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TV review: Change of Top Gear in brilliant tear-jerking tribute to Eddie Kidd

Paddy McGuinness paid a moving tribute to Eddie Kidd in Top Gear.

The new series of Top Gear (BBC One) roared back into life in typical fashion on Sunday – all cheeky bonhomie in a face-off between the lads and a trio of F1 drivers.

So far, so petrolhead-pleasing, rip-roaring, high-octane stuff, courtesy of Paddy, Freddie and Chris and racing aces who I suspect are household names, just not in mine.

Then, without any warning, Top Gear changed gear.

From the fast and the furious, it went to the gentle and, dare I say it, heartbreakingly poignant.

It was all Paddy McGuinness’s fault as he went in search of Eddie Kidd, the motorcycle daredevil who became a household name in the 1990s.

They told lovingly of a boy, then man, with no fear who wanted to be the best in the world at what he loved most.”

He set it up beautifully, talking to friends and family of the man who tackled ever more death-defying stunts after being inspired by Evel Knievel as a kid.

They told lovingly of a boy, then young man, with no fear who wanted to be the best in the world at what he loved most. If you weren’t sure of the back story – and I wasn’t – you’d be forgiven for thinking they were talking of someone lost in a tragedy.

Freddie Flintoff, Paddy McGuinness and Chris Harris.
Top Gear top blokes – Freddie Flintoff, Paddy McGuinness and Chris Harris.

Paddy took us through the highlights of Eddie’s spectacular jumps, from breaking world records over umpteen busses to his jump-off with Evel’s son Robbie, to leaping over the Great Wall of China.

And then in hushed tones and sombre music we arrived at the fateful jump in 1996 that saw Eddie basically slam into an uphill slope, sustaining the serious injuries that left him paralysed and brain-damaged.

Despite his injuries, you could see that bright soul was still burning fiercely.”

It was when Paddy went to meet the Eddie of today the waterworks began. Despite his injuries, you could see that bright soul was still burning fiercely. Communicating through his carer, he joked and laughed with Paddy, who was clearly in awe at meeting his hero.

A road trip followed, with a convoy of bikers passing a convertible Rolls carrying Eddie and Paddy, all waving and saluting. The joy on Eddie’s face shone through.

The climax was a spectacular daredevil show put on by the stunt cyclists and drivers Eddie had inspired. That could have been a miss-step, but Eddie’s gleeful face, then tears, sold it as a wonderful, heartfelt moment.

It was a brilliant piece of emotional television, all the sharper because you were completely blindsided by what was coming –  a fitting, inspiring tribute to the true legend that is Eddie.


The pros cook up a treat for Masterchef

The only Masterchef (BBC One) that really matters is once again serving up some tasty treats.

Those celebrity and amateur iterations are fine, but when you put professionals in the kitchen things become delicious.

The recipe is a familiar one. For starters, there’s a skills test with cringe-inducing moments when you realise you might know your way around a monkfish fillet better than someone who chefs for a living.

Masterchef: The Professionals with Marcus Wareing, Gregg Wallace and Monica Galetti.
Masterchef: The Professionals with Marcus Wareing, Gregg Wallace and Monica Galetti.

The main course is a challenge to showcase their own dishes that either confounds the initial impressions of incompetence or reinforces here is someone to be binned faster than an off oyster. And who doesn’t love guessing who is going to be told to hang up their apron and head home?

This is comfort food to happily binge on – and given it’s on most nights, there’s plenty of chance to do just that.


Foundation builds better future than novel

As a geeky kid, I idolised science fiction Isaac Asimov’s robot short stories – the man single-handedly created the rules of robotics, for goodness sake.

But his Foundation novels just never gripped me, mainly because as a writer he was good at imagining artificial beings, just not so hot on creating believable human ones.

Foundation has a cinematic feel.

That’s a balance that has been corrected by the rather excellent Foundation TV series on Apple TV+.

From what I remember as somewhat turgid and dense books we have a believable drama of humankind in the far-flung future, where a seemingly unending empire is starting to fray around the edges.

As well as bringing a human touch to the story, the production brings a cinematic feel to the lush look of the show, befitting a story that spans thousands of years.

I think Asimov would have been chuffed – and that’s a high compliment.


Mastermind is no longer for big brains

I’m old enough to remember when Mastermind (BBC Two) was for people with big brains who had memorised Beowulf in the original Old English.

Those were the days when Magnus Magnusson was a figure of fear, for all that he was a lovely chap.

Clive Myrie hosts Mastermind.

What do we get these days? Contestants displaying their encyclopaedic knowledge of butterflies and Kate Bush and Clive Myrie with a rather grating way of saying “yaesss”.

I started watching it… I didn’t finish.


Film of the Week: Deadpool (Film 4, Tuesday)

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a big, ever-expanding franchise that delights some devoted film fans, but dismays others. Ridley Scott isn’t a devotee, judging from his recent comments.

Ryan Reynolds is hot stuff in Deadpool.

Mind you, some might argue he has a point about boring scripts and even die-hard aficionados of the Avengers have to admit they blur into a CGI collage of wham-bam action sequences.

The antidote is Deadpool. Irreverent, dark and funny, while still managing to be full of action, it’s a treat.

That’s largely thanks to the man behind the mask, Ryan Reynolds who places his tongue firmly in his cheek as he gleefully fires a barrage of “did-he-just-say-that” jokes while cheerfully breaking the fourth wall.

A pitch-black comedy with ultraviolence meshed in with a love story shouldn’t work, but it does – which is its superpower.

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