Top Gear's James May wants to be a real man

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The Independent Culture

He already presents one of television's most testosterone-fuelled shows, but now James May is undertaking a TV quest to turn him into more of a "real man", it was announced today.

The long-haired Top Gear presenter, who has confessed to a love of toys and floral shirts, will enlist other lost souls for a new BBC2 series to test their manliness and brush up traditional skills.

James May's Man Lab is part of the channel's autumn and winter season, launched today.

It also includes a programme which sees The Choir's Gareth Malone take on the challenge of being a primary school teacher for boys, and a live stargazing event hosted by Professor Brian Cox.

May's new entertainment show will see him embark on a course of tests designed to teach men the skills and knowledge possessed by their male ancestors.

Among the skills he will learn will be how to "woo a lady" and how to defuse a bomb.

May said: "Modern Man is in crisis. He has degenerated from the redoubtable pillar he became through centuries of refinement and slipped resignedly into the popular depiction of himself as a witless under-achiever, incapable of looking after himself or those around him.

"Man Lab is designed to reverse the rot."

In a further exploration of masculinity, choirmaster Malone seeks to find out why boys fall behind girls at primary school level in Gareth Malone's Extraordinary School For Boys. The presenter - already used to bringing communities together with his musical ventures - will also seek to re-engage boys who do not like school.

Mastermind host John Humphrys will examine education with a new programme Mind The Gap, in which he looks at why the system fails so many children.

Science poster boy Cox will return to screens with Wonders Of The Universe in which he will travel to the most dramatic parts of the globe to illustrate the workings of the laws of nature.

It follows the musician-turned-physicist's critically-acclaimed series Wonders Of The Solar System earlier this year.

He will also become the new Sir Patrick Moore as the face of Stargazing, a three-night live event in which viewers are encouraged to look to the skies.

It will be staged during one of the most exciting weeks in the astronomical calendar.

The channel moves its spotlight to history after focusing on science earlier this year.

Among programmes in the strand will be a look at the lives of Pompeii's population before the catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. Pompeii will be presented by Cambridge professor of classics Mary Beard and the BBC said it will give "a fascinating insight" into the lives of the era.

Presenters Sue Perkins and Giles Coren will be stepping back in time as they try to bring to life the 70s sitcom The Good Life.

The Supersizers duo will try to live self-sufficiently like Tom and Barbara Good - originally played by Richard Briers and Felicity Kendall - who gave up the rat race to live a simple life in Surbiton in the comedy series.

New comedies include the highly-anticipated Episodes, starring Friends actor Matt le Blanc, as well as British stars Stephen Mangan and Tamsin Greig.

Doctor Who star Matt Smith plays late gay writer Christopher Isherwood in one-off drama Christopher And His Kind, and Victoria Wood plays Eric Morecambe's mother in Morecambe And Wise, a drama about the comedy duo's early life.

Other programmes to be broadcast later this year include Neil Morrissey - Care Home Kid, in which the Waterloo Road actor tries to discover why he was put into care at the age of 10.

Have I Got News For You panellist Ian Hislop presents The Do-Gooders, a look at some of the great social reformers of the Victorian age, and adventurer Bruce Parry takes on the Arctic in Arctic With Bruce Parry.

Janice Hadlow, controller of BBC2, said: "This new season reflects BBC2 at its most ambitious and distinctive, bearing the early fruits of the extra investment in drama and offering viewers some fantastic new mainstream comedies alongside the greatest range of factual programming on TV."