BBC Video // 2011 // 362 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // February 20th, 2012
The top Top Gear.
This three-disc Blu-ray set includes an episode of the American version of Top Gear, and while that show isn't terrible, it's a shadow of the original British version's brilliance. Jeremy Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond have this series down to a sweet science in which high-quality motoring-themed entertainment is assured. The segments vary in quality from episode-to-episode and season-to-season -- Season 12 currently ranks as my favorite -- but you can bank on seeing something new every time.
Here Richard tools around in the mammoth successor to the Hummer, then attempts to blow it up with some C4; Jeremy nearly gets decapitated in a Lotus Formula-1 race car; and James May rally-races a British Olympian skeleton specialist (which is the most insane Olympic event ever devised). The guys also test hot hatchbacks, pit the ridiculous Nissan GTR against he Jaguar's answer to the Aston Martin, road test two electric cars, utilize surplus military equipment to demolish a dilapidated city block, and throw an over-the-top birthday party for the S-type.
That's a good lineup of petrol-head fun, marred only by a series of relatively uninteresting (and unknown) "stars in a reasonable priced car" (save for Alice Cooper, who was awesome) and the lack of any truly memorable challenges that have defined the series. Jeremy and Richard embark on a cheap-car challenge, when they see what they can buy for the price of the cheapest new car on the market, but that has them spending seven grand on two used 12-cylinder luxury cars.
Actually, now that I think about it, the build-a-train challenge -- where our heroes construct affordable transit by converting cars to run on rails -- is pretty legendary.
With only six episodes, Top Gear: The Complete Season 17 is a little briefer than I would have liked, but I'll take whatever I can get and like it. The Blu-ray release is mixed, offering a very good-looking 1.78:1:/1080i transfer, but a no-frills 2.0 stereo mix that short-changes the epic exhaust and engine noises. Extras: The aforementioned episode of Top Gear U.S. and a boat-load of bonus segments (interviews with Amy Williams and Ross Noble, series intro from Jeremy and James, an intro to Sebastian Vettel's power lap, James's cockpit reaction to the GTR, and behind-the-scenes footage of the celebrity laps) all of which was previously available online.
Top Gear is as good as it gets for lovers of cars and tomfoolery. Not
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Scales of Justice
Studio: BBC Video
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080i)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 362 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Bonus Episode
* Bonus Footage
* Official Site