101 Things Birmingham Gave The World. No. 71: Top Gear

Amid the hoo-ha around the fracas, it’s easy to overlook that the current brooha-ha is the result of Birmingham’s influence. Yes, Birmingham invented the mechanisms of modern TV, yes, Birmingham was responsible for the growth of the motor car, and yes Birmingham has made Jeremy Clarkson more upset about concrete than a patsy who’s about to take a swimming lesson from the mafia. But we have an even more direct role in the ding-dong than that, because way back in 1977, just after we invented The Star Wars, Birmingham invented Top Gear.

Those clamouring for a more serious, Reithian, look at the automobile industry need only to look back at the first series: hosted by a woman — Angela ‘Short Fat Hairy Legs’ Rippon no less — it featured endless investigations into safety, re-run after re-run of colour-bleached footage of crash test dummies. The dummies drove cars, they drove them fast, and they said very little: it was a time of equality, it was a time of wit. It was a time that Big Centre TV and their flagship Land Rovers Live are harking back to today. But, if possible, with more stilted presenters.

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