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TeeVee Awards 2001: Worst Actor

And so we finally have proof. After millennia of speculation, rumor and hearsay, we finally have ironclad evidence that Satan does indeed walk the Earth. In fact, he co-hosted the fourth season of Junkyard Wars. Somebody should call the Pope so he and his boys can do something about it.

If ever there was an example of the ultimate physical manifestation of pure evil, George Gray is it. He managed to take one of the best shows on television and turn it into an unendurable hour of spastic mugging, slope-headed yehaws, and slapstick buffoonery, all with barely a flick of his barbed tail. You can't do something like that if you're a mere mortal. You have to be Hell-spawned, and intent on defiling all that is good.

So, y'know, mission accomplished. Score one for Satan.

To call Gray uncomfortably awful is to do a disservice to rectal surgery. His whole manner is so completely at odds with what makes Junkyard Wars the treasure that it is -- or, rather, that it was -- that his presence can only be explained by the machinations of dark forces. Junkyard Wars is geek TV, and to put someone with the thoughtfulness of a coked up frat boy at the helm shows not only a fundamental misunderstanding about why the show is as wonderful as it is -- was -- but to reduce it to something as base as, oh, Extreme Gong. This is miscasting on a criminal scale. They might as well have used Carrot Top.

Maybe there are people who like George Gray. Maybe there are shows where he fits. But we are not those people and Junkyard Wars is not that show.

Compare Gray to his much-missed predecessor, Robert Llewellyn. While Llewellyn could be a little generous with his too-precious "bodgtastic"-isms, he fit almost perfectly into the vibe of the show -- smart, goofy and enthusiastic. Of these, Gray only manages "enthusiastic" and then just because we count hooting like a moron. (If you caught the U.S.-UK showdown, in which Gray and Llewellyn appeared side by side, the contrast was pretty damned clear.)

Everything that seemed to come naturally to Llewellyn is squeezed out of Gray with all the delicacy and nuance of large turd. Gray has the telegenic grace of a nine-year-old with a mouthful of hamburger, only with slightly less insightful commentary. The whole of his observations on the speed of the drag racers built in one episode: "Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!" His remarks regarding the vegetable to be fired from cannons in another: "Punkins! Punkins! Punkins!" We're guessing there was more than one "Yee-haw!" in there, but we were busy curling into the fetal position and sobbing.

Thank you, George. We get it. You think this is a sport. You think you're the John Madden of TLC, full of blustery hot air and bursting at the seams with over-the-top energy. Why walk when you can run? Why speak when you can shout? Why grin when you can mug? Why make a cogent point or remain quiet when you can holler, "Punkins!"?

Because it ruins the damned show, you freaking monkey! Because there's something being taught here, because the show is nothing like a sport, because watching people think can be just as -- more! -- amusing than watching you wet yourself. The Americanized version of Junkyard Wars fulfills every stereotype of the Americanized version anything: bigger and more obvious, louder and dumber, more of everything except what makes it actually work. George Gray is the walking personification of that attitude, not only the ugly American, but the big, obvious, loud, dumb American.

And we're not even going to mention his stupid little beard.

Our seething hatred for Gray -- for anybody named "Gray," or named "George," or bipedal -- and what he has done to Junkyard Wars can be summed up in one phrase: he beat Tony Danza. Dim-eyed palooka and perennial TeeVee whipping boy, Danza has done so much damage to our collective psyche that that we refuse to say his name three times in a row, for fear that he will appear from thin air and devour us all. But even supernatural dread was trumped by the gibbering, drooling, eye-rolling, eye-popping, eye-pooping Gray.

Or, put another way: there is only one person in this world who could make us not want to watch beautiful and talented Junkyard Wars co-host Cathy Rogers... and that person managed to get himself on the only show where we get to see her.

Don't try to tell us that Satan wasn't involved in that deal.

Additional contributions to this article by: Greg Knauss.


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