Friday, 11 March 2011

Have you been watching Guy Martin on TV?

The apparent "northern character" replacement by the BBC for the late Fred Dibnah is a guy called Guy Martin. Guy Martin's major claim to fame is his ability to ride a motorcycle round the TT course on the Isle of Man at a flatulance inducing speed. When it comes to riding a high power motorcycle Guy Martin has few peers.

A simple description of Guy is that he his a very personable young man, He has some very large "mutton chop" sideburns and is endowed with a soft Lincolnshire accent. The average Jill Public female will find him to be something of an endearing boyish character.
The narrow-boating program is called "The Boat That Guy Built". The problem is that if we take the title literally, then Guy is not building a boat - more almost renovating a boat. Reckless the boat was burned out in the past and has been part restored to a lined sailaway condition already. Guy who is a truck mechanic by trade, starts to renovate the narrowboat. Whilst at the same time travelling along some disjointed sections of the canal network.

The BBC said "Guy will be using and illustrating some of the inventions of the Industrial Revolution. The programme involves reconstruction of some early industrial processes such as the smelting of iron."
Program number one: Was very light weight and I think it was intended to set the plot for the later episodes. In the episode Guy and his oppo Mave attempt their first faltering steps in narrow boat control. They also learn about making tea as well as throwing a pot and casting a small cast iron cauldron.

There are a few errors in the filming continuity, as well as large canal distances being covered in a short time space. There are also glaring errors in some safety aspects, such as lighting a barbecue to brew tea on the roof of a boat.  Especially a narrow boat that has been burned out on a previous occasion.

What does come across is that Guy finds the whole experience enjoyable, his enthusiasm shines through and his very dry almost droll sense of humour will be lost on some people.
In most biker forums, Guy's first exploit into the world of television has been well received. Yet at the same time, on some inland waterway forums the program content and Guy have been panned. On a scale of one to ten - I would give the program a six. Plus a school report of "Guy could do better". I shall await the next five episodes with some interest.

The late Fred Dibnah shoes will take some filling. Mark Williams presented a number of similar industrial revolution and Victorian engineering programs. Whilst Williams was portrayed acting the part of a tough brash northerner. His character did not have the same natural down to earth quality of Fred Dibnah.

Fred Dibnah was filmed in 1978, making repairs to a Lancashire Town Hall by a regional BBC news crew. The BBC later commissioned an award-winning documentary of Fred Dibnah at work as a "northern" steeplejack. Dibnah's rough and no nonsense manner, plus his gentle Lancashire accent and philosophical look on life, proved very popular. Dibnah was commissioned later to present a programme on Britain's industrial history which also proved to be very popular. Later Fred went on to present a further series, largely concerned with the Industrial Revolution and its mechanical and architectural legacy.

Guy Martin is from the same north of England background as Fred Dibnah and has many of his northern qualities. Including a quick wit, a natural inquisitiveness and a willingness to state the obvious. I hope that in time Guy Martin's natural charm and pragmatic outlook will be seen in a similar light. There are close parallels between them both. I could easily imagine Fred and Guy over a beer and a cup of tea, having long conversations about all kinds of industrial and mechanical engineering issues. They would both be at ease with each other.

Since I started writing this, part II has now been viewed. In the words of Paul Daniels "I liked it, a little bit, not a lot" its not what I would have described as compelling viewing. I still can't make up my mind if it is the subject matter or alternatively building up and fleshing out of the two main characters which this series is directed at. As in the previous episode there are certain canal safety worries. Normally I would not promote the "Safety Taliban" mindset. However climbing off the roof onto a bridge, crossing the road and climbing down again onto the boat is a stupid prank. It sends a very poor safety message about what can be a deadly hobby. But when you are used to racing a motorcycle on the track this narrow-boating will seem quite tame by comparison.

Maybe I need to try and adapt my tastes, a bit like when we were presented a few years back with the "alternative comedy" of Alexi Sayle. Which in all honesty I found to be as funny as sore piles. I admit that I am a bit more of a Ben Elton and Mark Thomas fan. Which I like to postulate as being the "Thinking Man's Comedy". Observational comedy has always been my first choice, from people such as Billy Connolly and John Bishop. That's not to say that I don't like what is served up as alternative, its just that some alternative comedy is more alternative than others.


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