With Top Gear now signed up for perhaps the least popular streaming service online and considering some have ended up signing with Yahoo that’s saying something. So the question is will the three grumpy old boys work well under new management and more importantly will anyone follow them over? Until then the question is where else can we find three grumpy, old, slightly sexist, men who should know better as they travel across the country bickering, arguing and complaining in the pursuit of entertainment. Well here’s an idea.
‘Three men in a boat’ is based upon the classic piece of literature, by Jerome K Jerome, following three men on a boating holiday down the Thames. In 2006 the BBC decided to recreate this by sticking two has been comedians and one currently bean, on a rowing skiff and shoving them off down the river and recording the results. Like the book the three are joined by a dog, though theirs isn’t fictional, though it’s training seems to be as she struggles to sit when told and jumps into canals when told not to. You can see why they are eyeing up the swan just afterward.
Now switching between long tracking shots and bits to the camera the three visit famous locations and famous chefs as they sail, camp and mosey on down the Thames. Now it would be hard to say these three are exactly the same as the Top Gear trio but it’s interesting to note how quickly into the show the three each find a role. Griff Rhys Jones the now tea-total ex-comedian, struggling with bland travel shows and anger management since ‘Alas Smith and Jones’ is the bossy pants of the group, Rory McGrath is the red faced, alcoholic with an eye for British birds of both types. Meanwhile Dara O Briain is the smug giant of the group acting as the muscle in contrast to his mathematics degree, though considering he starts on a crutch that just leaves him smug and slightly condescending, though you could easily say the same about the other two too.
Anyway these four have to travel from Kingston to Oxford in a rowing skiff and manage to do so in under a week. Okay so it’s not exactly high stakes or action packed.
Due to this being the first go at this it is quite sloppy and haphazard which manages to be in the shows favour. Set ups run over into what seem to be genuine gags, such as Rory getting lost in the maze while pretending to get lost in the maze or a sketch about three pompous comedians being unable to put a tent up ending with the director having to come in to give them a hand.
The two part, two hour show splits up the trip down stream with “casual” drop ins on famous friends like David Gilmour of ‘Pink Floyd’ and his floating recording studio. Or Magna Carta island where they aren’t even in time to catch the trees never mind anyone who signed it. Though perhaps most notable is dropping in on Anthony Worral Thompson and managing to take stuff from him for a change. Though perhaps this is just a cover to set up a fancy smuggling ring for all the stuff he managed to swipe.
Now just as we watch Top Gear to see three men struggle to drive, here we get three men who struggle to row. Most of the dialogue is probably taken up with the three arguing over who rows best and who should lead ending with a race against a amateur women’s rowing team that manages to wipe the floor with them, a common theme every time these three get together. Even the trip to the rowing museum doesn’t manage to help despite the sauciest rowing machine in the world trying to encourage them to get into synch for once in their life instead of letting their egos lead.
So do they end up learning the importance of friendship and hard work in the fresh country air. Well not really, they leave Griff cooking supper at one point to row into town, go to the pub and book a couple of rooms and they end by hitching a lift off a gin palace going the same way to end the show. To be fair this does seem quite in keeping with the book where they ended by jumping on a train and ditching the skiff for a night in their own bed.
The show doesn’t show much promise to go much further and it’s interesting to see the three discussing their retirement plans already. Despite the fact that this is probably too late for Griff and Dara is probably the one who needs it most seen as how all he has is a maths show and Mock the Week and the maths show is the interesting one. It is Rory who makes the most interesting comment by deciding that he’s going to see out his later years with a nice quiet show on pubs. Seen as how he tried that and only got about five episodes in before it was cancelled I can’t help but wonder what he’s going to do next.
As for what the ‘Three men’ will do next we shall have to wait and see.