Tuesday, 2 November 2010

James May's Man Lab: Get excited and make things

Get excited and make things! A real man's motto. Posh Top Gear 8 year old, James May, leads us on a merry adventure through the rediscovery of the lost manly arts. In his struggle against cappuccino culture, moisturisers  and the manicured man, he takes every opportunity to make us laugh as only our inner little boy can.  Apparently 8 out of 10 men today cannot wire a plug. Sad statistic considering that when I went to school we had to learn that and so much more. I can still make a wobbly table or weld an ugly ashtray out of sheet metal. I'm well hard I am !.

 (PS: Episode 2 review posted ).
         Episode 3 review posted

So lets find out how your man skills are, can you diffuse a bomb? Serenade a woman? Shine shoes good enough  to see yourself? Can you assemble flat pack furniture from that store that rhymes with idea? One out of three ain't bad, but consider the fact Germany dropped an average of 85 dud bombs a day during the blitz, it's at least one skill maybe I should brush up on. As for serenading my lovely wife, I'm not so sure I'd want to inflict my singing voice on anybody, let alone my wife, but as she already loves me, I'll keep my romancing skills up by fixing things and throwing out the rubbish whilst speaking in rhyme. Speaking of poetry, James May is not shy about getting all heroic ode and purple prosaic about the classic man that has nearly gone extinct. His recitations amidst people pouring concrete for a 1000 year kitchen top or introspections whilst dismantling a bomb  are just one of the high points that lace through the hour of comedy and genuinely useful tips.

 You can tell May has been hanging around his Top Gear mates for too long, the sometimes less than subtle humour wrapped in near Oscar Wilde like wit,  gives us moments like when he informs us the bomb he will be disarming  is a replica stuffed with manure and Peter Andre's latest scent. Should it go off,  he would be covered in it. Throughout the episode, James May steps away from the bomb for a series of Pythonesque trips to the hardware store, and has a cup of tea delivered to him in a novel new way. Does it go off? You'll have to watch for yourself. And yes, I wanted it to go off as well, humiliation is almost de riguer in such a situation . We then have the near serious, but not quite, segment on how to woo the strumpet with Elizabethan rhyme strumming the guitar using a tuning method known as cheating. I had no idea that it could be that easy as I used to play piano and learned the hard way. James's assistant goes through with his quest to pursue the girl in gas valve repair class, with keystone cop results that promise to lead to further adventures of the kind.

My favourite skill test had to be the assembly of  flat pack furniture comedian Alex Armstrong partakes in his childhood passion and puts together a chest of drawers, hoping to beat his own personal record. The task is made even harder by deducting 5 minutes for every school boy error committed. Now I used to be rather good at this, but have since moved on to furniture made by craftsmen. But when I did do it, I used the lay it out method and follow the instruction on the plan, as, let's face it, they knew how best to go about it. James's helpful advice was designed more to wind up in a nice way than help, but that is nature of friendly male bonding type banter. What I love about flat pack isn't the stuff itself, but the idea you can build something quasi useful with just a bag of bolts and a key tool. I doubt any flatpack will ever make it onto antiques road show, but I have seen uglier things, so who knows.

During the programme, May and company descend into pure insanity bordering on the barking mad. Don't let the shoe shining with a pro or cookery bit where we learn  how to make a fish finger sandwich and condiments for, fool you. Underneath the calm collected and logical exterior of the Man Lab, lays a subconscious plane of ethereal creatures inhabiting a melting pot of Benny Hill, Charlie Chaplin, and RenĂ© Magritte. During a discussion about how to get to ones dinner sat on a picnic table soooo far away while mowing the lawn, a wheel chair comes out. You would think they might alter the chair to mow lawns and  tootle over to the  table for a snack. But you'd be wrong, in a move to prove to some women I know, that men aren't even close to un complicated, James May has the table fitted with wheels and a remote control device to bring the table to HIM! Fear not dear reader, he was reading my mind as you'll see when you watch for yourself.

Mobile picnic table too simple for you?  How about a system that orders and brings things about the house without moving? While not quite Wallace and Gromit, the solution is as complicated as it is appealing to every male who ever held a remote control. In the real world you would do one of two things, you could send an e-mail to the kitchen, await confirmation of your order by e-mail and then wait for a person who's not too busy whom the person in the kitchen has tapped up, to bring it to you OR you could lift the receiver on the phone in front of you and call it into the kitchen, using the already mentioned person presumably watching Dave, to bring it to you.  The solution Captain Slow comes up with is sooo much better.

Step one- You build a miniature railroad throughout the house.

Step two- Signal ( using your station master's card) the kitchen that you require the train in your office

Step three- You use your remote control pad ( having read the owner's manual ), pressing the appropriate buttons to stop the train .

Step four- You write a post it note requesting a banana, place in rail car .

Step five: send back to the kitchen using the correct codes

Step six- wait for the fruit to come to you and press the stop signal.
Step seven- Send the train to where it is next needed when the signal box tells you to.

I don't know about you, but it works for me.

James May's Man Lab , a worthy successor to his previous series James May's Toy Stories, is an instant classic that is destined to be renewed and replayed for the next 100 years on Dave. Despite it's clear comic orientation, the programme does point out a real important piece of information.... It's time men were men again. by all means, yes cook ( I do) , but don't become so crippled with laziness and gender confusion you can't do ANYTHING useful. Men, in case you missed the wise words of Canada's Red Green...."If you can't be useful then at least be funny" . In fact I'm waiting for the duct tape segment before the series is over.  The fact is that young women are less and less attracted to the useless, spineless Jessie who lives on lager and take away. They want you to be both useful AND funny.  With James May's help it can be done.

If you've had fun doing man tasks, drop him a line at manlab@bbc.co.uk  Mark your subject line "I had fun"

Episode 2 reviewed and up as well as Episode 3


irfan said...


the idea behind 'man lab' sounds really good, i really had high hopes for this show. but i feel you have dumbed it down so much its just beyond stupid.

its a real shame really, because I thought that this show had real potential to be funny, informative and useful.instead Mr May just prances around doing pointless things that either most men already know how to do or would never need to do.

this show feels as if it contains all the things that are dragging down top gear.

please sort it out.



failer said...

shut up the show is brilliant it is not being dragged down



shadow_demon said...

well doesnt matter how ppl think I would honestly say I have learnt things from this show....and I am waiting for the next series....is anyone who is fan of TOP GEAR should like this show as this show got same inspiration feel in it...its the way you see things and take things in brain so some ppl might say dumb things to drag things down but show goes on..Hail Captain Slow

Doc Fox said...

We need more episodes, any chance of Christmas and Hogmanay specials? Perhaps feature lengths to replace the obligatory Indiana Jones movie?

Mietek Padowicz said...

I'll make sure your perfectly sensible suggestion gets to James May

Brian Pemberton said...

Loved the 3 episodes. More Please!

Anonymous said...

no more episodes? i demand satisfaction. MORE EPISODES!!!

Miles said...

Good Show! More please.