Have you ever watched Robson Green's Extreme Fishing? I don't fish. I don't even eat fish, I'm a veggie, but I do like to see yon actor from various things on at 8pm on ITV (usually a Sunday) gets over excited about pulling or failing to pull different marine life out the sea. And he does it all over, America, the Andes, the more remote bits of Europe. He's been on a fishing boat in Brazil. He's gone north sea fishing. He doesn't always catch anything, mostly he's shown up by the locals who show him their neck of the woods. He's been sick on camera, almost stung in the face by a poisonous spitting octopus, and camped on a tropical beach, ate his catch by the campfire and watched the sun rise. That's a good show. The Cycle Show is not this Show.
Have you seen Top Gear? Silly question, I know, but bare with me as I can't drive, I have a secret intention of never learning. But I will watch three middle everything - aged, class, spread, England, - idiots career around various countries, occasionally in the style of said countries second hand motor of choice. High jinks and bickering generally ensue as these three giant spoilt children are taken out of their comfort zone into countries that will tire, muck, infect and occasionally stun them into silence with the beauty of that countries landscape. When they're not doing that they occasionally look at swanky cars no one else can afford, the occasional affordable car, adopt a style of driving they don't usually do (caravaning, aquatic, train), and have someone very famous try their hand at rally driving. They'll race their cars against other forms of transport (the cars don't always win). The Cycle Show is not this Show.
Both these shows are interesting to people who drive, or fish as there is an element of fantasy, a glimpse of how you would live if you had the budget you wanted and then some. But the vast majority of these shows are watched by people who don't drive or fish, because these shows are not just about their main subjects. These shows are mostly about the joy of these subjects. The Cycle Show on ITV4 is not one of those Shows.
Remember how you never watched Blue Peter because it was like School. Well, The Cycle Show that show. The presenter is certainly professional. But he's also half saddle wanker, half panorama-esque journalist, his attempts at bonhomie are circa a repressed vicar from the 1800's, and, this is the unforgiveable thing, he does it all wearing Meggings. Grey ones. There's no reason for any man to wear Meggings. NONE. AT. ALL.
The show on the whole is very, well, it's like those lone ranging time trialing weirdy beardies from the sixties and seventies tried to 'get down with the kids', and missed the mark completely. But it does have it's good points. Out of all their guests from the episode I watched, to my surprise I found myself agreeing with Masterchef John Terrode when he said 'No I don't cycle because I eat, I eat because I enjoy it, and I cycle because I enjoy it' whilst sitting in the TV studio in a healthy fug of his own dampness. I identified more with that than I did with any other item on the 30 minute programme. That simple statement classified why there was a need for a programme the cycling show purports to be but is not.
There seems to be an assumption that they don't have to explain why cycling's important. Where it comes from, why you should listen to the weird skinny old man riding the lotus in the heavy woollen jersey, the industry it had behind it, and the effect that had on bikes today and why cycling should fit in our every day today.
There's none of the joy expressed, the joie de vive of the feeling of air in your face, or from the accomplishment getting about under your own speed. A lot of it seems geared to those who want to do an etape on the continent. Who will travel miles to get that hill under their belts, and who's got the cash to flash on Rapha, which is what is marginalising the sport now.
There could be so much more to the show than features that read like dry mountain bike show leaflets, or talking about sports products that very few people have a use for. Where's the new start, the fish out of water, and the old hand trying to compete with the new blood. How about taking a velodrome rider and sticking him up a mountain using a ski lift and giving him a fat tyre bike. Or even getting a newly accomplished roadie and giving him technology that was available 30 years back.
How about taking a new sportive rider and showing them how the pro's descend on a corner? What about doing profiles on cycling through the ages? How it affected the working man, the child and woman's movement? The kind they used and why. About cycling during the wars. About people who have turned to cycling yet never have been a cyclist before. The debate over padding versus no padding. Lycra and the rise of the Mamil. About why next door needs four bikes, about clipped in pedals and the slow fall of shame, how to handle it if you're being shouted at by an angry idiot on the road, how to do round abouts when you can't go fast enough to jump on? Where is the feature on why knickerless lassies should always ride bikes I ask you?!
It's frustrating. It could be a far better show than what it is just now, and they are trying but who are they trying for? Not every one who watches Top Gear cares about grands hatch (if that is a motor thing), and I can't even think of a fishing competition. A little less of the what we do, and why wouldn't go a miss.
What do you guys think? Do you agree, disagree with me on the show? Have you not even seen it before? What features would you like to see? Let me know on the comments below!