Monday, August 08, 2011

Entertaining television, or fake reality? UK "Top Gear" stages test so Nissan Leaf fails

It appears that BBC's Top Gear show might have done some manipulation when they went for a drive in the all-electric Nissan Leaf. Or so reports George Monbiot in The GuardianTop Gear's electric car shows pour petrol over the BBC's standards.

While the car was delivered with a full charge, Top Gear rigged that test by starting their drive with the batteries depleted. They set out on a 60 mile trip with the car telling them that the range left was only 30 miles, something that wasn't mentioned in the show. But even that may not have been enough for the producers: order to stage a breakdown in Lincoln, "it appeared that the Leaf was driven in loops for more than 10 miles in Lincoln until the battery was flat."

When Jeremy Clarkson was challenged about this, he admitted that he knew the car had only a small charge before he set out. But, he said: "That's how TV works".
Monbiot's article mainly takes Top Gear to task for crimes against BBC's Standards and Practices, but I'm more concerned about continuing crimes against documentary. When it becomes routine for events and situations to be faked in programs that appear to be documentary (i.e. non-scripted) will the audience soon believe that everything is fake?

Full disclosure here; I've been a fan of the show for sometime, but lately I've felt like they have been faking things rather than just creating unusual - maybe even extreme - situations (see: Has "Top Gear' jumped the shark?). I should also add that I recently drove a Nissan Leaf, and quite liked it; even though I think the range isn't great enough for me.

But I'm more perturbed about the underlying principle; if "reality" and non-scripted shows are creating or forcing outcomes, then they should be labelled as drama or fiction, rather than classified as documentary/fact.

I know I'm fighting a losing battle here, one that was probably lost when so-called "reality" programs adopted that label, but I will continue to fight it!

NotesOnVideo: Has "Top Gear" jumped the shark?

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