As concern builds over the environment there may come a time when people enjoying cars-like people enjoying smoking-will be deemed too dangerous for television. In this clean aired, clamped down future, die hard petrol heads will be forced to watch DVDs of Top Gear in furtive secrecy (not necessarily a bad thing) and doing an impression of Murray Walker will be an arrestable offence. But the real tragedy of all out pedestrian programming is that it would deny us one of the simplest and most gripping shows of all time-the automotive makeover meltdown and phonetic free for all that is Pimp My Ride UK.
The moment when their “pimped” motor is revealed to them and they go into a hysterical frenzy of disbelief and glee is one of the most dependable yet strangely heart warming things on TV. OK so it’s just a person getting excited over a car, but at least it’s real, and in this era of contrived reality, that counts. Not since the wall slid back on Blind Date has anyone on TV looked this genuinely surprised.
The other big shock about this show is how well it’s crossed the Atlantic. In the US original, hip hop star Xzibit proved to be an avuncular and capable host who combined with a formidable team of Californian custom mechanics geniuses, made the whole package seem tough to replicate. Yet somehow, the UK version- that should by any rational reckoning to be a poor relation of it’s American forebear- has flourished into a parochial gem. Not least because it’s anchored by what might turn out to be one of the most compelling broadcasting phenomena of the modern age-Tim Westwood.
For those of you still trapped in that boot, Tim Westwood is a middle aged white guy who, in a piece of piece of cultural osmosis that some find baffling, has risen to become the foremost hip hop DJ in the country and developed an entirely new variant of the English language in the process. Personally, I’d like to go on the record as saying that Tim Westwood is great. A genuine British eccentric in the great tradition, thriving in a universe of his own making-located somewhere between John McCririck and Jay Z.
With Westwood “at the controls,” a gang of UK mechanics led by a chap called Jamie who appears to have four hairstyles at once, the team scour the country for clapped out motors that are crying out for metamorphosis. And vehicles which-in Westwood speak-are “straight busted,” or “mad weak,” are transformed into things of such spellbinding ostentation that even Chris Eubank might think twice before taking them for a drive. It’s pointless, it’s perfect and unlike cars themselves it’s good clean fun. When you look at how the show has translated into other territories, Pimp My Ride UK is by comparison a national treasure. In Germany, it’s called Pimp My Farrhad (Pimp My Bicycle). Vorsprung Durch Technic indeed.