BBC Video // 2012 // 508 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // July 14th, 2012
The boys are back.
Eighteen series and still going strong. The iconic motoring show Top Gear returns for yet another go around, and these guys are as entertaining as ever.
The series opens with a cryptic note from host Jeremy Clarkson, who thanks the audience for sticking with them, despite the fact they've been receiving a "battering." I have no idea what this means. It can't be traced back to the Mexico controversy, can it? My limited Google News search revealed nothing, so any readers from across-the-pond who have the 4-1-1, I'd appreciate a heads-up.
After the preface, we're onto the series montage and there's quite a bit of auto-tuned lunacy promised. Thankfully, the Series 18 delivers, once again asserting itself as the liveliest, smartest, most entertaining "reality" program airing on any airwaves. In my long experience with Clarkson, Richard Hammond, James May, and The Stig, I have found that each series has continually delivered the goods. Though I'll never be able to afford a hubcap off of any of their supercars these guys test, watching the Mercedes SLS Roadster, the new BWM M5, and the Masearti GranTurismo MC Stradale tear around the Top Gear track is primo petrol-head escapism.
And this stuff tends to be my least favorite elements of a Top Gear program. The segments and challenges our hosts embark upon tend to be the most fertile ground for amusement and Series 18 features an excellent assortment.
A few highlights:
"Chinese Cars" -- James and Jeremy head to China to look at the up-and-coming auto industry, which appears to be made up almost entirely of copyright-infringing knockoffs. Stig's violence-prone Chinese cousin is the stuff of legend.
"Saab Obituary" -- As a former owner of two Saabs, a small part of me died when the venerable Swedish automaker closed up shop for good. Their legacy gets a nice shout-out from Jeremy and James, especially the legendary 900 series.
"The Bentley Spitfire" -- Jeremy takes a spin in the most insane road car I've ever seen: an old-school Bentley sporting a 27-liter airplane engine.
"Affordable Car Racing" -- The guys endeavor to show what kind of car fun can be had for the cost of a bag of golf clubs and come away with an epically fun day bombing around a dirt track with some hicks.
"Richard and NASCAR" -- Hamster takes grief from his Brit-centric co-presenters, but develops an abiding love for the craziness that is NASCAR. A long overdue feature.
Buttressing this top-shelf content is a series of "Stars in a Reasonably Priced Cars" who are actually recognizable! The omnipresent Michael Fassbender! Doctor Who's Matt Smith! Ryan Reynolds, in what might be the funniest Clarkson interview ever! And Slash!
What puts this set over-the-top is "The India Special," a feature-length adventure that follows Jeremy, Richard, and James into India to engage in all manner of politically incorrect hilarity.
The DVD: standard definition 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, Dolby 2.0 stereo, and a batch of featurettes from Top Gear online; including behind-the-scenes power laps, more footage of Richard and NASCA, and James and Richard tooling around in a Bentley. Oh, and there's a bonus episode of Top Gear US, which is...meh.
Not Guilty. Vroom!
Review content copyright © 2012 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: BBC Video
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 508 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Bonus Episode
* Official Site