I think it was inevitable that there would have to be a review of the new style Road Wars. And, being a mouthy moo, I guess it was always going to be me who wrote it.
The Opening Titles
We did have a short spot of advance warning - or at least those of us on Facebook who happen to be able to see Bill Rudgard's page did - over the new bits. Just as well really, I imagine that those who weren't expecting it had something of a shock. It's not that there's anything specifically wrong with the new opening titles - it's just that they're not the same with this new 'serious' music (which, incidentally, sounds like a news bulletin). The imagery, however, isn't so much of an issue - as it's still a collective montage of footage merged together with fancy effects - it's just unnecessary.
This isn't a problem. My only issue was that we spent rather more time with the dog handlers again, like we did in episode 8. The officers are as good as ever, and it was a pleasure to have them back. You guys rock.
The Style and Narration
And now for the Big Beef. Where, oh, where was the magnificent Lee Boardman? Ye gods! Instead of the usual bravura Mancunian tones, we get a horribly stilted, robotic and - worst of all - terribly earnest and serious narration by Claire Goose. WHY? Not wishing to cast aspertions on Ms Goose as an actress. I'm sure she's very good at what she does in The Bill - a programme which, I admit, I stopped watching years ago the moment they started soaping it up - but the narration was hopelessly unsuitable for the programme. For those of us (and there are a lot of us) who have watched Road Wars over the years - some of us since it started way back in 2003, and others who discovered it once it went to Freeview and really took off - the discovery that someone has felt the need to rip out the humorous heart of the programme is quite astonishing.
That's the big point - that's what Road Wars is all about: Informative entertainment. We see the Coppers as individuals, watch them doing a difficult job in often trying circumstances, and gain something of an insight into their world of accident and crime statistics. Prior to Road Wars, this was carried out in earnest tones, usually by an escaped newsreader or similar in sober documentary-like terms surrounded by acres of video footage extracted from cameras inserted into cars. It's largely thanks to what was, at the time, a ground-breaking programme that other documentaries are attempting to emulate it in style and tone - so quite why we are suddenly seeing it attempting, like the proverbial square peg in the round hole, to step backwards and climb back into the very mould it broke in the first place is nonsensical.
I'll set out my stall right up front. I think Road Wars rocks - it's far and away the best programme of the 'Cop Doc' genre, and, quite frankly, a winning formula like this really doesn't need messing with. Yet, despite this, someone has.
Now, I don't believe for a moment that Raw Cut would trash their own programme. They developed this concept, so to revert back to the very style they abandoned is utterly inconceivable. No. I don't think it was them. Similarly, it can't have been Devon and Cornwall Constabulary either. Why approve the first half of the series only to then demand changes halfway through? Nope. Not logical. Guess we've got to look elsewhere again.
There has only been one change in circumstances that coincides with this. A change of Programme Controller at Sky, which does rather set hares running. It may simply be that the new people at the Top at Sky just don't 'get' Road Wars. Which is a shame - but it doesn't seem likely (using a conventional process of elimination) that anyone else would have demanded such catastrophic changes. Maybe they think it's too laddish and 'Top Gear' in tone, or something. That's the only conclusion I've been able to reach with my limited evidence.
Excuse me while I laugh like the proverbial drain - albeit hollowly...
Road Wars has a massive female fanbase. When we ran the fanlisting, most of the fans who joined it were women. The majority of Cantina members are women - and the entire 'Web Team' is female. Yep - this site was built, collated and is maintained by girl people. The horror at the loss of both Lee and the humour is shared by both the male and female fans of the show. It ain't broke. Please don't attempt to fix it.
I can only hope that Ms Goose will improve next week - though maybe I'm being over optimistic. Give me a wish and I can tell you what it would be - show us the remaining episodes of series seven as they were originally edited, please. While even this is better than no Road Wars at all (and only just!), it was just fine and dandy the way it was.