MEDIA: Fifth Gear: An Expert's View - Leslie Butterfield revels in C5's Fifth Gear, and its uninhibited appreciation of driving a car

How long is it since you heard the word 'joy' used in the context of cars? Better still (for people like me who still love them), how long since you felt a kind of infectious joy from someone talking about driving a car?

Well Channel 5's new show, Fifth Gear, had both. So if you've lost that joyful feeling, this programme comes as something of a boost (turbo, of course).

Even more than its (obvious) predecessor, Top Gear, it puts some of the fun back into driving.

The appeal is broad, male and female, and definitely not just for petrol-heads.

The analysis is sharp and practical without being too technical. For Channel 5, my guess is that it will become an important peak time anchor slot, despite on Mondays at 8pm being up against EastEnders.

In many ways, of course, Fifth Gear's real competitors are the car magazines, but while most of these tip-toe around the issues of speed cameras, bus lanes and "responsible motoring", Fifth Gear follows in the footsteps of Clarkson and celebrates all things on four wheels ... and their drivers.

And there's the big difference. Quentin Wilson and Tiff Needell, in particular, do a great job at enthusing about the metal, but (unlike the car mags) the drivers get a look in too, and give you a feel for what it's like to own a vintage Jaguar or a £33,000 Citroen Saxo.

Fifth Gear also recognises how irrational people can be around this subject. How, as with the Nissan Primera they featured, people will buy a car just because it has got a rear view camera!

But what I liked most was that it was opinionated. So often, you hear or read flattering reviews of cars that look just plain ugly.

Here is a programme that calls a dog a dog (automotively that is), and isn't afraid to speak out in the language of the motorist.

Fifth Gear feels like a motoring programme from the days when PC meant Performance Car (the late lamented). It's sexy, noisy and fun.

If I have a complaint (or two) it's only that the title music doesn't seem to match the character of the programme and that (still in the Clarkson tradition) even Quentin and Tiff can't seem to avoid "motoring commentators syndrome".

This is a speech condition (almost the opposite of the Australian rising inquisitive) where every sentence pauses, and then dips on the last ... word.

Those niggles aside, a great programme - definitely appointment viewing for me from now on, and I suspect for many others who had almost forgotten the joy of cars.


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