When Season Ten of Top Gear completed production, one could say the show was rapidly acquiring a following not limited to its British shores. But there may be a presumption here that show hosts Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May wanted to strike while the iron is hot, and instead of a longer than usual delay in between seasons, a smaller six episode run in Season 11 was in the works.
That isn't to say that Season 11 was dreadful, in fact there were some decent highlights in it. The first episode includes the trio making their own police car based on a used and much cheaper purchase, and the resulting hilarity is outstanding. Equally funny is the group's stubborn opinion that the British Alfa Romeo is less about driving efficiency and more about driving experience, despite the repeated challenges and attempts to prove them wrong.
The show is not always about exotic and elaborate challenges. Some of the segments that are prevalent are familiar to devotees of the series. The group review news in the automobile world or news events that impact drivers in Britain, including what could be described as excessive taxation and general bureaucratic dumbarse-ery. They also have a feature called "The Cool Wall," in which Clarkson and Hammond review a car and whether or not it's cool to drive it. The fights eventually get childish but they are fun to laugh at.
Along with those features, the "Star in a Reasonably Priced Car" feature returns for this season, with a bevy of British television personalities taking a turn around the Top Gear race track, including one who beat the lap time previously held by American Idol judge Simon Cowell. But don't get me wrong, the thing that brings a lot of people to the show is the cars, and Clarkson, Hammond and May cover them in spades. Where it's a new Ferrari or Mercedes Black Series, any of the cars they drive over the $100,000 price tag are given the proper treatment and respect, all the more so if they're actually worth driving.
The larger more grandiose challenges aren't absent either. The biggest one would have to be the race in Japan, where Clarkson drives an early pre-America release of a Nissan GT-R, while Clarkson and Hammond take the Japanese public transit system in a race across the country. The interaction between the trio remains entertaining and makes for some funny moments, adding to a rapidly loaded highlight reel.
Still, there feels like the season feels like more of the greatest hits and unreleased singles, rather than a new studio album. The Japan race seems to do the best job of combining humor, adventure and well, car porn, in the season. And for something you can see or find on the internet all over the place, that would seem to make this short season a little forgettable.
Top Gear arrives in a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation and the episodes are straight from the American and Canadian broadcasts. There's not the same visual style that was going on in Season Ten, things are a little less vibrant here and the look for the season is a little more natural. Film grain is a little more abundant that I remember seeing, and there's little noticeable edge enhancement or haloing, things look fine.
The Dolby Stereo two-channel soundtrack replicates the sound experience like any other TV program highlighting and reviewing cars. While the rumble and roar of the super cars is pleasing to the ear, there's no low-end for the subwoofer to pick up on. There's a lot of sound effects in the episodes but the surround speakers are little used. In fact, there may be some instances of music replacement, notably on the Nissan GT-R race through Japan, though I'm not completely sure on this. Otherwise, it sounds fine, though not as good as it could.
This release, like the Season Ten release, is sans extras.
Season 11 of Top Gear almost serves as a metaphor for the show itself, with the wit and insight from the hosts, outstanding car reviews and entertaining challenges designed to show a car's power. Before you know it, the show (like this two-disc set) is over. The short run is an afterthought, and the lack of worthwhile extras make this more likely to skip and look towards longer more robust series.