Thumbs down for Top Gear

The TV license currently costs €160 a year. That money allows RTE to deliver its public service commitment, including expensive programming such as Prime Time that, were cost and crude ratings the only consideration, might be ditched in favour of more Failte Towers.

The 100% commercial TV3 gives a clearer picture of what purely pay TV gets you – wall-to-wall US and Australian soaps during the day and imported soft porn later in the evening (still, at least they can’t be blamed for Failte Towers).

The Irish government, we are told, is committed to a 3 per cent reduction in our CO2 emissions in line with EU guidelines over the next decade. That same government and its various agencies spends taxpayers’ money advertising the likes of,, etc. to promote the message of conservation and emissions reductions.

Among the most noxious emissions you’ll find on RTE emanate from the imported BBC show, Top Gear, fronted by the motormouth, Jeremy Clarkson. In the age we live in, this show is about as PC as Benny Hill chasing half naked girls around the park. And yet there we have it. RTE, despite the taxpayers tens of millions and its public service ethos, is happy to shell out our cash to pay Jeremy Clarkson to extend his boy racer adolescence buzzing around racetracks burning as much rubber and petroleum as his childish heart desires.

His “hilarious” review of the Toyota Prius culminated in him having some unnamed redneck blow it to pieces using a variety of weapons from a pistol to a .50 calibre heavy machine gun. What a hoot!

If that wasn’t enough of a laugh, Clarkson then set out to ‘prove’ that the Prius is LESS green than a BMW M3, mainly by haring around a racetrack at 100mph, ie. precisely the way the Prius was never intended to be driven. The usual jibes at the use of batteries in the Prius (gosh, they have to be made in a big factory, not at all like the M3, which is mainly made of hemp and runs on dandelion petals).

OK, I admit to driving a Prius, and find it does the job for a family of four plus large dog. On mixed city/country driving, it’ll average around 55mpg, which is at least twice what it’s German-made predecessor ever managed. Plus, I get the €100 road tax, and my motor insurance this year was the lowest I’ve paid since an unlamented Honda 50 of mine waaaay back when.

Yes, diesels are a good option too. The new BMWs are apparently scoring extremely highly. The Prius does make a statement, of sorts. I reckon it says: “I’m not that bothered about how I look, I do the job of getting you around from A to B with the least fuss, and you don’t drive me so that other people will ooh and aah you and want to own me too.”

In short, it’s a very understated little duckling. Ugly too, but in a cute way, if you know what I mean. I don’t think a car should be a portable status symbol (or penis replacement, though some years ago I did drive a very red and very speedy Supra, so I preach here with the humility of a boy racer who perhaps finally grew up).

Folk who are really into cars (like most motoring journalists) truly inhabit a different world to the one the rest of us fret about. While they may be a little more tactful about it than Clarkson, you can still almost feel the drool in the newspaper reviews about each ridiculous new gas guzzler.

The Irish Times had a recent piece on Aston Martin’s “stunning silhouette”, a monster with a seven-litre engine and a 0-100km speed of 3.5 seconds and the ever-useful top speed of 322km/hr, or 200mph, as we used to call it.

They don’t even bother telling us how many grams of CO2 this £STG1 million machine emits. Then if you’re rich enough to afford it, you’re rich enough to give two fat fingers to the planet.

Still, when motoring journos “go green” it’s almost funnier. Like the recent article asking if “eco-friendly motorsport is all smoke and mirrors?” (good headline, though). This article tells us that a Formula One car wolfs down up to 70 litres of high-octane fuel for every 100km covered – that’s three and a half times more than even the BMW M3 when driven hard.

It’s also 12 times worse than my Prius, which I should add, also has a lot more room in the back. Try loading a Labrador in behind Lewis Hamilton in his McLaren and you’ll see who has the last laugh!

ThinkOrSwim is a blog by journalist John Gibbons focusing on the inter-related crises involving climate change, sustainability, resource depletion, energy and biodiversity loss
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4 Responses to Thumbs down for Top Gear

  1. Eric Conroy says:

    Well said John!

  2. Billy the kid says:

    Clarkson is stuck in a kind of perma-puberty. Endearing, sort of, in a 14-year old kid, but just a little scary in a full grown man like him. OK, shooting the Prius was pretty anodyne, but his line at the end complaining that not only is it a shit car, and not all that fuel efficient, but it’s not even BULLETPROOF, now that’s pretty funny.

  3. Jenny-O says:

    I think Top Gear is great, in a 1970s kind of way, even down to Jeremy Clarksen’s awful hair! If you watch it as a comedy rather than a serious programme, it kind of works better. Though I do agree with you that RTE in the current, well, climate, should seriously think about pulling it off the air.

    Even if you don’t care about the emissions or the waste of fossil fuels, think of the example this show is setting for the boy racer brigade, as they buzz and 100mph around the back roads of Ireland.

  4. John says:

    Good article John,

    I’m interested in climate change activism and think that one problem we have in our society is the amount of advertising for things like Top Gear.

    Are there any groups that you know of in Ireland devoted to stopping fossil fuel advertising in the media?



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