Imagine the pitch: we're going to make an hour long show where three guys test outrageously expensive cars, some of which even the 1% would have trouble buying, and critique them. Then we'll have them travel across exotic countries in Ferraris and Lamborghinis and make a lot of comments about the quality of the roads. It's sounds like a daft idea, but that's pretty much what Top Gear is, and it's incredibly entertaining. Season 19 is no exception, and while it's much too short (only 5 episodes and a two-part special) it's still a great ride and well worth picking up.
Recap: 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 viewers 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 challenge; some series of silly trials where they test the capabilities of the car they've chosen.
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 to discuss the why the overhead cam was such an important innovation (though he 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 each show with hilarious banter.
In season they showcase some great cars and take part in some fun challenges. One of the most entertaining was an American trip from
They also test a car that people can actually afford to buy, a Kia Cee'd. This is the car that they have famous people race around their track in the "Stars in a Reasonably Priced Car" segment, and they thought it only fair to see how the newest model stacks up. In true Top Gear style they drive around a bit, demonstrate the very cool self parallel parking feature, and even illustrate how a "local guitarist" is able to hook a guitar up to the sound system. They show a cable plugged into port inside the car while the beginning cords of Layla start playing. The camera zooms out and it's Eric Clapton playing a Strat. They also wonder if Officer John McClane could use the horn, and show Bruce Willis, covered in cuts and blood, sitting in the front seat. He toots the horn successfully.
The season is capped off with a two-part special where the trio buy a used "estate car" and take it to Africa where they're challenged to find the source of the
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 at this time.
The stereo sound is very good, with a fair amount of separation between the two channels, but I would have enjoyed a dedicated subwoofer channel to get more of the growl from some of the more energetic engines that they test.
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.
Nothing this time around.
This was another fun and entertaining season. While it's pretty short, a scant seven episodes in all, the content was hilarious and the cars were exciting. If you've seen the show, you'll know what to expect. Pick this one up. Highly Recommended.