Monday, September 10, 2012

Deep Inside James May
Part 1
Well, not literally
But you know what I mean....

For those of you living under a rock, James May is an extremely accomplished Brit and a current co-host of the wildly popular motoring TV show, Top Gear

He's known as Captain Slow by his co-presenters - Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond - because of his unique driving skills and lack of direction.

But the truth is England lives and breathes James May. Angels cry when he speaks and unicorns cry rainbow tears at the sound of his name. 

The entire British economy is based on how May feels when he gets up in the morning, and industries have been known to crumble depending on his mood.

May is a renowned classical pianist, a certified pilot, an admired journalist and a car buff. His tastes in cars is eclectic - ranging from an antique Rolls to a Fiat Panda to a Porsche.

He's a philosopher, a writer, a award-winning singer and has gained national attention lamenting on Great Britain's loss of manliness in his show James May's Man Lab

On the set of Man Lab

May is a wine connoisseur, a rocket scientist responsible for England's entire aerospace satellite industry, and the current CEO of Daewoo Motors.

He also provides valuable insight to subjects like the human brain to the history of flight in a variety of shows such as Things You Need To Know.

But today, we're here to talk about his greatest accomplishment....

Simply put, James May's Toy Stories

May explores the long-forgotten toys of our youth, and more importantly, embarks on a series of shows that each not only investigates a particular toy's history - but brings people together in doing so, as well.

I highly recommend that you watch the series, which can be seen on YouTube.

I will say up front that, although I'm American, and had never heard of such things as Meccano and Plasticine, but I got the gist of the experiments. 

I had slot-cars and railroads and model airplanes as a child, even though the names are different here, you get the idea.

Scalextric is the British version of slot-cars, and Airfix is the British version of a model kit. 

Hornby is just about any model railroad setup, although I'd never heard of it. It doesn't matter. It all looks like good fun to me.

An actual bridge made of Meccano bits and pieces

As for anything resembling Meccano - a hodgepodge of girders and bolts to make machinery - that's before my time.

But then, who hasn't made Lego?

In episode 5 of Toy Stories, May builds actual two-story Lego house with plumbing and everything. How cool is that?

My favorite episodes, however, are the first and last. In Episode 1, May and group of thirteen-year-olds build a life-size replica of a Supermarine Spitfire after exploring the lost art of model-making. 

The end results are truly extraordinary. Yep, that's a life-size Spitfire built by a bunch of kids that would have rather been playing on their XBox. But they seemed to have a good time.

In Episode 6, May and his team attempt to build a model railway from Barnstaple to Bideford - a distance of 10 miles. 

Unfortunately, their efforts are hampered by pranksters nicking batteries and putting coins on the track. 

No matter. James May went back and tried it again with a special episode. This time he was successful.

I think we need somebody like James May very much here in America, and I'm currently devising a plan that involves a prisoner-exchange of some sorts with the British government.

This the kind of the reality TV we need.

James May brings people together with imaginative projects and rather good story lines...but most importantly?

The British kids involved had a blast, learning something because of May. And because of the way his shows are presented, there is never a dull moment for the adults.

How often do we see that here in the U.S.?

In Part 2 we'll look at James May's other shows.....

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