Tuesday, September 26

Richard Hammond can rest easy

Watching the new series of Fifth Gear makes Gareth Crew want to freeze his blood and drill holes in his head

Al Gore! They’ve got Al Gore. Almost exciting: And that is not a phrase you usually hear about Channel Five-made programs. I almost couldn’t wait.

Earlier this year, I became the voice of the nation by stating that Five's Fifth Gear was far superior to that CeBeebies show on BBC2 on a Sunday night, so I was entrusted, in a non-biased way to review the new series (Monday, Five, 8pm)

Roll VT. Or something. Firstly, they’ve moved from their rather poor offices to the Ace CafĂ©. I’m not liking this. Next, it was Vikki-Posh Totty with some bloke called Tim Lovejoy (pictured)presenting.

There’s something mildly amusing about a bloke called Lovejoy presenting a programme about cars – I almost thought that he was going to add a mullet to his leather jacket and sell a dodgy motor. Which needn't be a bad thing, unless he then professes to know nothing about cars and thinks he’s Simon Amstell.

They even Top Gear tested some cars with Tiff ‘I want to be the Stig’ Nedell. And the only good thing about the race with a plane was that it was at Lydden Hill in Dover. I’ve been there. Excellent bacon butties.

But there was still the highlight: an interview with Al Gore no less. Okay so he was never actually US President but he's made rather a natty film about the environment and, admit it, he's still a big shot. And yet somehow Five managed to make the interview more disappointing than satsumas for Christmas.

When you have someone talking about the environment and wanting to do away with the internal combustion engine, you’d think there would be a good debate and some answers. There was nothing of any substance and Lovejoy did a post interview chat with Posh Totty that was right out of the quasi-rubbish PopWorld Mickey take. Come on! The chap was talking about the environment!

A few more races of insignificance and irrelevant features and, without any trace of hyperbole, it was definitely the most disappointing first episode of anything. Ever. Worse than The Phantom Menace.

Fifth Gear used to be a refreshing, technical change to Top Gear. Now it’s a poor copy without the wit. And that’s saying something.

Next up, on Channel 4 (9pm) was Bodyshock: Kill Me To Cure Me, focusing on the tragic situation that befell 27-year old Brett Kelver. Brett started to suffer from headaches. Thinking nothing of it, he went to the doctors. After an MRI scan he was diagnosed with an aneurysm that was so severe he could die at any time.

There appeared to be no way for him to survive, until, ironically a surgeon wanted to flatline him to work on his head – kill him for an hour by freezing him then deal with the aneurysm then wake him up. This was his story and the story of this technique.

After the obvious tearful farewells (they were all religious people – but never once did this film explore the moral dilemma of practically poking god in the eye and running away) the program started going on about how this technique started. It was not really that shocking and padding for the main part of the program - not least the testimony of a former surgery survivor/nutter who banged on for a while about an out of body experience.

Even so, this was mostly first class documentary story telling of a first class documentary story. The surgeon, with a hint of Robert Lindsay about, him ran through the risks to Brett and his family. Hilariously, he mentioned that one of the risks of the procedure would be death (notwithstanding the bit where he actually kills him for a while). We see the technique; a massive barbiturates session followed by a macabre replacing of standard 37 degree blood with an ice-chilled replacement. (Think getting off your head in Glasgow, and then getting beaten up). Then they killed him and worked on his head. “It’s not death,” said the surgeon, “As the state is reversible.”

And it was. After being dead for 17mins, he woke up. He made a full recovery. Incredible. Science is cool, and no one does a documentary better than Channel 4 (well, perhaps BBC2).

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