The BBC show Top Gear (BBC America edition here) is probably my favorite show currently on the air, after Downton Abbey of course. But Downton is on only a short time each year, and each series comprises very few episodes, so it seems as if the experience is gone in an instant. Top Gear, however, produces lots of episodes each series, and is currently starting its 20th series in the US on BBCAmerica (wonder how far behind we really are?), so there is plenty of motoring mania to slake even the keenest desire. BBC America does us the great service of broadcasting several episodes every Monday night, and even though I enjoy American Pickers, also on Monday night, nothing tops Top Gear in my book for pure unadulterated escape!
Trailer for last night’s opener of series 20 in the UK!
Trailer for series 20 tonight on BBC America!
What do I like so much about Top Gear? Hmmm let me count the ways:
1) The cars-the show features everything from supercars costing hundreds of thousands to “reasonably priced” cars around the track, to cars and other vehicles the stars (or presenters as they say) use for their myriad challenges around the world. A little taste of everything. And speaking of taste…
2) The presenters, Jeremy Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond, bring humor and more than a little testosterone to the art and science of motoring. They have very different styles and tastes, which is evident in their car choices, their dispositions, and their reactions to adversity. A brilliant match-up!
3) The camera work is astounding, amazing, incredible! No matter the theme or subject of the feature, be it racing around a track, making way through desert sands, or any one of the innumerable sequences the producers dream up, the camera and editing work is so brilliant it dazzles. In fact it really does get one’s heart racing as if one is actually there, and that is a feat considering one is lounging on one’s couch! Kudos to the camermen and editors!
4) The challenges involving travel, whether to the Blue Ridge Mountains, the desert outside Las Vegas, the wilds of Africa, the Middle East, the Italian Rivera, or the Arctic Circle, to name just a few, are well done if a little naive. The locals are always friendly in the world of Top Gear; I think this is part of the escape. To think that one could travel to all these places in complete safety (comfort is another matter, but any discomfort is not due to the locals) is a nice dream, and I enjoy living there once a week.
5) The drives around the British countryside are sublime! I have never been, although I hope to get there soon, and the bits of Britain Top Gear shows us are idyllic. Ahhh-very comforting, especially when one knows, even without ever having been there, that this UK is like Hogwarts humming along while Voldemort lurks out in the forest, spies and advance men ensconced in the castle. Well it’s a pretty surface, anyway, so I enjoy it while I can. But I did say Top Gear was my favorite escape, didn’t I? I hope to traverse some of those country roads for myself very soon, that is if I can sort out the steering wheel on the right, gearshift on the left, driving on the left thing without killing myself. (To be fair, they do also show us the maddening traffic, with its lorries and caravans (that’s trucks and RVs to us), but I expect that on an island as crowded as theirs!)
6) The celebrities in the reasonably priced cars suiting up for a rip around the track give all of us hope that we could clock a fast time (I myself have a secret thing for driving fast, and would love to take a turn around their track, just to see). Yes they are celebrities, and many of them own some pretty fancy and fast cars (as all of us would if we had the money), but none of them are famous for driving fast around a track. In a odd way, their celebrity status actually puts them at a bit of a disadvantage because the driving takes them out of their comfort zone; they must perform an unfamiliar task as themselves. Always an interesting experiment.
6) The fact that all the presenters aren’t just pretty faces; they can drive, fix their cars on a wing and a prayer when required, and when a feature calls for modifying a car to meet one challenge or another, they all get down to work ripping their vehicles apart and putting them back together. Not bad for three “presenters”!
It’s Monday, so I’ll be glued to the TV for the start of a new series of Top Gear? Join me?