Let's face it; Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James
May are the luckiest guys in the world.
Yeah, Ryan Reynolds was married to Scarlett Johansson, and Mark Zuckerberg has enough money to buy several European
countries and had Aaron Sorkin write the movie
based on his life, but the hosts of Top
Gear get paid to drive the best cars in the world really fast, in
exotic locations, with no pressure to win a race. How
cool is that? And they're incredibly
they do it. The legion of Top
Gear fans in the US will be pleased
to note that the BBC has just released the season 18 of this fun car
Region 1. All seven episodes as well as
the India special are included along with some nice extra material. What more could you want?
For those who haven't heard of the program, Top Gear is one of the most popular (if
not the most popular) shows in the
world, syndicated in 170 countries and earning an estimated 350 million
per episode. That's 5% of the entire
population of planet Earth. Pretty
impressive. Yet the show is so
simple: three hosts review very high end
sports cars and then purchase a used automobile and compete in a
some series of silly trials where they test the capabilities of the car
Why is the show so popular? It
is because of the personalities of the
three hosts. They're all a bit
different, Clarkson is what we in the US think of as a typical Brit: tall, politically conservative, stiff upper
lip and all that, while James May is the refined intellectual willing
discuss the why the overhead cam was such an important innovation
never gets the chance) and Hammond is the young, short, hip guy. But they all have a common love for cars, and
what's more important, they play well off of each other and filling
with hilarious banter.
This season starts off with a special, an
episode devoted to one great journey.
This time the trio is tackling India traveling from Mumbai
Delhi. The purported reason for the trek
was to increase trade between the two countries. They
each had 7000 Pounds to spend on a car
(2-3 times more than they usually get) and so they got some pretty nice
vehicles in comparison to their usual fare.
Jeremy Clarkson drove a Jaguar XJS, James May
was in a
Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow and Richard Hammond selected a late model
It was a good special, but not the
greatest. Since the cars were pretty
nice they didn't have to worry about them breaking down, which they
the most part. There were some funny
segments. At one point they decided to
promote British commerce by placing home-made adverts on the side of a
they were traveling on. On one side they
placed a banner that read "The United Kingdom promotes British
your company" and the other side proclaimed "Eat English muffins." Unfortunately when train cars separated the
signs ripped, removing the last three letters from the latter sign and
first half of the former. Ahh,well,
these things happen.
That incident prompted the Indian High Commission in London to
formally complain to the BBC about the content of the
program. Other sequences that were
pointed out included when Clarkson demonstrated a pants press to a
Indians at a fancy dress party by taking off his pants and pressing
them. The politically incorrect Clarkson
further by demonstrating how he had turned the trunk of his car into a
and commented "This is perfect for India because everyone who
here gets the trots." I think that
does qualify as toilet humor.
The series itself has some nice moments too. The
group checks out cars that are being made
in China, including the fancifully named 47WR9231-3,
have some drive around a track not by the Stig, but by his Chinese
Clarkson and Hammond are hired by the director of an action
movie to create a car chase sequence, and that's one of the best
this set. Clarkson wants something
realistic, while Hammond wants something exciting, like a car jumping
off of a
ramp into a helicopter. The director
sides with Clarkson, but Hammond decides that he can still make his
exciting so he hires an air cannon to launch a car through the air. Meanwhile Clarkson takes his instructions a
little too seriously. He has the villains
who are being chased (Serbian killers) say (in broken English so the
will understand) "Turn off the Traction Control!" "How"
By pushing the button for 10 seconds"
followed by a ten second shot of a finger holding a button down. As he put it, if you didn't include
every Jag owner would know that the whole scene was faked.
Of course they test some very cool and incredibly expensive
cars, including a Ferrari FF, a Lamborghini Aventador, a McLaren
MP4-12C, a Maserati
Gran Turismo MC Stradale, and the Jaguar XFR.
If none of that means anything to you, that's okay.
You don't need to be a gear head to enjoy
Doctor Who fans will enjoy seeing Matt Smith in their "Star
in a Reasonably Priced Car" segment, and will.i.am (The Black Eyed
Matt LeBlanc (Friends) also drive
around their track among others.
Needless to say, their tame racing car driver is still a
part of the show. "Some say he has
50,000 photographs... of his own camera. And
that 60 years ago this week, he too became a Queen. All we know is he's
If that's not enough, they zip across Italy
in supercars, Hammond drives a NASCAR vehicle, Clarkson tests a Ferrari
frozen, snow-covered lake, and there's an informative and touching
the recently defunct car company, Saab.
The only thing I really dislike about the show is that it's
pretty obvious that they fake some of the things that happen. The sign being torn on the train was planned,
though the hosts act terribly surprised.
Or how about when Hammond 'accidently' secures a winch to the
his car rather than to the frame? Does
anyone really think he'd make that mistake??
That makes the races and challenges a bit less exciting. When the three hosts compete in a race
against a trio of maimed British soldiers, is there ever any question
is going to win? Even
so, you don't watch this show to see who wins;
it's all about people who are racing.
Unfortunately this season of Top Gear is only
available on DVD.
Apparently the BBC is not going to release a Blu-ray in region A
The stereo sound is very good, with a fair amount of separation
between the two channels, but I would have enjoyed a dedicated
channel to get more of the growl from some of the more energetic
The 1.78:1 anamorphic image looks very good. The
colors are sharp, the lines are tight,
and the blacks are nice and inky. It's
an excellent looking disc.
Happily, they've included some extras with this set.
First off there is the first episode to the
second season of the US version of the show.
*Yawn* It's worth watching, but a
pale imitation of the original. There's
a three minute promo/introduction to this season, another promo for
hosted by Hammond, reels of Matt LeBlanc and Michael Fassbender driving
sports car, some extra footage of James and Richard driving a classic
followed by James giving a description of the car which is pretty
interesting. The best extra however is
entitled JC- Antelope. This is a few seconds that
occurred between the rehearsal and filming where Jeremy, in classic
form, discusses how the area around the studio fills with people who
antelope. Caustic and funny at the same
time. It's great.
Another great set of shows.
What can I say? If you haven't
Top Gear yet, this would be a great place to start.
If you're familiar with the show, you know
you'll want to get this so what are you waiting for?