Gearing Up for a High-Octane Adventure - Where Laughter and Torque Collide
Top Gear review by Steven Hardy
Top Gear, a long-standing British motoring institution, is the pinnacle of car enthusiast entertainment. With a colourful cast of presenters, adrenaline-fueled challenges, and a parade of stunning cars, this BBC classic is a petrolhead's paradise. The show has undergone numerous evolutions over the years, but its most iconic era featured the antics of Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May, who turned the show into a global phenomenon.
Top Gear was the title of a British motoring magazine programme which originally aired on BBC Two between April 1977 and December 2001. This version of the show was as far removed from the current version as can be imagined, focusing on a range of motoring topics, car reviews, road safety and consumer advice. Originally presented by former newscaster Angela Rippon it was distinctly middle-of-the-road. By 2001 viewing figures had declined at the BBC waved the chequered flag on the show.
In December 2001, Jeremy Clarkson and producer Andy Wilman, convinced that there was more mileage to get out of the series, teamed up work on a revival on the show that would pump some much-needed horse-power into the format if it were to make any impact.
Set in the heart of the British countryside, Top Gear, that is the modern version, takes viewers on a thrilling ride through the world of automotive innovation, speed, and pure, unbridled fun. With a blend of light-hearted competition, genuine camaraderie, and a healthy dose of cheeky humour, this motoring masterpiece has since served up a delightful smorgasbord of entertainment that keeps fans coming back for more.
The show features a mix of car reviews, celebrity interviews, and action-packed challenges, all designed to showcase the best (and sometimes worst) the automotive world has to offer. From testing the latest supercars to building amphibious vehicles, the presenters tackle a wide range of tasks with their trademark wit and often disastrous results.
Some of the most memorable moments from past series include the epic road trips, where the presenters were given a budget and a set of rules to follow as they embarked on a journey through foreign lands. One standout example is the Vietnam special, where the trio ditch their usual four-wheeled companions for motorcycles, traversing the country from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi. This cultural adventure is packed with laughter, breath-taking scenery, and the inevitable breakdowns that make Top Gear so endearingly unpredictable.
Another unforgettable episode featured the presenters attempting to turn a Reliant Robin into a reusable space shuttle. The challenge resulted in a hysterical series of engineering mishaps, culminating in a fiery and spectacular finale that is pure "Top Gear" gold.
The iconic "Star in a Reasonably Priced Car" segment saw celebrities swap their red-carpet attire for a helmet and racing overalls as they attempted to set the fastest lap time in an ordinary family car. This light-hearted competition produced plenty of laughs and offered viewers a unique insight into the driving prowess (or lack thereof) of their favourite stars.
The trio of Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May were the beating heart of Top Gear. Their chemistry was electric, their banter razor-sharp, and their shared passion for all things automotive was truly infectious. Throughout the series, each presenter brings their unique flavour to the mix: Clarkson with his larger-than-life personality and penchant for power, Hammond with his boyish charm and daredevil attitude, and May with his meticulous attention to detail and dry sense of humour.
The three amigos regularly found themselves in heated debates about the merits of various cars, resulting in hilarious arguments that are as informative as they are entertaining. Whether they were discussing the finer points of a Bugatti Veyron or the best way to cross a desert in a 4x4, their dynamic is undeniably captivating and kept viewers coming back for more.
Of course, no review of Top Gear would be complete without mentioning the enigmatic Stig, the show's tame racing driver. Clad in a white suit and helmet, this silent speed demon is responsible for testing the limits of each car featured on the show. The Stig's identity remains a closely guarded secret, adding an air of mystery and intrigue to the series.
Top Gear is a high-octane extravaganza that offers a delightful mix of humour, automotive knowledge, and pure entertainment. The show's unique blend of jaw-dropping car stunts, insightful reviews, and the camaraderie between Clarkson, Hammond, and May made it a must-watch for car enthusiasts and casual viewers alike.
Despite the departure of the trio in 2015 and the stream of presenters who have come and gone, Chris Jordan, Andrew Flintoff and Paddy McGuiness have settled nicely into the driving seat of the show since 2019 (although Harris began presenting in 2016) and it remains as one of the BBC's most commercially successful programmes with episodes broadcast internationally throughout Europe as well as in North America, Southeast Asia and many more, making it the most widely viewed factual tv shows in the world.
From the outrageous challenges to the thrilling road trips, the series today continues to serve up a generous helping of excitement and laughter in every episode. With its quirky charm and undeniable passion for all things motoring, the show has become a cultural icon that transcends the typical car show format.
One of the most endearing aspects of Top Gear is the genuine friendship and respect shared among the presenters. As they embark on their motoring misadventures, their infectious enthusiasm and shared love for cars create a viewing experience that's both heart-warming and hilarious.
Presenting Top Gear though does not come without its risks. Richard Hammond crashed a car whilst travelling at nearly 300mph at a former RAF airbase near York, leaving him in a coma with a frontal lobe brain injury, but fortunately he survived and returned to the show. More recently Andrew "Freddie" Flintoff was hurt at Dunsfold Park Aerodrome. As a result, the BBC cancelled filming the rest of series 35.
The show also features a rotating cast of guest stars, who often join the presenters for various challenges or to take their turn behind the wheel of the "Reasonably Priced Car." These celebrity appearances add an extra layer of excitement and unpredictability to the show, as viewers are treated to an eclectic mix of personalities from all corners of the entertainment world.
In addition to its entertainment value, Top Gear has a subtle educational undercurrent that introduces viewers to the intricacies of automotive engineering and design. As the presenters discuss the ins and outs of each vehicle, they provide a wealth of information in an accessible and engaging manner, making the show a perfect gateway for those looking to learn more about the world of cars.
So, buckle up and prepare for the ride of your life as Top Gear takes you on a whirlwind tour of the automotive world. Whether you're a seasoned gearhead or a casual viewer seeking an entertaining escape, this quirky, friendly, and genuinely enjoyable series is a sure-fire way to rev up your viewing experience.
Classic episodes of Top Gear can be seen on the UK cable channel Dave
Published on March 24th, 2023. Written by Steven Hardy for Television Heaven.