BBC Video // 2009 // 406 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // February 19th, 2011
I am the Stig.
Plenty of high-definition vehicular tomfoolery for you and yours on this loaded three-disc set. Also, two specials. Not bad bang for your buck.
Season 14 of the biggest car show in the world brings seven episodes; strewn with the challenges, interviews, motoring tests, drag races and the goofy banter that has come to define Top Gear.
Highlights for this go-round include a custom-built electric car to best the hated G-Wiz, the reveal of the car company that made the greatest number of great cars, James May flying around in a blimp, a road trip to Romania to zip around the so-called world's greatest road in cars worth more than your first born, airport motorsport and a stab at creating a car-powered art gallery.
I'll be honest, this isn't my favorite season of the show.
I love Top Gear fiercely, and it's no surprise the show has such a huge, rabid following; James May, Jeremy Clarkson, and Richard Hammond are probably the three best TV show hosts working today and the stuff they do is genuinely cool. Season 14 just doesn't quite hit the heights of the previous iterations, its segments falling short of recent legendary stuff like the muscle car road trip, the police car challenge or the custom limo competition.
In fact, if you are a lover of the Top Gear challenges like I am, you will be as disappointed as I was to discover that there aren't any challenges this season. The closest you get is a join venture, where the guys build that electric car. And that is a sublime segment, just not as engaging as those cheap car competitions that the show has become famous for. Some lesser bits like the art gallery and airport racing try to bring the humor level up, but they fall short.
The car reviews are just as sexy though, featuring a face-off between the Audi R8 and the Corvette ZR1 and tests of such engineering marvels as the Lamborghini Gallardo, Lexus LFA, Merc AMG S63, Aston Martin DBS and the Ferrari California. Basically, those are amazingly fast and awesome cars that cost more than Puerto Rico.
Thankfully, the saggy segments are largely trumped by the terrific Bolivia Special, which finds the guys dumped in the guts of the Amazon Basin with three cheap, potentially unreliable four-by-fours with which to ford rivers and plow through jungles. As far as specials go, it's one of my favorites and is funny, ambitious and sometimes harrowing.
It all comes together nicely in a sweet Blu-ray package -- finally. Top Gear is made for high definition and though the 1.78:1 widescreen transfer is 1080i, the picture quality is still a winner. The supercars look great in the enhanced resolution and the Bolivia scenery springs to life. The 2.0 stereo audio is a missed opportunity, however, depriving us of a fully-enveloping vicarious car experience. Extras (in standard-def): the almost-as-harrowing Polar Special, revealing commentary for the Bolivia Special and a series of brief behind-the-scenes segments.
According to the disc case edits have been made, but they were likely minimal as the episodes on disc aren't the butchered BBC America broadcast versions.
Not one of my favorite seasons, but good fun nonetheless. The Bolivia Special is fabulous.
Not Guilty. Vroom.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: BBC Video
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 406 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Bonus Episode