April 16, 2008

Dan Neil: Your Automotive Word Slut

by Freddy J. Nager, Found of Atomic Tango + Former Automotive Ad Writer

If you lust after cars like I do, then the writer you need to read — yes, NEED — is Dan Neil of the L.A. Times. Even if you don’t care about cars, you’ll love his column, “Rumble Seat.” As a former writer for Toyota, Nissan & Infiniti, I relish every syllable…

Just check out the opening salvo from his review of the Nissan GT-R:

I know what you want from me. You think I’m just your little word slut, that I’m here just to arouse you with steamy descriptions of the new and instantly legendary Nissan GT-R. You want me to parade around in frilly verbiage, like: “The acceleration of the twin-turbo, all-wheel-drive, 480-hp GT-R is much like a 50-yard field goal in the NFL, wherein your butt is the football.” Sigh. I feel so used.

Now, if you’re more of the century 21.0 “printed words scare me” generation, there’s always the video option:

But the place to savor Neil at his red-line, high-octane best is in print. After all, how many other car critics do you know have a master’s degree in English lit and, more significantly, a Pulitzer Prize?

Now the reason I bring up Neil years after he was discovered by the media is because of the boneheads over at NBC, a.k.a. the No Balls Channel. NBC had stirred up excitement amongst American auto-aficionados by announcing that it was going to produce its version of the hit BBC automotive series “Top Gear.” But rather than follow “Top Gear’s” tested-and-true style, NBC decided to follow the American tradition of taking a killer British idea and watering it the hell down. (See “The Office” or “Coupling” or Miller Beer.) According to Autoblog, “indications are that the scathing rhetoric that makes the BBC show such a hit will be severely curtailed by NBC, who fear a backlash from sponsors.”

And the TV execs wonder why viewers are abandoning the networks for YouTube and other online video options.

What irks me and inspired me to write this post is that Neil was originally supposed to be part of the series, but then was booted ostensibly for “lack of on-air personality.” Instead, NBC is giving us that paragon of taste and acumen, Adam “The Man Show” Carolla.

I’ll stick to reading “Rumble Seat.” Rev it up, Dan…

Update 3/3/2009: Some very cool news: Dan Neil will start writing a column on marketing and advertising for the L.A. Times. His first is a funny rant on the new Pepsi logo.

Update 3/17/2010: Some very uncool news. Dan Neil left the L.A. Times last month to join the Wall Street Journal. Seriously bummed about that.

Related Article: “Must Read: Dan Neil Tattoos Christian Audigier”

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Freddy is the Founder & Creative Strategist of Atomic Tango. He also teaches at the University of Southern California (go Trojans!), shoots pool somewhat adequately, and herds cats. Freddy received his BA from Harvard and his MBA from USC.

One Response

  1. Nobody can replace the Stig!

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