BBC Video // 2010 // 348 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // August 8th, 2011
They said what about Mexico?
One of the planet's biggest shows return for its sixteenth round and brings with it a good deal of controversy. The cars are still pretty, though.
This season of Top Gear is probably more well know for its off-screen shenanigans than for anything that was bombed around the test track. For example...
* The Stig fallout -- In a much-publicized cluster-F, the long-time anonymous test car driver revealed his identity and ended up getting himself sacked. This event colors much of the presenters' commentary and there are entire segments devoted to the disgraced icon in the two specials. (In truth, there have been several Stigs throughout the years, all of whom kept their trap shut.)
* Mexico -- When discussing a new Mexican production car, our trio employ some stereotypes that were not taken kindly by Mexican government officials.
* Baby Jesus Stig -- Nothing more to say.
Regardless of the tabloid fodder, Season 16 is a solid entry in the pantheon of motorist lunacy that hosts Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May have built. While this edition may lack the immortal set-ups and challenges of seasons past -- the British-Leyland cheap car faceoff, the amphibious car challenge -- there is still much to enjoy.
For one, there are the cars, your typical assortment of ridiculous machinery that shmoes like you and me will only see in video games and on this show. But the hosts know how to make these wheels sing and their reviews are always a joy to watch; even if its sort of pointless, since no once south of Richard Branson will ever be able to afford them.
My favorite Top Gear moments deal with Jeremy, James, and Richard's quirky personalities, which are teased out in crazy challenges and races "the producers" cook up. Some standout segments for Season 16 include a low-cost convertible challenge, which becomes a BMW orgy; a competition against the stiffs of Top Gear Australia; a race against a plummeting Volkswagen Beetle; the construction of a massive snow-plow; another America road trip; and a supercar tour of Albania, culminating in a bank robbery. Not the same level of tomfoolery more memorable seasons have provided us, but still more than serviceable.
On the other hand, "The Middle East Special" is fantastic. The centerpiece of Season 16, the special drops our trio into the heart of the Middle East, where they are tasked with crossing multiple war-torn regions and a punishing desert climate in affordable convertibles. It's a good time and ends with the slightly-but-not-really controversial Stig finale.
The high-end Blu-ray episodes look fantastic, transferred in a razor-sharp 1.78:1, 1080p treatment that gives the hot cars a visual tongue bath. That metaphor didn't make much sense, but trust me: this is a terrific presentation. The 2.0 stereo mix is adequate, though it seems like we're missing out on some sweet, 5.1 engine sounds. Extras: extended interviews with "stars in the reasonably priced cars" (aside from Nick Frost and Simon Pegg, the wattage is unimpressive this season); a tour of the production offices; interviews with the presenters; additional power lap footage; and an outtake.
Don't bother looking for the offensive Mexico segment. It's been scrubbed from this release, making the numerous callbacks pointless. But if you want to see for yourself, check out the YouTube link in the sidebar.
Not my favorite season, but as long as Top Gear continues to roll, I'll tune in.
Not Guilty, Hamster.
Review content copyright © 2011 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: BBC Video
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 348 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Bonus Footage
* Top Gear: Mexican Car Segment