James May: The Reassembler: all 3 episodes
April 10, 2016 9:56 AM - Season 1 (Full Season) - Subscribe

James "Captain Slow" May, one third of the former Top Gear team, puts things back together from their component parts, whilst nattering about technical trivia. Three half-hour episodes on BBC4: 1950s lawnmower, 1950s telephone, and 1970s electric guitar.

"If a man is on television talking about a lawnmower but nobody sees it, does it actually happen?” James May himself wondered out loud in the course of the first episode whether he had managed to make a TV show so narrow in its target audience that only the presenter would watch it. One man, in a toolshed with a small camera crew (often in shot), slowly rebuilding household items from a tabletop of neatly laid-out parts.

The Guardian: But you get the sense that if the small camera crew quietly edged backwards out of his shed halfway through one of his reconstructions, May would keep right on going, completely absorbed with his task. It might be the best thing he’s ever done.

The Daily Telegraph: It was that sort of show – a bottomless resource of pointless knowledge and either the apex or nadir of slow TV, depending on your level of interest. [...] The sheer tedium eventually acquired a sort of Zen quality, as the 10 hours-plus it took to put the lawnmower back together began to feel as if they were being shown in real time.

Reddit/britishproblems: I'm disappointed that the BBC Red Button does not have a nine hour director's cut.
posted by Major Clanger (7 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Watching this on iPlayer - just saw the Lawn Mower, the Telephone is on now. He's now talking enthusiastically about a screwdriver. This is possibly the most delightful series I've seen in a long time.
posted by Grangousier at 1:30 PM on April 10, 2016

Oh my gods this cannot come to the US fast enough.
posted by Etrigan at 6:57 AM on April 11, 2016

After reading this post I rushed over to YouTube where it appears all three episodes have been uploaded (but not yet DMCA'd), and watched Episode 1. What a fantastic show! James May is a delight to watch - the look of triumph on his face when he seats that O-Ring! - and brings just enough history and backstory to the project to make the whole thing interesting.

Thanks for bringing this to my attention! Off to watch Episode 2 and 3...
posted by jazon at 10:05 AM on April 11, 2016

Watched the first episode last night (thanks, anonymous youtube pirater!) James May was always the only one of the Top Gear trio that was worth anything and I love this type of thing. Watching him gently tap the piston pin into place was one of the most satisfying non-sexual experiences I have enjoyed.
posted by AndrewStephens at 5:56 AM on April 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

I honestly would have watched those in real time, too.
posted by dominik at 7:32 AM on April 12, 2016

Another thank you, Major Clangor, for bringing this to my (surprisingly rapt, often lightly chuckling) attention. (thank you also to youtube uploader, and Clipgrab to save them forever) My only critique, after watching only the lawnmower assembly, is that I'd like to see more close ups on his hands, and fewer on his face as he's screwing things into their respective holes.

yes, I know how dirty that sounds, and yes, I know this is the least sexy show ever devised, but still, those are the words and I'm stickin' to 'em.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 5:37 PM on April 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

Ugh, between the shot-framing and the editing we almost never got to see him actually *do* anything. Cold Lurkey's already mentioned the shot-framing. As for the editing, for example, how hard would it have been to make a 2 minute montage out of those first two fussy piston rings? That's a little story of setbacks and ultimate triumph right there that they just threw down the memory hole.
posted by whuppy at 9:48 AM on April 15, 2016

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