Top Gear 11 (DVD)
Accessible to everyone and full of stunts, challenges and specialsegments, it's irreverent, witty, self-deprecating, inclusive and passionate. The charisma and enthusiasm of the show's presenters have helped make Top Gear a worldwide megabrand attracting a global audience over 500 million in more than 20 countries. This season'shighlights include a car chase in presenter-chosen old bangers for traffic cops, a race in the French Alps against extreme skiers, a race across Japan (a Nissan car versus public transport), a cross-country fox hunt (with Jeremy as the prey), and a Brits versus German Top Gear challenge. Of course, this season includes serious car journalism too, with exhaustive road tests of the latest models, man versus machine experiments, weekly power-tests featuring the world's most exotic supercars and all the tried-and-tested Top Gear favorites also return.
There has been talk of an American version of the BBC's Top Gear
, but the fact that it hasn't happened yet is probably a good thing, for aside from the obvious (i.e., the automobiles that are its raisons d'être, many of them shown in sequences filmed so beautifully and edited so slickly that the effect is equivalent to car porn), the show is distinguished by its ineffable Englishness. As usual, in this, its 11th season (with six episodes on two discs), most of that comes from hosts James May, Richard Hammond, and Jeremy Clarkson--especially Clarkson, who offers his typical array of droll witticisms (he describes the Nissan GT-R as "discordant… like Stravinsky designed it," while the Alfa Romeo 8C Competzione, "the most beautiful car ever made," is so gorgeous that "I wouldn't care if the sat-nav had Tourette's"). Each episode is likely to include a look at some fabulously unaffordable luxury car (in addition to the above, there are the Ferrari Scuderia, "the bastard love child of Stephen Hawking and Rambo"; the Galue, a virtual Rolls Royce clone from Japan; and the Mercedes AMG Black, "the kin of Cain"), plus a "cheap car challenge," in which the three hosts must buy a vehicle for less than a thousand pounds and, in one instance, convert it to a police car, and "Star(s) in a Reasonably Priced Car," in which celebrities drive a lap around a racetrack in an ordinary sedan (these segments will be of limited interest to non-Brit viewers, as the celebs are little known elsewhere). But the best bits are the competitions pitting an automobile against various other forms of transportation. In "Race Across Japan," Clarkson drives the Nissan some 400 miles across that country while May and Hammond ride the bullet train, a ferry, and a cable car; in another segment, Hammond races an Audi RS6 down a mountain road while two skiers hurtle down the mountain itself. As always, the camera work and production values are first-rate, and the show is brimming with fantastic scenery and judiciously chosen effects work. And even if Top Gear
may be starting to run out of gas--this season isn't quite as much fun as those from previous years--this is still the best car show around. --Sam Graham