Columns Film & TV Lifestyle

Get with the programme: Wheeler Dealers, daytime TV for dads

It’s the Christmas vac. You need to find the next best thing to procrastinate to besides Netflix, but the news is far too depressing and Film 4 just ain’t cutting it with yet another Carry On film. You need daytime TV. But which show? You’re looking for something to watch while you browse Facebook and Instagram on your phone but makes you look up at the TV once in a while. Property shows are downright boring – no excitement and you don’t need to hear from yet another middle-class person talk about their conservatory, dahling. Cooking shows just make you hungry and/or jealous for that ribeye steak while you munch on your third pack of custard creams of the week. Game shows just make you dream about how that prize money would help you sustain your spending habits at Bridge to your utmost chagrin.

That’s where Quest’s Wheeler Dealers comes in.

Wheeler Dealers is a simple concept. Mike Brewer goes round and looks to buy a classic car for cheap money. He goes and gives it to his mate, Edd China, who fixes it up to be sold. Mike then takes the car again and sells it off to some “car enthusiast” and tries to make a measly low-hundreds-pound profit that barely breaks even. Clearly, it’s targeted towards fellow “car enthusiasts”, AKA middle-aged blokes who would spend their Saturdays tinkering away at their beloved MGs and Triumphs trying to eke two more horsepower out of their carburettors. But somehow this show managed to entice me, a classicist who got his first car this summer and still can’t quite handle the motorway.

There’s something satisfying about watching cars being fixed. I mean, you don’t exactly dream of standing in the corner of the garage while a mechanic ticks off every single box on your MOT for this year, but it is so captivating to watch the lanky, scruffy-haired Edd, wearing a short-sleeved t-shirt over a long-sleeved one like it’s the early noughties all over again, explain the fault on an old Toyota’s alternator. It’s part of his charm on Wheeler Dealers, that he can make fixing cars actually interesting and not just your dad trying to teach you how to change the oil as he buries himself underneath the car bonnet in the drive, while you stand above him on your phone grunting “yeah” every other minute, as you browse through Instagram instead of ‘learning’ what you could pay a mechanic to do because “it’s useful when you have your own car in the future”, even though the government is about to scrap all non-electric cars. Thanks dad.

Edd China just seems like that one slightly posh but cool teacher that you had in school who let you go on your phone, that let you off for eating that baguette you bought in morning break at the back of the class, that could turn on the charm with the kids and the upright politeness with the head. He’s balanced by Mike Brewer who seems to have been transported straight from South – sorry, Saaeefff – London and uses killer catchphrases like an American sitcom. Episodes ring with “’Old out yer hand!” and “I’ve just gone and bought meself a [insert car name here]”. Edd is like jazz at the cocktail bar –sophisticated and a nice place to take a date – while Mike is like Park End’s cheese floor – the vibe of that one nice uncle who can’t resist jumping on the dancefloor at a wedding reception. When Edd left Wheeler Dealers, the new mechanic that production roped in, Ant Anstead, follows this same pattern: the classy foil to the edgy main presenter, the Surrey to the South London.

It’s always satisfying watching something be put together, just fitting together nicely and snugly. In turn, it’s really relaxing watching some bloke who turns a few screws as a whole engine just drops out of a car. Yes, it’s perhaps educational but Wheeler Dealers fits perfectly into that genre of TV that’s interesting, but not too interesting to take all your attention away from you reading one more Oxfess that you’ll forget in two minutes’ time. It’s no glory days Top Gear with all the bombast of Jeremy Clarkson’s ravings; but it seems to follow in the same vein, that Wheeler Dealers will target those middle-aged men living in suburbs, desperate to tinker with their cars. I have to say, by watching this show, I have learned to appreciate cars somewhat, alongside driving my beloved Honda hatchback. I fear with my serene, sumptuous, Surrey-suburb upbringing I’m tapping into my middle age earlier than expected, but I’m not too disappointed in the prospects of driving a (electric) Mazda MX-5 that I’ll tinker with every weekend, all for the hopes of taking the ol’ girl for a spin round some country lanes in the sun after 5 weeks of constant springtime showers.

I don’t particularly care for every single car that appears on Wheeler Dealers, but when they do appear, I appreciate them for that one episode or two. I do believe that a Volkswagen Beetle is suddenly the coolest car in the world, and I do lust over a 30-year-old Porsche that I’ll probably never get my hands upon, and I’ll more likely see in a traffic jam on some Surrey Hills country lane from the comfort of my Honda Jazz, at the hands of some City investment banker who is probably off to the golf club for a round of 18 with The Boys™, too busy professing that he’ll get the first round. Rah, indeed. But that is part of the pleasure of watching Wheeler Dealers: it’s not particularly exciting, but it’s that little comforting fantasy that you make for yourself procrastinating your collections revision, lounging around on that leatherette couch in the living room, with your feet hitched on top of the coffee table.

With illustration by the Marketing Team.

Thang Tu

Thang is a second year Classicist at Trinity. He plays the trombone and sings tenor in the Trinity College Chapel Choir. He enjoys baking and long walks along the beach.