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A site about memories, thoughts, photos, and unrepentant opinions about motorcycles and motorcycling after four decades of twisting the throttle.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Weekly Motorcycle TV Is Amateur Hour

I suppose I should file this blog entry under "Wishful Thinking."

I love the BBC TV show "Top Gear." If you are a car guy, even if only partially, you cannot help but enjoy Top Gear. The footage of the cars is dramatic, the music unconventional by American TV standards, and the three hosts are irreverent, educated, knowledgeable about cars, funny, and frequently bombastic. They are scathingly critical of the the cars they test when it is deserved and hesitate not a moment to poke fun at each other, America, British Royalty, or anyone else they think deserves a bit of puncturing. And they obviously love cars.

When compared to Top Gear all American motorcycle variety shows (and car shows) suck. They suck because they often appear to be done on a budget that would barely be sufficient for a high school health class video and it also appears that most of the production budget was spent on computer generated graphics for the opening of the show. They also suck because they cannot see past V-twins, Sturgis, Daytona Bike Week, stunting, and shilling for some motorcycle accessory company. It is apparently written into every production contract that the show must involve fake accessory installations, Sturgis, Daytona Bike Week, and boobs.

In large measure American weekly bike shows suck because the hosts of the shows suck at being hosts. They exude forced enthusiasm and they are seemingly untrained or are obviously untrained in speaking to an audience or to a camera ("jus keepin' it real, dood!"). Frequently the matter of simple enunciation is forgotten. Slurred words, poor grammar, and dialog handled awkwardly all lend an air of "Amateur Hour" to the bike shows.

The hosts of a first class motorcycle show should NOT chosen because they are a pretty boy with a square jaw line and a thick shock of soap opera hair. Some aging ex-racer who once took third place in a championship gets a thumbs down too because racing fame does not equal on-air ability. And because some bit of fender fluff has a double-D rack and her motorcycle license she is not automatically qualified to host a motorcycle show. I know some of my twelve regular readers would disagree with that last one. Gad, every time I see a motorcycle show host on a bike duck paddle to or from a stop I want to hit the delete button.

Someone please make a real bike show happen. I am tired of watching five minutes of, and then deleting from the DVR, "American Sport Bike Chopper Stunter TV" or whatever other lame, repetitious crap that is being foisted off as a motorcycle TV show this week. Or just bring back the old "Bike Week" show on SpeedChannel and let Dave Despain host it again. Is that too much to ask?


Mr. Motorcycle said...

As far as for my own viewing pleasure, I like the fiction myself. I like S.O.A. If I want the real deal, I'll go and ride my own and hang with other people who like to ride. I don't need to watch it on T.V. (Cept. maybe in the winter when I can't ride.) As far as a real T.V. show on bikes, that isn't all about hype, and glam, and the trials and tribulations of the family (Tuetle's), I couldn't agree more with you.

FLHX_Dave said...

Boobs! What the hell is wrong with boobs Doug! lol.

Alright, I was just talking about this awhile ago. I have no desire to watch Jesse James or American Chopper. I even hated S.O.A's first episode....but it grew on me for some reason...still can't figure that one out but it is what it is.

Thanks for the laugh. I'm taking you seriously but always love that cranky and honest opinion that is all yours. Always cracks me up.

Yeah, Doug, let's do this.

Canajun said...

I can't speak to SOA as I have yet to see an episode (don't get it here), but there's a big difference between drama and the reality shows. And the reality shows - all of them - suck big time IMO.

I expect the problem is that a "real" bike show, targeted at "real" bikers would only garner a 1% audience. The other 99% obviously like all the fake bullshit - Teutle's, James, etc. - and wouldn't know real motorcycling if it kicked them in the ass. So I generally don't bother.

mq01 said...

hmmm, well, im with you doug. i would like to see a real bike show. or maybe a show on meetups, rides (roads and bikes), and people. hmmm...

Kenn Stamp said...

I actually was talking with Steve Natt about this very thing about 2 weeks ago. I am the Editor-in-Chief of a website (2WF) and in talking with Steve he made it pretty clear that there is no money for a Top Gear style motorcycle program in the USA. He said that he's been trying to get it done for the past 25 years to no avail. Guess there just aren't enough of us that want a good, high quality motorcycle show.

LumpyCam said...

Oh, how i long for quality motorcycle TV programming!

Crusty said...

AMEN!!! American TV in general SUCKS muffler packing. SOA is ok but its FAKE. I am with you Doud, a quality TV show about bikes is very much needed. NOT another OCC copy...god one of those was to much as it is! -Crusty

Doug Klassen said...

Thanks for the comments, guys.

Mr. M/C, I watched the first two episodes of SOA and was put off by the overt violence. I enjoy bike stuff on TV because no one can ride 24/7. I've tried that when I was younger and I covered a lot of miles but didn't remember anything when I got home.


There is nothing wrong with boobs, they rate very highly on my list of favorite things but not as gratuitous entertainment on a motorcycle show. There are other venues for boobs as gratuitous entertainment.

Canjun, MQ, Kenn, and Lumpy, yes the real problem is that a properly done show about bikes would not attract the kind of audience needed to attract sponsors and pay the bills. Or maybe it would but no one's willing to risk it. I know they've tried to do Top Gear "down under" and it's said to be awful and they couldn't get the American version on the air for a single episode it was said to be so awful.

I'm still naive enough to think that quality will sell if it's promoted right and given a chance but our national and corporate fixation on instant results will never allow that.

I also believe that quality done right does not have to be exotic or elaborate, just done right. A knowledgeable presenter who speaks well, good content, and clear quality footage with simple editing should be enough for starters. There's a show (I think on Fuel TV) that covers dirt bike racing, mostly GNC stuff, and it's not bad because it doesn't try to be all things to all people. The old Dave Despain "Bike Week" show was good, mostly because of Despain.

Crustie, I forgive you for misspelling my name.


Crusty said...

lol just makin chore yoz was on yer toez....

Anonymous said...

Top Gear gets a very huge operating budget from the British govt. This is well beyond anything the MC industry could fund. Some of the BBC budget comes from TV licenses (yes) in the UK. Can you imagine the uproar of "socialist television" if that was attempted here?

Doug Klassen said...


We already have "socialist television" here in the USA, it's called PBS and gets many millions of dollars from the government to produce it's shows, a few of which are better than anything seen on cable TV or the mainstream channels. Let PBS do the show instead of another dreary "Frontline" piece, or a show on bad art, or yet another recycle of "Are You Being Served?"

Mr. Motorcycle said...

There you go Doug. If you really want it, talk to PBS. Maybe they'll listen.

Doug Klassen said...

Oddly enough, Mr. M/C, I suspect a TV production company would have an easier time selling the concept to PBS than SpeedChannel. I'm not a fan of PBS but they do carry a few programs that are worth watching that would never have had a chance of even being made by mainstream TV. Ken Burns' documentary "The Civil War" comes to mind and also "New Yankee Workshop" and "This Old House" all three of which have made serious amounts of money for people.


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