Is James May The Man?

Man Lab

I think it’s safe to say that James May – Captain Slow to many – is the most beloved of all Top Gear hosts. Scruffy, erudite, and frustratingly wont to proselytization of all things obscure and arcane, he may not be the kind of man we want to hang out with, but he is the man many of us are probably closest to being ourselves.

And that brings up an interesting question regarding May’s latest TV endeavor, the BBC show, James May’s Man Lab. On this program the foppish host laments that modern holders of the Y chromosome have lost their collective manhood, and he seeks to re-instill the skills that he thinks will bring it back. Here’s the thing though, James is English. In fact, he’s not just English, he’s veddy English, and some of the key elements of his concept of manhood reflect his undeniable Britishness. Case in point, on the first episode he demonstrates how to make a fish finger sandwich, which I guess was once a mainstay of British yob consumption, but perhaps does not resonate with Men outside of the Isles. 

It should be noted that in true Man fashion, May is unable to undertake the simple task of assembling the aforementioned snack – comprised of packaged breaded fish, two slices of good stiff British bread, and sauce tar-tar – without managing to break a glass. Perhaps he is not the best role model for modern manhood in a breakable society. You can make that determination for yourself as the entire episode is available after the jump.

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Source: YouTube

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24 responses to “Is James May The Man?”

  1. dukeisduke Avatar

    I loved James's Toy Stories series, especially building the 1:1 scale Airfix Spitfire model airplane, er sorry, aeroplane.

  2. Sjalabais Avatar

    I have to admit that I think none of the Top Gear hosts work well alone. Even the Toy Stories series always seemed a bit dragged out, like American TV with all these endless repetitions of what just happened. Imho that's what makes (or made…debatable) Top Gear such a good show: The swag of it was bigger than the sum of individual contributions.

    1. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar

      To me, James is the only one who does – what you get is what you get. Hammond discussing physics can be fun, for instance, but it always feels just a bit lacking.

      1. LTDScott Avatar

        I agree, James seems to have a genuine enthusiasm that isn't just for the camera.

        1. Sjalabais Avatar

          Yes, the enthusiasm is there. He also seems a bit out of place everywhere, which makes things interesting. But I still think he is doing best as the sane voice at Top Gear. Guess it's just a matter of taste anyway.

  3. danleym Avatar

    I've watched a couple episodes of Man Lab. I like the concept, but there was nothing in the production that grabbed me and made me want to keep watching.

  4. Stu_Rock Avatar

    I don't know what you're talking about–James May is exactly the Top Gear host I'd want to hang out with. He is the man.

    1. Alcology Avatar

      I don't want to hang out with any of them. Surprisingly, I don't hang out with any of them.

  5. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

    I'm pretty sure James May gives the young and impressionable a yearning for learning that some of their parents never could. Man Lab should be compulsory school viewing for under-16s.

    1. Alcology Avatar

      Does he have a kid and then ACTUALLY take care of that kid?

      1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

        Er, nope.

        1. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar

          I doubt he'd have time. Unlike many young parents, at least he's figured that out. That said, it didn't stop Clarkson and Hammond, but I imagine Ms. Cain and Ms. Etheridge can handle themselves.
          (Interestingly, of the three, Hammond's is the only Wikipedia page that isn't semi-protected.)

  6. JayP2112 Avatar

    I've watched May's and Hammond's shows and the only one I really liked was Brainiac- which was better than Discovery Channel's entire lineup.

  7. owl Avatar

    Excuse me, fishfinger sandwiches have become very fashionable lately – you get them in all the best pubs now and its not an embarrasment to be seen eating 'children's' food
    James May – where he goes others follow…so watch and learn

  8. ZomBee Racer Avatar

    Not much of a TV watcher, just a few favorite programs on weekends so I hadn't heard of this show. But I gotta admit I've quite enjoyed this one, reminds me of an older PBS "This Old House", geared for random things.
    And I agree 100% with the idea that men are becoming a bunch of ninnies. Growing up in the mountains it was assumed you either knew how to fix something, or were about to learn, possibly the hard way. And you took care of your stuff, as it was expected to last most your life – if not longer. This was your responsibility.
    These days living down in the city, I get condescending eyes and lots of patronizing talk when I tackle regular stuff we men were once expected to do. it is assumed by most companies down here that anyone who walks through the shop door not only does not know what they are doing, but anyone who even tries must be a blathering idiot.
    And the sad part is, they are usually right. I know a dude that recently tried to hot-glue a leg back on a coffee table. He has no idea how to put air in his tire or tighten his toilet seat. Most of the conversations I overhear involve someone who barely knows what he is doing telling a blathering idiot not to do something. Back home they'd both be the first to get eaten by bears.
    But it's true, these folks probably shouldn't be mucking with whatever his problem is. Not entirely because he isn't capable, but because that ancient body of "Man-Knowledge" has largely been lost to modern convenience. More than a few dudes I know couldn't even put a fish-finger sammich together without their mommies.
    The good news is all is not lost, and like-minds tend to find each other. It seems most of the folks that hang around Hooniverse, Atomic Toasters and Lemons etc tend to be folks that "do, make and discover". I can name several dozen folks around here that can rebuild a carb, rewire a garage, program an ignition map, brew beer and whip up a kickass plate of dinner.
    And of course the 3 or 4 that sit at keyboards in their underwear making disparaging remarks about it all.

    1. Sjalabais Avatar

      I think that's quite the deterministic view. There are a lot of skills that are redundant for citydwellers, or people who don't care about old cars, say. Nothing should be in the way to accept that, and to allow these people's alternative skills to be valued highly. Just consider the maker movement, what a fantastic thing!
      It is a pity though that a lot of good knowledge gets lost so fast. I've had my share of 30-40 year old cars and I have to admit that I am a slow learner. Never managed to fix a carburetor so it wouldn't need unfixing, yet I've had trouble finding reliable mentors, too. But I'm interested, and so are many, many others. And, apparently, you caught me in my underwear.

    2. ZomBee Racer Avatar

      It's about as counter to determinism as you can possibly get.
      Free will. The freedom to "do" that comes with knowledge and acquired skill-sets. And the ability to move roadblocks & naysayers out of one's way.

    3. ˏ♂ˊ mzs zsm msz esq Avatar
      ˏ♂ˊ mzs zsm msz esq

      Mitch you hear that, we need to get our pants!
      I had an insurance fraud co. rep come-up to me and tell me, "Do you know sir that your siding is missing." What do you think I am doing out here sunburned, bleeding, and limping around for?
      I get this one a lot, "You should get a cell phone for emergencies," I'd rather spend the money on tools for when that happens.
      Here's to not getting eaten by bears!

  9. CherokeeOwner Avatar

    And now I want a fish finger sandwich and a remote controlled picnic table.

  10. Guest Avatar

    I wonder what Jame's significant other thinks of the title.

  11. wunno sev Avatar
    wunno sev
    James May builds a furnace and casts a juicer out of aluminum
    so manly

  12. calgoat Avatar

    Yes. James May is the man. "James and Oz Drink to Britain" is required viewing.

    1. mallthus Avatar

      As are the James and Oz Wine Adventures. Both their exploits in France and California were hilarious.

    2. mallthus Avatar

      Oh, and Oz makes an appearance in Series 3 of Man Lab.
      So funny to find it's only just now coming to BBC America, as I've been watching it on the sly since its debut.