I don’t own a car. In fact, I don’t even drive. That hasn’t diminished in the slightest my passion for this show. Broadcast originally on BBC, and now a hit on this side of the pond on BBC America and BBC Canada, this show about cars might possibly be the best thing on television.
On the air since 1978, it’s been hosted since 1988 by the curmudgeonly Jeremy Clarkson. He’s ably assisted by tall hippie James May (often called “Captain Slow” by his colleagues) and the diminutive Richard Hammond (occasionally referred to as “Hamster”). The chemistry between the hosts is about 80% of the secret to the show’s success, with the centrepiece of each episode consisting of a series of vehicle-related challenges in which the trio can compete against each other. Some highlights include the three racing each other in trucks and city buses.
Other popular segments are the “Star in a Reasonably-Priced Car” (in which a celebrity is interviewed after completing a lap of the racetrack in a “regular” car) and those involving the masked race driver known only as The Stig. This anonymous pro takes out an endless procession of fancy cars week after week and tries to complete the fastest lap of the Top Gear track. In this way, models are rated against each other and argued about endlessly by the hosts.
Perhaps the best thing about the show is that it makes not a bit of difference that none of the models featured on the show are even for sale in North America. Nobody in Britain can afford these cars, anyway. Top Gear is the ultimate vicarious thrill show. We can watch a crew of foul-mouthed wisecracking lunatics tear around a race track in ludicrously expensive cars and we’re satisfied. The camerawork is dazzling, and the descriptions of the cars are over the top, which is also part of the fun.
It’s simply a joy to see these guys having so much fun at their jobs. The interviews are also great, because they put the celebrities into unfamiliar territory. Behind the wheel of a car and racing around a track, they don’t seem that much different to us after all. Well, except for me. I can’t drive.
Season 11 Details:
- 6 episodes on 2 DVDs
- 364 minutes
Season 12 Details:
- 8 episodes on 4 DVDs
- 500 minutes
- Special Features include commentary on certain episodes, the director’s cut of the Botswana Special from Season 10, deleted scenes and more.
Official web site on BBC America
Complete episode guide from Wikipedia
James, I am delighted that you would write about this show which I have reluctantly become a fond fan of. Reluctantly because it seemed so much the domain of the men in my life – first it was my father’s fave show, then it became my brother-in-law’s fave show, then his two year-old son’s, and most recently my partner’s! They’ve reeled me in with the cross-country treks – the excusions to Vietnam and the North Pole are my favourite episodes.
I’ve been a fan for about five years, and believe it or not, it was an American friend who first raved to me about it. Of course, it’s a “boys and their toys” thing, but they’re just so funny and don’t take it too seriously (at least I hope they don’t!).