate, but one of them, university student Scott Harris, decided to make a film to see how ginger men are perceived, and also to help him snag a girlfriend. Why not? After all, including them in a documentary is a pretty unique chat up line.

At first Harris was reluctant to make initial contact with females passing by but he soon hit his stride and some of their comments were surprising. He asks how they viewed ginger men? Nerdy,  fat, huffy, pensive and awkward were some of the replies, which seemed a little extreme. Scott's own perception is more disturbing,
"They're ugly. I don't like them. Every time I see a ginger walking past, male or female, I don't like them"
Yet the ginger flag is flying high these days. Prince Harry, Ed Sheeran, Damien Lewis, Rupert Grint and the aforementioned super rich presenter Chris Evans are all extremely successful regardless of their red roots, but still this prejudice still seems engrained in the minds of many.

Scott met a blonde girl in a park. She was pretty but her ignorance was immensely ugly. She had such a strong dislike for ginger people that she sounded plain crazy. Freckles, chest hair and the thought of kissing a ginger were too much for her to even contemplate. She told Scott his colour was 'joke ginger' and that people of the red persuasion should expect to be mocked or be the subject of insults.

Later Scott found out there was a festival in Holland for redheads where he could show an unfinished version of the film, but he also found someone he was attracted to, who just happened to be ginger. So Scott then had to deal with his own 'anti-gingerist' thoughts and feelings.

Being Ginger was not an earth shattering piece of investigative journalism, but it was an interesting, gentle, cruel, charming and at times amusing insight in to an almost absurd social stigma.

Channel 5 (who else?) bill this show as a social experiment, but really it's just a reality show with a twist, which is irksome. The makers have combined Bear Grylls with Big Brother to give us 'Big Brother in a loin cloth'. As you'd expect the contestants are all picked from three main pools.
  • Those that are likely to generate conflict from the off.
  • Those that are susceptible to pressure, or become fragile when out of their comfort zones.
  • Those that will do anything for fame, desperate to have their five minutes, regardless of the consequences.
On the flight to who knows where, Jay Frost has pressing concerns,
"I've got a fringe, I'll have to make a hair band."
Mmmm, my heart goes out to Jay and I'm sure the whole nation feels for him.
I'll be honest though, whereas I had the distinct impression that Jay would be the most annoying of the bunch, he was actually among the most curiously watchable to feature in the show. He's a mixture of embarrassment and wonder stuffed into the body of an overgrown boy.

Our 12 assorted British strangers were dropped in to a remote area of Bulgaria, that's right Bulgaria, and it was clear that as soon as Jay's woolly brain was engaged that he, himself, considered himself as a potential leader. Having dressed himself appropriately for the period in an assortment of animal skins, Jay gleefully looked at the camera and announced,
"I've got a head band, I'm ready."
Thank god for that I thought. And the nation breathed a sigh of relief.

Soon, it was time to pick the genuine leader, and Susan, a former A&E consultant, was selected by virtue of a majority decision. OK, she's good under pressure, she's able to organise and make decisions but where on earth was her headband? Come on Sue, get your priorities right.

Instead of attending to her fringe Sue concerned herself with food and water and dispatched a small party to see what they could find. Jay looked on, eating the fruit and nuts which were intended to sustain the entire group. Did I mention I liked Jay?

Later, another party discovered a settlement much better suited to their needs. Susan decided that the motley crew should up sticks and relocate, but on root she and Jay became separated from the main party. Jay asked her,
"Do you watch Holby City? Do you eat Mars bars? Where did you go on holiday?"
Susan tried her best not to bludgeon him with a nearby rock.

As if to illustrate Jay's woeful ineptitude, he'd been left alone at their previous camp to make sense of a hand painted rock that would act as a map. There were basic illustrations for Jay to gawp at but he was too clever by far,
"They look like animals, and that wavy line looks like water"
With those sort of powers of deduction it looks like the group is in safe hands. But it's the viewers I'm worried about!

Let's face it, we've all got too much stuff that we squirrel away in cupboards or drawers, but likely nowhere near as much as Augustine, a 68 year old mother of two, who has taken hoarding to new extreme. It's become so bad that the authorities demanded she clear it up or she risks loosing her home (if she can find it under all the mess).

Augustine's son Jason had left home some years ago and had gone to live with his sister Susan, presumably because he could no longer find the way to his bedroom. So who was responsible for this unholy mess? Well Augustine soon cleared that up. It was everyone's fault except hers! Even the rotting pear in a fruit bowl had to accept responsibility. It was green and furry, just a few stops from ending up as a blob or sprouting legs so it could take itself to the bin. Augustine had a good reason why it was there though. In her gruff and breathless American voice she explained that it was too soft to pick up. Damn uncooperative fruit!

Augustine was assigned a therapist to assess and deal with her mountains of clutter, but Dr Chabrand seemed too frightened to touch anything in particular, gingerly navigating her way around the house like a filth ninja. Who could blame her though! The obvious clinical decision was to draft in a team of experienced filth fighters to tackle the uncontrollable mound, and they duly arrived like extras from a CSI crime scene. The team of cleaners set about clearing the festering mass and discovered a few surprises, including Augustine's false teeth. Surely she'd noticed their absence?

Then, with the floorboards almost in sight, one of the team found the carcass of a dead cat. Like a perfect sideways silhouette, it remained rigid and defiant to the end, regardless if it had been fed or not. The ballsy cleaner grabbed it by the tail (it was either that or it had a very slender neck) holding it aloft in a state of confusion. I swear the room fell silent out of respect, but it could have been shock, hard to tell.

No sooner had we recovered from this pitiful discovery, a second dead cat turned up! This one had gone missing a decade earlier. A DECADE EARLIER! Augustine remained strangely nonchalant, preferring to verbally abuse her daughter rather than take any responsibility herself.

There are many reasons why this type of behaviour occurs, and I'm not disputing that emotional or psychological factors may be involved, but this is probably the worst example I've seen, and the dead cats made the situation almost unfathomable. Eventually, when the filth brigade had finally cleared the house they'd disposed of 8,000 pounds of rubbish! But would a clean house rekindle family bonds? That seems more unlikely, as since the clearance Jason has not visited his mother at his former home.

You may not remember it but there was a time when the news used to try to inject a humerous story at the end of its broadcast to ease the pain of watching thirty minutes of unadulterated misery. This generally involved a man trying to cross the channel in a dustbin or a bike riding dog, that kind of thing. But you know you are in trouble when a genuine news piece makes you laugh out loud when it wasn't meant to. Such was the case a few days ago when a BBC news reader revealed that police and social workers were called to the house of a ten year old boy in Lancashire. The lad had submitted his homework which contained his answers to a series of questions, such as 'What sort of house do you live in?' Innocent enough, you may think. But the police quickly arrived on his doorstep, quizzing his baffled parents because the boy had answered the question with 'a terrorist house', instead of a terraced house.

Had no one thought that it was just a spelling error? Had no one asked the poor little chap if he'd made a mistake? Seems not, as the family laptop was seized as a result of the ensuing investigation.

Whilst reporting the story the newsreader remained stern faced, seemingly oblivious to the absurdity of it all. And it was absurd, an embarrassing balls up, but one that was great for the chuckle muscles.

Script Writer, Poet, Blogger and junk television specialist. Half English, half Irish and half Alsatian, Tom is well known for insisting on being called Demetri for reasons best known to himself. A former film abuser and telly addict who shamefully skulks around his home town of Canterbury after dark dressed as Julie Andrews. Follow Tom on Twitter

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