BBC Video // 2007 // 506 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // April 23rd, 2009
"We just know...he's called The Stig."
One of the most popular TV shows in the world finally scores a U.S. DVD release. For its Yankee maiden voyage, the Top Gear boys bring their 10th season, featuring all the petrol-headed lunacy you've come to expect.
Presented by Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James "Captain Slow" May, Top Gear is an automotive enthusiast's wet dream. These hour-long programs feature a mixture of in-depth car tests that you would never ever ever be able to afford in your pathetic little lifetime; off-beat features; drag races with fighter planes; "stars in reasonably priced cars"; and the legendary cheap car challenges.
Three discs, 10 episodes, and more blown carburetors than you can shake a stick shift at.
Here is a show which is often slathered with extreme hyperbole in the accolade department, but I tell you, it is deserving all manner of praise. I first got into the fuel-fueled misadventures of Jeremy, Richard, and James through BBC America and have been hopelessly hooked ever since.
Top Gear is executed exceedingly well. The three presenters are charismatic, funny, and sport some of the finest chemistry on the small screen. Jeremy is the de facto leader who does all the celebrity interviews and gets his hands on the most interesting cars (he "tests" a BMW that can drive itself around the track) and typically plays the boorish, Alpha male role, which gives Richard and James plenty to work with. These guys play off each other like your stupid friends -- they're just older, staggeringly well-versed in all things vehicular, and united in their hostility towards London mayor "Red" Ken Livingstone. As awesome as the cars are, it's the personalities of these quirky guys that make Top Gear so enjoyable.
Placing them into ridiculous situations which "the producers" dream up often yields hilarious results. Some of my favorite segments from this season include:
"The British-Leyland Cheap Car Challenge"
This is where my addiction began. Jeremy, Richard, and James are tasked with spending a little over 1,200 pounds of their own money on an old British-Leyland car, which were renowned for their crappiness. They are then forced into a series of tests including driving the suspension-free cars on a rough road with a colander full of eggs over their heads, parking on a steep incline with almost zero brakes, and a race with the car's interior filled entirely with water. Awesome stuff.
"Amphibious Vehicles 2"
Another challenge and a follow-up to a legendary segment where the guys had to custom build low-budget amphibious vehicles and cross a reservoir. This time around they have to cross the English Channel -- with the predictable catastrophic results.
"Boats vs. Bike vs. Car vs. Public Transit"
Who can cross London the fastest? Frantic, funny, and surprisingly exciting.
"Bugati vs. Fighter Jet"
Richard takes the fastest road car he's ever driven against a jet, in probably the coolest drag race I've ever seen.
"Motor Home Racing"
Yeah, this pretty much speaks for itself.
"The Botswana Special"
The highlight of the season: a full episode devoted to the guys traversing Botswana in jalopies.
There is, obviously, lots more and I didn't even touch on the excellent car tests. The only bits I typically ignore are the "Stars in Reasonably Priced Cars," where Jeremy interviews a celebrity and the guest then takes a car around the track for a power lap. I tend not to have any clue who British celebrities are, so I'm not terribly interested (though this season did feature Simon Cowell). Also, some moments seem too scripted. These guys are at their best when they're ad-libbing and freewheeling, not acting.
The episodes are given a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer and look great. Sound is 2.0 stereo and while 5.1 would have been preferred, the mix is adequate. The biggest crime: Zero extras!
An outstanding show finally comes to stateside DVD, but a dearth of bonus content is as disappointing as one of those nefarious "flappy-paddled gearboxes."
Not Guilty. Vrrrrrrrroooooooommmm!!!
Review content copyright © 2009 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: BBC Video
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 506 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated