Silent Stig meets motormouth Dermot... and it's a TV car crash
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BBC's The Getaway Car
Divorce is never pretty, and when Auntie Beeb ended her abusive relationship with Uncle Grumpy, the mess was spectacular.
If Jeremy Clarkson had punched his missus for failing to provide a hot dinner, as he did a Top Gear producer last year, he might have been taken to the cleaners through the courts.
The Getaway Car is the worst TV spin-off since Joey Tribbiani got his own series on the back of Friends.
But he walked away with most of the spoils when his marriage to the BBC broke down irretrievably. He got to keep his wealth, after selling his share in the Top Gear brand for a reported £13million, four years ago. And he got custody of James May and Richard Hammond, for what that’s worth.
All the Beeb had to show for their 26-year relationship were a lifetime supply of repeats and all rights to the Stig — Top Gear’s former ‘tame racing driver’, a silent figure in white overalls who stands with his feet apart and his arms folded like an under-nourished bouncer.
It doesn’t seem fair. But Auntie is determined to make the best of it, by giving Stiggie a show of his own: The Getaway Car (BBC1).
You might wonder what’s the point of Saturday night entertainment starring an anonymous man who never speaks, with no special talents except for driving fast and wearing a vaguely alien crash helmet.
And you’d be right to wonder. The Getaway Car is the worst TV spin-off since Joey Tribbiani got his own series on the back of Friends.
The Stig, in happier times, with stars Cameron Diaz and Tom Cruise.
To bypass the problem that the Stig won’t or can’t talk, the producers brought in motormouth Dermot O’Leary, a man who won’t or can’t shut up. And to compensate for the Stig’s charisma vacuum, they devised a collection of driving challenges and four-wheeled quiz games — all of which were complete rubbish.
In one, contestants had to guess the 50 most common words in the English language while being driven at speed along a dirt track in a buggy. In another, they had to pick a picture on a polystyrene wall and smash through it, to answer a question. (For instance, who made more Bond movies, Pierce Brosnan or Roger Moore? Crash into the winning face!)
If those bits of the show never got out of first gear, other sections stalled completely — such as the part where the cars were plastered with soap suds before the drivers tried to steer a giant football into a goal. It felt like a ghastly flashback to Jeux Sans Frontières of the Seventies. For a finale, the contestants had to drive a lap with the Stig in pursuit. When he overtook them, they lost.
They got a short head-start, but the former professional racing driver got the faster car, which really didn’t seem fair. Divorce has clearly left Auntie Beeb bitter and jaded.