America Unchained

by

 Dave Gorman

The premise: Dave Gorman, a Britisher famous for his globe-trotting adventures, attempts to cross the continental United States without handing over a cent of his money to Corporate America.

And so the fun begins when Dave, bless him, buys a car from a kindly old gentleman in California. Dave, a man who’s been brought up to believe there’s good in everyone, swallows this bullshit merchant’s patois that the crappy 1970s estate he’s selling has a tank capacity of twenty two gallons and has never, in thirty years, broken down. Dave, beguiled into a romantic notion that travelling across the States must be done in something idiosyncratic and old, takes this liar at his word and drives off in said estate, an ugly lump of crap that’s already developed an alarming clattering sound before he’s even got it out of the driveway. Great, nice one, Dave – that’s what trust does for you.

Money to ‘The Man’ (Dave’s term for those evil corporations we’re all supposed to hate etc.): Nothing, unless you count the money The Man was paid for the motor in the first place (mung bean collectives in eco-communes on the Isle of Sheppey don’t usually make motor cars, sadly).

So it’s off to an independent muffler shop to get the car Dave’s just bought from a fucking liar repaired. The man at the muffler shop confesses that, after he retires, the shop will probably go down the pan. This, it transpires, is a damn shame as the independent muffler shop can make custom-made mufflers on the spot, whereas the big chains would have to order the parts. Dave and the man at the muffler shop have a conversation about how you won’t get this level of service, vis-à-vis custom-made parts, from a big chain and, yes, they’re broadly correct. You’d expect a chain muffler shop to stock mufflers for motor cars made in the 21st Century, as opposed to ones made in 1978. Chain muffler shops have to service a local community who aren’t setting out to prove some sort of point by driving around in a really old car. The independent muffler store man has the time to make one-off mufflers for 1970s motor cars because he’s not rushing around servicing loads of newer cars every day – the larger chains just take one off the shelves for the majority of 2000-2007 models it gets driving up its ramps. That’s not their fault.

Money to ’The Man’: Zero, except for the metal required for the muffler and the machine that makes the muffler (Guardian-worshipping fair-trade coffee-shoppers aren’t known for their industrial metal working/precision machine tooling skills).

With the car repaired (for now – having been purchased off a liar, it breaks down quite a few more times), Dave sets off towards Oregon to visit a town called ‘Independence’. Of course, he soon needs to stock up on petrol and, as he’s not giving any money to ‘The Man’, he has to find petrol that’s been herded by a kindly Bedouin Nomad on his oil farm in the Arabian Desert. Dave pulls into the first of many ‘independent’ petrol stations and fills his car made from fairy dust and unicorn sparkles with lovely, craft shop petrol just like mum used to make …

… except he doesn’t, of course. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that crude oil, if it is to be profitable, has to be pumped out of the ground on an industrial scale by companies like Shell, Texaco, Exxon and BP. That oil has to come from fucked up dictatorships in the Middle East and is subsidised with lucrative contracts from arms manufacturers and government backhanders. The oil then has to be transported via pipelines laid by ‘The Man’, to tankers built and operated by ‘The Man’, to refineries run by ‘The Man’, into petrol tankers operated by ‘The Man’, into pumps built by ‘The Man’, and then sold by the only guy in this process that isn’t ‘The Man’ (though, to be fair to ‘The Man’, the guy that owns the service station has handed over his money to ‘The Man’ to buy the petrol to put in his pumps).

Therefore, Money to ’The Man’: All of it, ultimately (if only the soya bean alliance had pulled their fingers out and got into the international oil/arms trade, Dave’s entire project wouldn’t have been rendered null and void from the very first fill-up, ah well).

And so off Dave goes, across the USA, not giving any money to ‘The Man’. Along the way he eats independent food grown by vast American conglomerates (farming in the US just ain’t the family affair it used to be in the … whenever the hell it was), he sleeps in independent hotels furnished with stuff like beds, chairs and TVs made by ‘The Man’, he keeps on pumping that eco-fuel that puts two fingers up to ‘The Man’ (and money in his wallet – take that, corporate America!) , etc. etc. etc.

As Dave washes up on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, he’s proved, quite conclusively, that you can’t get across the continental United States without giving any money to ‘The Man’ because:

1. He’s already had his money before you even show up.
2. Even when you think he’s not having any of your money, he is.
3. Dave gives plenty of money to ‘The Man’ when he feasts on McDonalds and Burger King and fills up his car at a chain petrol station (as opposed to a chain petrol station in disguise, see above).

Now, Dave Gorman is a funny man. His books outlining his adventures in the world of stupid bets are great. His live stage shows are often one of the best on the circuit. His regular TV appearances are always entertaining, and the show he currently hosts on the radio has been such a success, it’s transferring to the box. Fair play to him, can’t argue with that.

I can argue with this documentary, though. What, exactly, was the point of America Unchained? If it was another of those vacuous ‘endurance documentaries’ like Supersize Me, then it shared that movie’s ultimate worthlessness. Can you eat McDonalds for a month and be completely unscathed by the experience? No – didn’t need to make a film to answer that one. Can you drive across the most corporate-shackled country on Earth without handing over any money to ‘The Man’? No – didn’t need to make a documentary to find that one out.

If it was a comedy travelogue, then it failed too. Dave in a car, Dave stuck in a small town, Dave filling up a car, and Dave checking into a motel aren’t half as funny as Dave explaining how he ended up jet-setting around the world thanks to his penchant for getting pissed with Danny Wallace. Comedy travelogues need to contain a lot of comedy to counterbalance all those boring shots of roads – this didn’t.

So what was it, exactly? Well too long, for a start. At one hour and forty minutes, a documentary featuring a man either driving or filling up a car doesn’t make for particularly riveting TV. The endless repetition of Dave driving around looking for fuel was boring and indulgent – without that it would have been a serviceable (if still pointless) hour long.

It also wasn’t very well filmed. More4 obviously decided to keep the show’s budget as low as possible, so the whole thing was filmed by one man sat next to Dave in a car. Hence the lighting was bland, the camera frequently shaky, and for the most part focused on a side-profile of Dave … driving a car. To look at, it stank, quite frankly.

There was a gem of a documentary here. Without the silly ‘message’ shit, America Unchained could have been a quirky little show along the lines of a Louis Theroux – Dave in independent America. There was a hint of that in Dave’s decision to go to towns named ‘Independence’ to see how independent they really were. If they’d cut out the challenge rubbish (if you want challenges where funny people drive around doing crazy things, it’s called Top Gear) and focused instead on the independent spirit I, like Dave, hopes still exists in the USA, this show could have been a little corker. As it was, it was a very funny man in an unfunny situation doing a completely pointless thing we all knew wasn’t going to work in the first place. A shame.

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34 Responses to “America Unchained”

  1. Swineshead Says:

    Can’t argue with the thrust of your argument… I found it quite enjoyable mind, probably because Gorman himself is a likeable character and very watchable.

    Comparison with Supersize Me is spot on – why do documentaries need this a pivotal central conceit these days?

    Michael Moore, I assume.

  2. Swineshead Says:

    I’m out for the afternoon so comment moderation is off… be nice to each other…

  3. Napoleon Cockaparte Says:

    “I’m out for the afternoon so comment moderation is off… be nice to each other…”

    Surely one of the most naïve statements ever written on WWM?

  4. piqued Says:

    ‘a Britisher famous for his globe-trotting adventures’

    No he isn’t

    I rather liked the programme it was all rather, well, sweet

  5. Who Says:

    I AM ALWAYS NICE

    And I was going to do nude postings only this afternoon, but I shan’t bother if HE’S not here

    *rolls girdle back up*

  6. Napoleon Cockaparte Says:

    Piqued – So Dave Gorman sprung to fame in some other way, did he? I must be mistaken in thinking he’s most well-known in the public eye for going round the world (globe-trotting) on adventures (adventures). Silly me, I’ll have to look into all that stuff he did before ‘I’m Dave Gorman’ that made him such a household name. Thanks for putting me straight that Gorman’s reputation ISN’T built on going round the world on various adventures – I’ll bear that in mind the next time I review a programme where he’s in a different part of the world on an adventure.

  7. piqued Says:

    Yes, he’s a comedian first a foremost, he’s not famout for ‘globe trotting’

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dave_Gorman

  8. piqued Says:

    Sorry about the spelling in the last post btw

  9. roszs Says:

    He IS famous for globetrotting adventures, he wasn’t really very famous before he started getting pissed and waking up in New York.

  10. piqued Says:

    I knew of Dave when he was nominated for Perrier Award award in 2000 and then went on to do ‘Are you Dave Gorman’ on TV. In a studio, like the next series he did about Googlewhacking.

    Lately he’s done travel shows, Billy Connelly does that, him, the well known globe trotter?

    I rest my case

  11. Napoleon Cockaparte Says:

    Sorry, I’m not prepared to click on a Wikipedia link because you’re incapable of forming your own argument. Just because you listen to Radio 4, go to the Comedy Store, and fancy yourself something of an expert on contemporary comedy, doesn’t negate the truth of the matter of what Gorman is known for. The vast majority of the public who have heard of Dave Gorman know him as that chap that goes round the world on adventures (Are You Dave Gorman? Googlewhack, the astrology thing etc.). He’s a comedian, yes, well done, you’re not the only person privy to this startling revelation. He’s known, however, for being a comedian who travels around the world on adventures.

    And is that the only thing you can work up steam about? Describing a man who goes around the world a damn sit more than you or I do as a globetrotter is hardly an insult, is it? It seems you’re trying to nit pick for the sake of it.

  12. Napoleon Cockaparte Says:

    And Connolly is best known as a comedian because he didn’t first spring to public attention after, as Roszs says, getting pissed and waking up in New York. On a globe-trotting adventure. That he based that Perrier Award nominated show on. After going on that globe-trotting adventure in the first place.

  13. piqued Says:

    I merely disagreed with your ‘Britisher famous for his globe-trotting adventures’.

    He’s famous for being a comedian, I’m not remotely steamed up incidentally, seems you are though…

    What’s that crap about the ‘vast majority of the public?’ What have they to do with this? Most of them read The Sun and burst into tears when you mention Princess fucking Diana

    As for the last line about nit picking, pot, kettle black?

  14. Napoleon Cockaparte Says:

    You’re nit-picking because the only thing you can think to pick up on is a completely correct line about him being best known for his globe-trotting adventures (which, of course, he is). And you’re the one getting worked up – you’re even trying to justify your claptrap point with an ‘I saw him first, me, me, me’ argument. Well done. Still doesn’t change the fact most folk know him for his globe-trotting adventures.

    Do you see Al Murray as a sidekick to Jim Tavarre and Harry Hill because that’s where you saw him first? Or as ‘The Pub Landlord’, like everyone else does?

  15. piqued Says:

    I see Al Murray as a comedian

    *smokes joint*

  16. Napoleon Cockaparte Says:

    So do I. Best known for his ‘Pub Landlord’ character, as opposed to his Harry Hill sidekick role, his expertise on the history of the Second World War, or his member of the gentry status. I see Dave Gorman as comedian, too. Best known for his globe-trotting adventures. You don’t actually have an argument, only pedantry caused by an inability to think rationally because you smoke too much:

    *cannabis*

  17. John Q Wagonwheel Says:

    Well I did know of him as the bloke who goes around doing humorous things at places on the globe he didn’t necessarily intend to be.

    And I’m a member of the public.

    *shakily lights up the crack pipe again*

  18. Napoleon Cockaparte Says:

    So that’s another one to me then.

  19. piqued Says:

    Michael Palin, I see him a comedian, I suppose you all see him as Phileas Fogg, who I see as a bag of crisps made in Medomsley road, Consett (don’t see those much these days do you)

  20. piqued Says:

    Yes, but NC, you’ve never seen an elderly lady hack up a turd though, so don’t come the old ‘oooh, I win’ with me, you sham

  21. John Q Wagonwheel Says:

    I might see him as Phileas Fogg if he were a garlicky bit of stale bread being deviously passed off as a crisp. As it is I see him mainly as a sketch comedian/actor because he’s obviously most known for being one of the Pythons.

    I’m not sure the turd-uppance can stretch that far.

  22. Napoleon Cockaparte Says:

    You can’t win this one, I’m afraid. Gorman’s a globetrotter … and, yes, to quite a lot of people who don’t remember Python or weren’t obsessed with it as a boy, Palin IS seen as a globetrottin’ travelling man first, and a comedian second. Them’s the breaks.

    No, I’ve never had the privilege of watching an old woman hockle up a turd. Unlike you, however, I was willing to admit defeat on that one.

    No, you don’t see them crisps any more, and that’s a damned shame. They were about the only company that trusted the British palate to deal with any form of chilli that wasn’t Thai sweet chilli. Their Tortillas were actually hot, as opposed to supposedly hot because it says so on the label. Lovely stuff, as were their cheese corn chips and their garlic bread thingies. Sorely missed.

  23. piqued Says:

    We can at least agree about Phileas Fogg

    Look, I’m agreeing with you

    *nods in agreement*

  24. John Q Wagonwheel Says:

    His travel stuff is good, but I reckon it’s at least level pegging with the comedy. If it isn’t then I shall sulk.

    I had the experience of my american step-grandad describing in the middle of a meal how he helped out his very aged wife’s constipation by getting her to bend over on the bed and pulling the turds out with his hand and a pencil. I think the vomiting just beats that though.

    Used to be in every Threshers across the land, on a rack in between the cigars and the smelly bloke reading porn.

  25. John Q Wagonwheel Says:

    level pegging with the comedy in what people know him for I mean.

  26. John Q Wagonwheel Says:

    at most as well. Generally a fuckup on my part.

  27. piqued Says:

    Going outside for a tab…

  28. piqued Says:

    …anyone want to join me?

    BREATH OF FRESH AIR

  29. John Q Wagonwheel Says:

    He says half an hour later. I put it to you then that you are very slow at doing up your laces. It is nice weather and I have been to Regent’s park thankyouverymuch.

  30. Mr.Chipz Says:

    I don’t see Gorman as anything. I’ve never seen one of his programs OR seen him do stand up. He’s nothing to me. NOTHING!

  31. Swineshead Says:

    Mr Chipz – Gorman is good, though this effort was a bit misjudged, check him out. YEAH. CHECK HIM OUT.

    I agree, against my better judgement, with NC. Gorman is famous for crazy global adventures. Losing battle, Piqued.

    Ricky Gervais isn’t famous for those slots on the 11 o Clock Show. He’s David Brent to your common or garden joe bloggs tit. Case closed.

    I might leave comment moderation off permanently. You have all been very good.

  32. John Q Wagonwheel Says:

    Yes Mr. Swineshead we weren’t throwing inkblots or anything but Jenkins Minor said boobies.

  33. Swineshead Says:

    I notice someone fashioned a penis out of plasticine and stuck it to my blackboard also. Anyone going to own up?

  34. Napoleon Cockaparte Says:

    That would be me. What you going to do about it, eh?

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