BBC Video // 2010 // 370 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // February 19th, 2011
Before the Stig's fall...
The 15th series of the mammoth motoring show brings in the biggest stars, the fastest cars and the...um...tastiest Malomars.
This set contains six episodes this series; featuring Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May up to their usual engine-related hijinks. Some highlights: Jeremy test-drives the three-wheeled Robin with little success, James takes an all-terrain tour of an active volcano, the Stig puts the Bentley Supersports through its paces, the reasonably-priced car is jettisoned, a pair of snowmobilers are raced by a Volkswagen, the guys build low-cost custom motor homes and James May -- Captain Slow himself -- attempts to break a world record in the new Bugatti Veyron. All in glorious high definition!
The leap to HD continues to benefit this show greatly. Sure, Clarkson's craggy face looks a whole lot craggier in the enhanced resolution, but just take a gander at that Veyron now, blasting past 260 miles per hour. If there was a reality show built for the next generation optical format it's Top Gear.
Substance-wise, the six episodes remain good fun, offering a mix of serious -- if sporadically sarcastic -- reviews of cars that you will never be able to afford even if you had three lifetimes to pull together the down payment, lively celeb interviews, juvenile banter and, what has become the bread and butter of the show, hilarious challenges.
There are some gem challenges in this series, starting with the motor home competition, a ridiculous custom build-off that has Jeremy driving around in a Citroen with a two story flat attached to its roof and James trapped in a soda can bolted to the top of a Lotus. Then you have the second-hand sports saloon challenge (Richard buys a death trap!), a four-door supercar test featuring a wedding and duct taped pants and, lastly, a loving tribute to the erstwhile British sports cars of yore. Nothing here approached the grander and hilarity of classic challenges like the amphibious vehicles, the cheap police car or the British-Leyland competition, but there is still much amusement to be found.
What does exceed previous seasons -- at least from the Yankee's point of view -- is the star power. Each episode, Clarkson "puts a star in a reasonably priced car," interviewing a celebrity then timing his or her lap around the track. Instead of news readers or British TV personalities I have never heard of, Season 15 brings us Rupert Grint, Jeff Goldblum, Cameron Diaz and Tom Cruise. Diaz continues to irritate as much as flypaper ripped off of my inner thigh, but Cruise brings it, sharing some great anecdotes and delivering the most memorable celeb lap ever.
As far as the Blu-ray, the 1.78:1 HD transfer is very good looking even if it is rendered "only" in 1080i. So close BBC! The step up from previous DVDs is stark, making Blu the only way to watch this show. Take a gander at the volcano segment to fully embrace the step-up. Audio is 2.0 stereo, which, admittedly, is disappointing, considering the sound and fury that can be wrought by a V-12 turbocharged engine. Extras: a lengthy one-on-one with James May as he commutes to work, outtakes and extended scenes. Bonus materials are not in high definition.
According to the disc case: "for clearance reasons certain edits have been made." They must have been slight, because these aren't the 40-odd minute abbreviated shows from BCC America.
Not quite boasting the technical horsepower, Top Gear 15 still looks great and the shows are petrolhead Nirvana.
Not Guilty. Powwwwweeerrrrrrrr!
Review content copyright © 2011 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: BBC Video
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 370 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scenes