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Top Gear is, without question, the single greatest show about cars on
TV. What sets Top Gear apart is the attitude the presenters have. Other
shows tend focus on reviewing all of the various technical details and
specifications of the particular car they review... They'll give you
more information yes, but they do so in a cold and clinical manner.
That comes off as being a bit, well, German doesn't it? Top Gear on the
other hand, refuses to take itself seriously, which is what makes it so
great. Sure, Top Gear will talk about how many newton meters of torque
the Mercedes AMG CLS65 has and how that makes it the most powerful
production car in the world, but how will they convey that? By showing
you just how many men it requires to beat it in a tug of war contest.
They'll try to explain why the Cadillac Escalade, arguably one of the
worst cars you can buy, is one of the coolest. They'll see how many
motorcycles you can jump with a bus. Yes, you read that the right way
'round: How many parked motorcycles you can jump over while driving a
But Top Gear is more than just goofing around in cars. It's witty, it's funny, and it makes you feel like one of the guys. The three presenters all poke fun at one another, at cars, at themselves, and all the while you feel like you are right there in the studio hanging out with them. Oh yeah, and you don't even have to like cars to like the show. There's something in it for everyone. For sheer car freaks, the filmed review segments of the cars have seriously high production value- You'd think you were watching a $150 million dollar film directed by Michael Bay. The are just that slick. The music selection used in the filmed segments is also top notch, with some of the coolest cuts from both then and now. The news segment, where the presenters sit down to discuss what's new in the world of cars, traffic laws, or motoring in general is riotously funny. You may not know who the Chief Constable of Wales or the British Minister of Transporation are, but trust me- You don't need to in order to laugh at them. Then there's the "Star in a Reasonably Priced Car" segment, where each week a guest celebrity will come on to do an interview and then race around the Top Gear test track in a budget priced sedan to see how they compare to other famous celebrities who have done the same. And for the girls that tune in? Well, there's co-host Richard Hammond.
It is the presenters (hosts) that make the show though. You'll love to hate Jeremy Clarkson, possibly the worlds most opinionated and boastful man. James May, in sharp contrast, is almost a stereotype of an English gentleman. Reserved, witty, and refusing to run on television, May is cursed with quite possibly the best narrative style and voice I've ever heard. Bringing up the rear is Richard Hammond, the youngest, shortest, and most enthusiastic of the lot. Women will love him, because he's also the cutest.
I'm not even going to mention their tamed racing driver who tests all of the high powered cars on the same track to see how they compare to one another, a mysterious creature dressed in white that is only known as "The Stig". Well, apart from that mention of The Stig. I won't do it any more.
But please, please please, make sure you watch the full, unedited, hour-long version of Top Gear, which in some markets is known as "Top Gear Xtra". There is a trimmed down 30 minute version of the show which omits the news, the celebrities, and trims the filmed reviews for time. It's still good, but nowhere near as brilliant. And avoid the horribly edited and mangled US version of the show. Arguably the best Car show on in the states, it is an affront to the glory that is the raw, hour long series that is broadcast in the UK.
As an American, your selection of automotive programming is quite
limited. On one hand there is the SPEED Channel that is not available
in every market, and on the other there is the "Powerblock" on Spike TV
that offers little more than how to add a bit of power to your
Grandmother's '81 Caprice.
Even as an import, Top Gear simply blew my mind away during my first viewing of the show last year when The Discovery Channel ran a season of the show slightly altered for the US Market.
For one, the personality of the show is unlike anything I have seen before. The show's lead host, Mr. Jeremy Clarkson is rather opinionated on everything, and although he will never hide the fact that he does not like something, he himself is quite likable as a person. On the opposite side of the spectrum, there is Mr. James May, quite possibly the most British man I have ever seen on television or in the movies. He isn't offensive in any way, and although he may be known as "captian slow," his presentations are quite enjoyable as they always seem to come from someone with a level head. Caught in the middle is Mr. Richard Hammond, a rather young Briton who embodies the current generation of automotive fandom. All together, the hosts balance each other out, and each offer their own perspective to the show, appealing to a wide range of people.
Outside of the "acting," the cinematography of the show is breathtaking, given that it is a weekly event in the UK. Occasionally the segments rival that of some of the best television shows or movies that I have seen, and although they are primarily focused on the car and the hosts themselves, the surrounding environment often plays a large role in the different reviews.
...But then you add the great soundtracks of the reviews, the quirky setups to the different tests (such as a Bugatti Veyron racing a plane from Italy to England), and the great test laps done by the Stig... It all adds up to one of the greatest television programs, well, ever.
It truly is a shame that the viewing of Top Gear is generally limited to the internet via You Tube or Google Video here in the US, but there was a pilot filmed for The Discovery Channel in the US for an American version of Top Gear, but thus far, nothing has happened.
If you have the time, I highly suggest you take a look at the show, interested in automobiles or not.
Let me say that this is easily my favorite show on TV...ever. It's not
just because I am a huge "petrol head" automobile fan either. More
importantly, each episode is so finely crafted. The cinematography,
music, commentary and choice of subject matter is second to none.
Top Gear could have easily just shot a car sitting on some asphalt and talked about it. Instead, they use all types of lens filters to color shots, cloud part of the shot, etc. They use high speed cameras to show a tire spinning in slow motion with the smoke wafting off the pavement. They take shots from helicopters high above through patchy cloud cover as a car cruises down a winding race track. Every shot is beautifully executed.
This camera work would be beautiful alone, but it has been paired with a fantastic soundtrack. Every song is picked to illustrate some sort of emotion. For instance, the main presenter, Jeremy Clarkson is driving his beautiful Aston Martin DB9 through the French countryside and he begins to speak about the beauty of the car and how it is like no other driving experience. It is his favorite car. As he is talking, the sun is setting and they use a soft filter on the camera with an amber tint. To top it all off they play Massive Attack's "Heat Miser". If you know this song it is a slow, warm, almost sad mixture of simple piano key notes and deep string instruments. It fits perfectly and really conveys the emotion of the moment. I can't stress enough how NO show on TV would even think of using songs from little known artists like Massive Attack. I could go forever but just know that they play punk, classic rock, new wave, classical, hip-hop and obscure UK electronic...and it all fits beautifully. Producers of TV and even movies should get some guts and learn that we know this music and it has a huge impact on the depth of a show.
With all of this fine camera work and music as a backdrop comes some great commentary from the 3 presenters. Jeremy Clarkson (the older know it all), Richard Hammond (the young wild one), and James May (the conservative middle age guy) combine to bounce intelligent and very opinionated commentary off each other. This is all mostly scripted, but they do it in a natural way. It all comes off as fun and off the cuff. They don't pull punches either. They regularly attack the government officials, protest groups, auto execs, and other countries. It is great to see a show that is not afraid to say whatever it wants without fear of offending.
Lastly, the choice of cars is fantastic. If you watch this show, likely you have some interest in cars (you don't have to...it's great entertainment). If you do, you'll appreciate how they pick everything from exotic supercars to econo boxes. They pick not only the obvious in each car class, but also some lesser known and interesting cars as well. Vehicles from all over the world are put to the test. I really love the fact that they pick some wildly expensive exotics and some extremely valuable collectors cars and actually drive them hard. Car shows usually show you these valuable cars, but then drive them slowly around because they are afraid of damaging them. Top Gear does a fantastic job of keeping the car reviews interesting. Want to see how fast a Ferrari 612 Scaglietti is? Well, lets put Jeremy in it and race it against a passenger jet carrying Hammond and Mays from London to Switzerland. How agile and fast is a Mitsubishi Evo? Let's put a champion rally racer in it and race it down a snowy mountain road against a championship bobsled team on a equal length chute. It's ideas like this that have kept this show fresh for so long.
There are many more aspects of this show I could talk about (ie. The Stig, Stars in a Reasonably Priced Car, the news, etc) but I am being a freak. I will end by telling you that the Discovery Channel has already aired a number of "edited for the USA" UK original episodes here in the States. They were chopped up and lost a lot of their flow and character. I was thrilled to see that Americans could get a chance to see this show. I was disappointed in Discovery for editing out a lot of the British slang, foreign cars, and worst of all the fun jabs at American culture. Are we Americans that sensitive that we can't handle pokes at our weight, love of anything big, gas guzzlers, and that our auto industry is falling behind? Are these secrets? Apparently Discovery execs think so. Well, Top Gear has announced they are making in conjunction with Discovery Channel a "Top Gear USA". They have said that the UK test run on Discovery was well received but (in their infinite wisdom) they think that a new USA version will go over better here. They have pulled the edited UK originals from Discovery and have already started shooting the new Top Gear USA. It is complete with a new trio of hosts, their own test track, and the Stig from the UK show. The biggest differences will most likely be no studio audience, only cars that we've heard of here, and a lot more US made cars. If you ask me this is a huge mistake. This show works as it is. Everyone I know here in the US that watches the unedited originals loves it. It goes to the old saying, "If it isn't broken, don't try and fix it.". I believe we will end up with a watered down, poorly conceived, cheaply made variation of a good thing. Wait...isn't that why America's auto industry is falling way behind? Ironic isn't it?
If you like cars, then this programme is just simply amazing. Unlike
most programmes that are in this genre, the programme has survived a
beyond 20 years at the top, and not many programmes come close. 5th
Gear on five does come close, but it just doesn't have the heart or the
dedication that Top Gear does.
While the people on 5th Gear only talk about cars, the Top Gear crew talk about everything that is to do with cars, and not just the cars themselves. For example, they have "Star in a Reasonably Priced Car" where a celebrity goes round their track to see how fast they are. And once, they decided to test the Toyota Pickup's claim of being the "the toughest car on the road" by basically ramming it into stuff, and putting it on a building that got demolished etc. and it still actually run. They also once tested if you can run your diesel car off of Vegetable Oil (you can, although your exhaust smells like a bag of chips).
Overall, this programme's great and a show you must fit into your weekly schedule, gets 10/10
Yes, this show is about cars, but then again it isn't. Mostly it's
about extremes of opinion, dreams and fantasies, dares,
one-up-man-ship, and taking everything just a little bit further. And
it's also entertaining - very entertaining, which is what television is
meant to be, and so often is not. I'm not all that interested in cars,
and my son doesn't even drive, but we both love the show, and watch it
The balance of presenters: Jeremy, the loud-mouthed, cuttingly funny, over-bearing older guy; Richard, the young, cute, quirky, adolescent one; James, the sensitive, quiet, contemplative, intelligent one; is nothing short of genius!
It seems that no expense is spared, either on the experiments and dares, or on filming, and this adds to the visual experience. This show is funny, even hilarious at times, classy, controversial, and hugely entertaining. Most people I know who watch this show know almost less than nothing about cars, and I think that says a lot about how successfully this program reaches beyond the expected demographic of young male petrol-heads.
I don't care what anyone says - the British are the funniest of all.
Jeremy, Richard and James are all so different - but this is what makes
this show REALLY work. I have fallen off the couch so many times
laughing that it is becoming a hazard!
The show is entertaining, informative and hilarious - I would say the only drawback is after watching it you have to go and get in your own car and imagine what Jeremy would say about it. (I can assure you - his comments would not be good about mine!!)
It also doesn't hurt that James May is the most delicious thing on two legs - I just love this British gentleman - he is what men ought to be!
This one definitely goes all the way to 11!
While it can be argued that more substantial programmes exist, whether fictional or not, it is certain that Top Gear is an extraordinarily entertaining show with plenty to keep most on their bolsters. This is certainly due to the faithful backing of the BBC, but more importantly, to the three crazed bloody lunatics who host the series. Clarkson, May and Hammond share between each other many decades worth of experience in broadcasting, as well as motoring, and are impeccable contrasts well matched for their respective opinions 'n roles. The various features included in the shows and the involvement in these & all motoring matters, are exemplary, and quite frankly, unmatched by anything television has yet seen. I can safely assume that no better motoring show exists anywhere. I love it, so will you, guaranteed.
In short, Top Gear is the ultimate TV car program. If you like cars,
it's the thing to watch - and if you don't, watch it anyway because you
don't need to be a petrolhead or car buff to enjoy it. Pure, undiluted
fun. Three insane Brits who are not shy of giving devastating test
summaries for cars that didn't cut it. Not to mention the other stuff
they think up, be that the 1500 quid used Porsche test or Caravan
Conkers...the list is almost endless. While other TV car shows feature
lots of boring junk, the Top Gear crew isn't afraid of anything. If
needs be they put on helmets and crash test cars into a wall at 30 mph.
Even my mother likes to watch it, and her interest in cars is limited to "I like how that one looks" at the very best.
Eat your heart out, Richard Brunstrom! ;^> JK'05 aka Elkrider
I've been watching this show for over 7 years now and I have to say it
just keeps getting better. Many people spit and shout about the show
not being about cars and more of an entertainment show than a car show.
Well firstly let me say that this show began in 1978and went on for 12
seasons and the one complaint about that show was that it was boring
and Clarkson picked up on this and changed the show (in my view) for
What is it about the show that makes it so outrageously good? Well lets discuss the characters. Jeremy Clarkson - the man you wish was your friend. A sarcastic, cheeky and rude individual who is hilariously funny. His ideas are genius and he is not afraid to speak his mind - that is what i like most about him. He does not and will not lie and say a car is good and/or bad on bias alone in which many people think he does. Take Alfa's for instance, he loves them, but he will not sugar coat what he knows about the electrics in the car you just have to actually listen to what he says. Richard Hammond - The quirky one. Tends to be more positive about things but my god he is funny. His outrageous ideas and creations like his Narrow boat are fantastic. He is critical when reviewing, yet entertaining when necessary. James May (Captain Slow) - You have to love him really. He is a more precise critic on cars but tend to take, Unfortunately for him, more boring cars like 4 door saloons but in recent episodes we have seen him show his true colours and passion for cars by taking the Veyron up to top speed twice.
You have to remember that this is no the reason why this show is still a highly rated show 8 years on is not just because of these 3 personalities. When Clarkson was asked why is this show so great he gave FULL responsibility to the camera crews (who do absolutely stunning wok and should set a benchmark for cameramen around the world), the producers (who supposedly stay in work until 2am working) and all the back-room staff that organise everything.
You have to remember that these people have a passion for cars. Anyone who loves cars and has that inner child inside which allows for that bit of fun would realise that this truly is one of the best shows on modern TV and always will be. It is also every 10 year old dream job and also mine!
Top Gear is unlike any of the car shows produced in the U.S. It is, to use a term popular on the other side of the pond, brilliant. The hosts display personalities, wit, and charm. Along with the facts and numbers the souls of the cars are revealed. Any car. We aren't subjected to just the latest and greatest, but, also the common; just seen through the eyes of those who enjoy cars. Top Gear is like sitting around with your buddies and talking cars and having a good laugh all the while. It was good to have a car show that's intelligent and witty. It's a shame the Discovery Channel no longer has room in it's schedule for a show that's fun to watch.
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