Gentlemen, Start Your TiVos

July 25, 2005
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TV and cars just don't get along. At least that's what I thought ten years ago, when I was standing on the side of the road, dripping sweat in 100-degree weather outside Pittsburgh, trying to tape a five-second segment on a Chevrolet Lumina for the first of many ill-fated attempts to put Car and Driver magazine on the air.

Everyone thought cable TV and its explosion of channels would be a natural place for car-based TV - but as you can see yourself, surfing the channels and catching today's offerings, good car television is still in its infancy. I'm not talking about expert race coverage of NASCAR - I'm talking about the "hey, let's put on a show!" variety that seems to work its way into the head of every network on cable (or satellite, in our case) and in the halls of the big monthly magazines.

The few notably good shows are multiplying, though. I've talked about Pimp My Ride and Overhaulin' here before (and you concurred - and added BBC's Top Gear to the list as well, with my agreement). They're probably my favorites because they assume the viewer is pretty much a mechanical idiot without dumbing down the story. I couldn't tell you if a brake rotor was going in backward or not, but I can tell you exactly where I want the built-in dashboard hibachi and drop-down 15-inch screen, or why a '63 Corvair Monza Spyder is the perfect car to take down to the frame for restoration (cheap, lots of rust-free California cars available, and unique).

These days I've added one more car show to my TiVo Season Pass - The History Channel's AutoManiac. It has Atlanta's own Bill Goldberg as the host. And until you've been in first class on Delta surrounded by a Smackdown! cast and felt tiny at six feet tall, you don't know how cool that is. And with episodes like "Death Cars" on the docket, who can argue with their content?

Ever since the first automobile rolled off the assembly line, cars have been an exciting part of life. But all too often, they've been associated with death. This episode explores some of the most infamous demises brought about by automobiles. From James Dean, who died in his Porsche Spyder, nicknamed "The Little Bastard", in September 1955, to sex-goddess Jayne Mansfield, killed a decade later in her Buick Electra, to comedian Sam Kinison, who perished when drunken teenagers smashed into his Pontiac Trans Am, we recall stars and the cars they drove on the deadly highways of America. TVPG L

No, it's not Wall Street Week, but it is a step above and beyond those numbing road-test video magazines. But don't take our word for it - ask Mr. Nielsen.
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