Americans love their telly. From those soap operas where everyone has massive hair to great sporting events and side-splitting comedies, they know how to do television. So how did the country’s return to the Formula 1 calendar play out on the small screen? Well, if you were watching Sky Sports F1, laden with clichés. It was at times cringe-worthy to endure the conveyorbelt of stereotypes, most of which centred around old west-style cowboys. That Damon Hill did not appear on screen astride a saddled Johnny Herbert was a mild surprise. And a gigantic relief.
Thankfully several celebrities had turned out for the event and provided a bit of distraction from cowboy fever. Ron Howard was there aggressively selling his F1 film Rush, or preaching to the converted as it’s also known. George Lucas was seen waddling about looking increasingly like a character from one of his films, while Michael Fassbender and James Woods were also on site soaking up the atmos.
But they were all put the shade – quite literally – by the increasingly-pudgy figure of former F•R•I•E•N•D•S star Matt LeBlanc. He stole the show on Sunday, just as he often did when playing jobless sexual predator Joey Tribbiani in the hit sitcom.
Matt was everywhere, popping up on camera in the pits and even nattering with Martin Brundle on the grid (Martin greeting LeBlanc with “how you doin'” was actually quite funny, if a tad predictable). A true Italian (American), LeBlanc was backing the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso for the title, which shows that he, unlike a lot of the celebs present, actually knows the names of some of the drivers.
So LeBlanc was my star of the race, but he did have to share the screen time. The TV director was clearly looking to push a narrative, namely that this was a motor race and it was happening in America and lots of pretty women were watching it.
How to get this across? Skilful directorial work, that’s how: show racing cars, CUT TO fat man in crowd waving American flag, back to racing cars, CUT TO close-up of excitable women on VIP balcony waving at the camera, CUT TO cars. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
But did it all matter? Apparently, no one in America cares much about Formula 1 anyway. They have their own sports – like NASCAR, which hosted its season finale on the same day as the grand prix – and while F1 can use this race to grow in popularity, it’s not ever going to captivate TV audiences the way men pretending to land on the moon did. Americans like their own sports – that’s why they hold world series where no other nations participate.
In recent years some of F1’s rule changes – I’m looking squarely at you, Drag Reduction System – have felt like a blatant grab at the American market, which is perceived (rightly or wrongly) to need constant action lest it switch off in mass disgust.
If that is the case, you can’t help but feel that Formula 1 is hamming it up to an audience that isn’t even watching.
This, like a few of our articles on Badger is supposed to be tongue-in-cheek… we hope you enjoyed reading it…