AMITIAE - Saturday 27 June 2015
Cassandra: Top Gear, Apple and W.B. Yeats (Updated)
By Graham K. Rogers
Update: it was announced over the weekend that it would be Netflix. For more information see, "Jeremy Clarkson set to return as host of new Netflix motoring show" (John Glenday, The Drum).
Earlier today, I spotted an article on Jalopnik by sniffpetrol who is (or was) Top Gear script editor Richard Porter. He also walked out with Clarkson, Hammond and May. "How We Made Top Gear" is a lesson on the creative processes that went into an episode of Top Gear. A number of points came out of this that reminded me of the professionalism shown by others, especially Apple and its events. I was also reminded of a poem by W. B. Yeats: Adam's Curse.
Being entertaining is not luck. A stand up comedian has a quick wit and an ability to deliver quick-fire responses; a good actor rehearses; musicians practice; writers edit and rewrite over and over. Yet all deliver output which seem so natural and unstrained that they seem somehow gifted magically.
As it has been with the presentations of Steve Jobs and the current Apple event star, Craig Federighi. Both presented (in different styles) in ways which seem so relaxed that the output belies the weeks of rehearsals. Jobs prepared in a theater hired for the purpose, with a critical audience making comments on the delivery until it was smooth and effortless. Federighi knows his products so well that he is able to veer off-script from time to time; but analyse one of those presentations and they are perfect: to the minute. The iPad appeared on-screen, for example, exactly 9 minutes into Steve Jobs' 2010 presentation.
His ungainly typing style disguised his immense ability as the fastest writer I've ever worked with, rapidly producing first draft words that were sharper, tighter and funnier than most word jockeys could manage after 20 attempts.
And again, he confirms the hard work behind the show with a side reference to Clarkson's own strong focus on the subject matter,
Top Gear might sometimes have seemed like a big, freewheeling, slobbery, shambolic mess but you'd be amazed at the attention to detail.
. . . A line will take us hours maybe;
An equally dangerous gamble is being made by Clarkson, Hammond and May. A move to either of the favourites (Netflix or ITV) will risk losing several countries where the program is currently available. This may affect any Netflix affiliation more. The format is critical too. Like Chris Evans' team, staying the same runs a risk. In the same way a new format has an equal risk: as with the BBC, viewers like what they know.
The chemistry within the team will help considerably; and so will their attention to detail.
Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand where he is also Assistant Dean. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. He is now continuing that in the Bangkok Post supplement, Life.
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