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Hadn't there been for a really bad advertising, I wouldn't have reacted at all to this. "James May's Man Lab" has been advertised on "Discovery Channel" by an inane announcement that goes something like: "Men, we've been slaves of 'modernity' (!), we need to reclaim our manhood...". It's meant as a slight irony of course. We are, in fact, grown up boys and we still love toys, and the show aims to offer inspiring gadgets and concepts, outside of the ordinary, that might sparkle one's imagination, if only for a while.
Unfortunately, good intentions do not the show make. It's the content, and it's: shallow. The gadgets, the inventions and the ideas are pretty lackluster, primitive and unimaginative. I'm judging by a single episode, which may be a shame on my part, but... flinging doughnuts at the crowd with various contraptions, testing an obscure mathematical theory of luck by spilling a beer over one's head and trying one's hand at radio- commentating a horse race - isn't what might spark a boyish spirit in this viewer.
Then there is the host, James May, who has clearly seen better days in his career. He brings in some of Monty Python's style shenanigans, which is always good. But for such a show he is way too restrained, too English shall I say, to make it work. Furthermore, he looks tired and spent, and possibly has a drinking problem. The man is not devoid of charm or humor, to be sure. There is some humor there alright but pretty occasional, pretty sparse. Overall tone of the show isn't joyful or playful, but morose.
What's worse, there isn't much intelligence involved in all this, no great insight. Similar problem plagues another show of his "James May's 20th Century" which promised a lot but turned out pretty superficial and plodding. Maybe he should drop the habit of putting his name in titles of his shows. He's probably more popular in the UK than I'm aware of so it helps the ratings, but over here, where I live, "James May" quickly becomes the red flag for what to avoid.
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