It's very hard to find quality programming in the automotive world. Very few programs are both entertaining and informative, and many don't last a first season before a network cancels the entire show. Think of the Car Show, or how many times Top Gear USA went from in the works to shelved before they got Rutledge, Tanner, and Adam to click.
What I'm trying to illustrate is that it is extremely difficult to make lightning strike and get everything we all want to watch and commit our time to. Somehow, the BBC has got lightning to strike on their side once again with Idris Elba: King of Speed.
I usually have a hard time getting behind car shows, primarily due to the hosts. They are usually stale, old, and talk only about their "good ole days" from when they were kids and how everything today needs to be more analog. It feels as if their fire, their passion for being a petrol/gear head is gone, and that they are just doing this as a job.
It's why I can't get into Velocity's Chasing Classic Cars or Legendary Motorcar. They are just reporting things, sure you get to see cars that are almost never seen, but it is so dry and so boring, I just can't watch it.
TopGear and FifthGear seemed to have pioneered the way a car show should be presented, a bit factual, but also show the love for cars and people will tune in. While those two British shows are great and I will watch every episode, they too are becoming a bit stale. It's the same bits over and over again, the same tests, the same jokes. Nothing has changed, nothing is new, at least to me.
This year we have already seen the first episode of /Drive Networks freshman season which was very good, and I hope the upcoming episodes are awesome too. But until the next episode is out, the BBC has us covered with Idris Elba: King of Speed.
The show centers around the actor Idris Elba, some of you may recognize him from the BBC show Luther, and others will recognize him from a few of the movies he's done, such as The Losers or Pacific Rim. Watching him on the big screen or on TV, I never really thought he would be a car guy. Boy was I wrong.
The show starts off with Idris doing a short monologue to a backdrop of series car porn shots, which usually means it probably will be all about those shots and not much substance. But as you watch, as you listen to his voice, everything starts to fall into place. You are overcome with a sense of genuine love for all things automotive. And that's the key word for this show, genuine.
It isn't some trite act of an actor playing a part; it's one of us talking about our personal cars. It's us discussing, arguing, passionately about which era of Formula 1 is better. It a beautiful representation of what a fan is. What seals it is his smile. You can't fake the grin you get when you're with friends, with other like-minded people, or doing something you always wanted to.
The first episode looks at two different topics, the first being what has befallen Detroit with a bit of its underground racing scene, and second about NASCAR at Watkins Glen. Both of these could be entire shows by themselves, but the way the episode weaves both together allows you to take a journey that pays off big at the end. I won't spoil anything more than that, because you should all watch it.
What makes this episode aren't the amazing camera shots, or even the cars, rather its Elba's cadence, his passion, and the score in the background. I can show you car porn shots all day, but it won't do anything for you without the right music behind it. The score elevates the show, it elevates the presenter, and it just works.
From the previews and commercials I saw before the episode aired, I figured it would be good, but a lot like TopGear due to the silly sounding song they had playing over it. I am happy to say I was wrong. The show is more like the /Drive videos. It's artfully shot, brilliantly scored, and the love of the car seeps through every pore of the show. It's not contrite, it doesn't talk down to you, and it is just an expression of love. This all may sound like I work for the BBC trying to promote the show, but we get far too little really great programming as car fans and when something is this good, it needs to be properly talked about. Go watch it, you won't be disappointed.
Idris Elba: King of Speed airs Monday's on BBC America.
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