Judge Jason Panella once saw The Stig without his helmet. He's been in therapy ever since.
"Everyone has an opinion on bad cars…now it's time to hear the ones that really count—ours."
Top Gear's usual show format has equal helpings of car chatter, auto performance segments, and sheer lunacy. The show's specials, though, are a bit different. They stretch out to feature film length and let hosts Jeremy Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond ratchet up the lunacy. The specials work as great entry points for the general public—while they all revolve around cars, the enthusiast-only stuff is kept at a minimum while the three hosts act like maniacs for an hour and a half. While the show is great to begin with, the specials are an insane amount of fun.
So with this in mind, The Worst Car in the History of the World is kind of a letdown. The special never aired as part of a regular season and only features Clarkson and May as hosts. The duo travel to the north of England to figure out, well, the question is right there in the title. Clarkson and May quickly acknowledge that there are plenty of manufacturers who only make terrible cars which, as it happens, are also incredibly inexpensive cars. What's worse, they decide, are fairly expensive stinkers from companies that have solid track records, like Rolls Royce, Ford, or Alfa Romeo.
The bulk of the episode has the guys picking terrible cars and comparing them to good ones from the same company. There's lots of slow-motion racetrack action (thanks to test driver The Stig's Yorkshire cousin) and plenty of bickering, but the laughs take a backseat to the gearhead stuff. There are some really inspired bits—the duo trying to coax two whale-like American sedans through a driving course is incredible, but the highlights are spread thin. Part of the problem is Hammond's absence. Clarkson and May are hilarious guys, but the team's humor works best with Hammond in the mix.
BBC delivers a no-frills package: an average 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen picture and an average Dolby Digital stereo track. No extras, either.
So what's the worst car in the history of the world? Well, the Top Gear guys save that 'til the end, and they have an especially fun plan for the "winner." If you like Top Gear mainly for the cars, you might really dig this special. But for everyone else, it's a lesser entry in the franchise.
Not guilty. Feel free to bump that score up five points if you're a petrolhead.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: BBC Video
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