Because I, against all odds, wishes, and instructions in my will, find myself writing about cars for a living, I see a lot of car material in my social-media feed. Much of it involves celebrities. For instance, I now know that a new season of “Jay Leno’s Garage” is about to appear on CNBC. Visiting Jay Leno’s Garage is the wet dream of many automotive writers. They go there as often as political reporters stop by the White House pressroom. It’s a kind of wry Santa’s workshop for Boomer car collectors. Jay Leno loves cars. He has a big garage and cars are in his garage. We get it.
Other famous celebrity people also love cars. The rebooted Top Gear, not content with trying to turn questionable-looking British automotive writers into global icons, has added sitcom star Matt LeBlanc to its stable of clowns. This month also marks the debut of Ride With Norman Reedus on AMC, in which the grizzled star of The Walking Dead knowingly demonstrates that motorcycles are about more than getting away from zombies. The show will “celebrate some of the best and brightest collectors, mechanics and motorcycle craftsmen around the country,” which sounds kind of interesting in a one-magazine-article kind of way. Most of all, the show is about how much Norman Reedus, a person who none of us had heard of five years ago, loves motorcycles.
Of course celebrities dig vehicles, because they can afford to drive only the best and most interesting ones. Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee, the greatest automotive video series that ever was and ever will be, is essentially a wish-fulfillment jaw-drop of millionaires tooling around in rides rarely seen outside of Pebble Beach. Conveniently forgetting that Paul Walker, a celebrity who was only famous for driving fast, died horribly in a Porsche Carrera GT crash in 2013, Yahoo! spent $500,000—a budget that could have kept the late, lamented Yahoo! Autos (my former semi-employer) running for more than a year—to feature Walker’s Fast And Furious co-star Michelle Rodriguez roaring across salt flats in vintage sports cars. Riding Shotgun With Michelle Rodriguez is so blatantly advertorial that Jaguar aired clips of it on an endless loop at a dealer event I attended last week. When it comes to selling fast, furious, but nonessential cars like the F-Type SVR, celebrities are the most useful of idiots.
But what if car shows featured celebrities interacting with normal vehicles, in all their banal, wallet-stripping danger, the way most people do? Here are some ideas. I plan to start pitching them as soon as I can get an agent to return my calls.
Texting In Traffic With Zoe Saldana
Lieutentant Uhura. Gamora from Guardians Of The Galaxy. Zoe likes to stay in touch with friends while driving as much as you do. Join her on Free Form (formerly ABC Family) as she sends funny messages while trying to get to the CAA offices in Beverly Hills, struggling to stay in the lane, slamming on the brakes just before ramming up the backside of a Honda CRV. In Episode 1, Star Trek costar Chris Pine joins her to broadcast a Snapchat while skirting the shoulder of the 101, nearly causing a ten-car pileup!
Matthew Perry’s Balloon Payments
The star of the rebooted Odd Couple that no one cares about needs a car to get to work. But he surprisingly can’t afford one. In this Fox Business series, Perry visits various dealers, who tell him not to worry, he can get a great car for no money down and minimal monthly fees. In Episode 4, “The Balloon Inflates,” Matthew suddenly finds himself paying $975 a month when the dealers cash in their chips.
Ambulance Chasing With Julianna Margulies
Nothing’s more exciting than watching personal-injury lawyers at work. The former star of The Good Wife isn’t a lawyer, but she played one on TV, and she’s friendly with a lot of lawyers. Join Julianna and her pals this summer on TruTV as they visit police stations and listen to scanners and use questionable methods to glean personal information about people caught up in unfortunate wrecks.
Julie Bowen’s Soccer Mom Chronicles
The Modern Family star, who is a mom just like the rest of us, spends sunny weekend days trudging a crumb-strewn minivan 30 miles in all directions so her children can attend mediocre sports events and choir performances, feeling her face melt, wondering where all the brunches and languid hungover afternoons of singlehood went, never stopping, never thinking, praying for retirement, fooling herself that she “loves her car” because it “does its job.”
T-Boning With T-Pain
The much-maligned Auto-Tune specialist and performer of “Buy U A Drank” tries to revive his career by heedlessly launching himself into oncoming traffic, hitting the rear-passenger sides (if possible) of SUVs in busy intersections. The resulting melodrama and tragedy will make American Crime seem like Modern Family. Still looking for a network sponsor.
The Hellish Commute Of John Smoltz
Every week, Fox Sports baseball analyst and Hall Of Fame pitcher John Smoltz flies to a different American city to experience the unique hell of sitting in a booth with Joe Buck for four hours. But first, he has to get from the airport to his hotel. Watch the pilot episode, “Why Did We Have To Do A Rangers Game?”, and enjoy as he sucks fumes and slowly goes insane.
Larry David’s Garage
A lone Toyota Prius sits there gathering spiderwebs until the release of the Tesla Model 3. This fall on HBO.
Image credits: Gabriel Olsen/FilmMagic, Bob D'Amico/ABC via Getty Images, Chris Condon/PGA TOUR, Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images, Robert Trachtenberg/CBS via Getty Images, Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic, Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions