James May’s Man Lab has just started another series. I’ve been a fan of James for a few years now and I like the show, somewhat. The premise is that the titular Man Lab is the place where the assorted skills that were once common amongst men, but that have now fallen by the wayside, will be brought back to the surface and taught anew. I love the concept of it.
The first series was just three episodes and was interesting, but unfortunately fell flat. We see James and his crew
- Build a concrete countertop for a kitchen.
- Build a bar.
- Disarm a WW2 German bomb.
- Motorize a picnic table to be remote controlled.
- Attempt (and fail) to navigate the English Channel with older instruments.
- Learn to serenade.
All of these are good skills and were cool, and entertaining, to watch… but we learned quite little in the grand scheme of things. It was great to see James and Simmy pouring concrete into the mold for the countertop, and there was brief talk of what was going on, but we didn’t really learn much about it. Building the bar was slightly better. The English Channel bit was largely a joke.
I don’t mean to sound too down on the show, mind you. Interesting tidbits are learned, and it provides plenty of ideas and the inspiration to continue one’s education in such matters. Above all else, it IS meant to be entertaining, which it is.
Series two just kicked up and the first episode seemed a bit more directly useful, with map reading and some drawing skills, plus we get to see the team assemble a billiards table from scratch, which was quite badass. I’m hoping that continues.