155: Capri

TV drives Jim Shelley up the wall

Tapehead no 155 

It goes without saying,” says one of the presenters on Deals On Wheels, “that most Capris have been thrashed to within an inch of their lives” – a disgraceful suggestion and a diabolical slur on the good name of the careful, considerate Capri drivers. (Of which Tapehead may or may not be one.)

The deal concerned is a five-speed D-reg white laser Capri with 68,000 miles on the clock, put up for sale by beautician/swinger/Essex girl Debbie. For the ridiculous reason, as the presenter put it, that Capris “are about as fashionable as a tank top and a pair of flares” – which goes to show what he knows. (Nobody mention Ron Dixon.)

Debbie has a good ding-dong about the Capri’s CD player with the bloke who wants to buy it and even when she sells it, still won’t let him take it away because she “wants some emotional space” with her laser. 

Another perfectly reasonable Capri owner.

Elsewhere, the programme follows a splendid old buffer selling his 1939 Alvis and an appalling South African hippy flogging an Austin 1100.

Neither particularly entertaining or informative, if nothing else, Deals on wheels confirms two amateur presenters are worse (not better) than one, not least because “the two presenters” “needlessly alternate” “reading the script out”.

An even bigger car dud, Coltrane’s Planes and Automobiles confirms that any series based entirely around a pun on the present’s name is going to end up in the graveyard scheduling of Sunday evening.

At an hour long, it is ferociously tedious, full of mind-numbing detail about cylinders and lines like “The German economy was in a shambles and money, especially here behind the Iron Curtain, was tight” right out of a GCSE essay (failed).

The high points appear to be watching Robbie Coltrane take an engine out of a Trabant (fascinating) and a conversation with a German bike enthusiast who says “Yes” to every question on the grounds that it’s the only word of English he knows. (Even questions like “Where are the gearboxes from ?” “Yes.”)

Not even people who are interested in cars will be able to sit through it.

At least Top Gear has a nifty theme tune and Jeremy Clarkson demonstration that (raise voice) irritating (lower tone), nasal (pause for italicised punchline) Top Gear delivery.

It’s also pretty funny how brazenly they get a couple of terrible broken women to do all the boring bits – making it look rather new-mannish when they didn’t want to do them anyway.

In The Car’s the Star, Clarkson-acolyte-in-chief Quentin Willson enjoys doing the Top Gear delivery so smugly it really is (pause) beyond parody. 

Unfortunately, it’s also beyond (pause) taking seriously.

Quentin is particularly authoritative when smugly dismissing viewpoints no one else really has, saying things like: “To merely describe the Corvette as America’s only sports car is to miss the point. It’s much, much more (pause) than that.”

His history lessons are also pretty laboured, as when he says, “By 1968 a localised conflict in Asia had escalated into a war America would never win” rather than just saying, “Vietnam happened.”

Most of it is padded out with old music and shots of Quentin grinning smugly at the camera as he shows off driving around a lot, pretending he can still fell the breeze blowing through his hair.

But as hard as he tries to be Clarkson, Quentin will always be Robin to Clarkson’s Batman. He’s even wrong about the Corvette, as Clarkson recently pointed out.

“Yes or no ?” Wilson challenged him smugly. “Have you driven it ?”

“I haven’t slept with Judy Finnegan.” Clarkson declared, pausing masterfully before concluding triumphantly, “but I know she’s fat and ugly.”

The best car programme of the week is Movers and Shakers’ look at the showdown race at the Wood Green Scalextric club.

A bunch of fanatics who compare themselves with sportsmen like Nick Faldo, they have cars customised with lead (“to feel more sure-footed”), pit mikes to talk to their mechanics, and 80-foot tracks in their hallways. 

They even have their own Schumaching shutter.

The moral of it all ? All men are boys.

Coltrane’s Planes and Automobiles: 7.30pm, Sun, C4

The Car’s The Star: 7.10pm, Mon, BBc2

Deals On Wheels: 8pm, Tue, C4

Top Gear: 8.30pm, Thu, BBC2

Movers And Shakers: 8pm, Mon, C4