Newly-bearded so-called national treasure Stephen Fry is renowned for his love of all things tech. He carries loads of mobile phones around and liked Apple products before they were cool. Channel 4 are so taken with Fry’s currently-rugged look that they’ve given him his own series, Stephen Fry: Gadget Man, buttering him up with some technological foreplay. The King of Twitter spends each episode road-testing expensive new gadgets which look interesting, but in all likelihood, no one will ever use. Despite this, the show made for a decent half hour’s entertainment.
In this first episode, Fry tried out gadgets which are said to make life easier for commuters. Sadly, none of the products he played around with had a function to zap annoying passengers into another carriage, and he didn’t test a teleporter that removes the daily hell of train travel from one’s day compeletely. He did journey around on an electric bike though, which seemed rather pointless – one of the USPs of bike-riding is the fitness benefits. Later on, Fry cruised around London’s streets on electric roller skates with celeb chum and technology whore Jonathan Ross as if they were a couple of twentysomething hipsters in Brighton, rather than two greying, grown men in their fifties.
Norwich’s finest (sorry Delia) commissioned a crack team of engineers to create an amphibious London taxi by converting a black cab into what essentially amounted to a raft with a propeller. Things went a bit awry (things don’t go Pete Tong anymore) as Fry spent 25 minutes stranded on the Thames when the propeller broke, but disappointingly the cab-boat didn’t start to fill up with water or emit any sense of risk whatsoever. Producers missed a trick there. Visually this part of the show was quite interesting, even if it all felt a bit From Russia With Love. I wouldn’t say a floating car is strictly a gadget, but there you go.
Watching two multi-millionaires rushing around London finding ways to improve the daily commute is a bit like being splashed in the face with warm piss emanating from a bottle hurled from the VIP section at a gig. Are we really meant to buy into the notion that Messrs Fry and Ross are just like the rest of us? Don’t get me wrong, they’re affable enough, but I’d wager they haven’t had to endure a rush-hour commute for at least 25 years. The show wasn’t really about commuting though. It’s a Stephen Fry vehicle featuring Stephen Fry riding around in vehicles.