Nicholas Goodchild

Historic and Pared Down

Top Gear Series 18 Episode 3

15 February 2012 by Nicholas in TV

Top Gear’s back again. it long since gave up any pretence of being a serious show about cars and became an entertainment program that is much about the bickering and dynamic between the 3 hosts as well as the improbable situations then find themselves in. Oh, there are nods to it being a car show: they race cars around a track and give reports on how they handle. But it is nothing like as dreary as a program about cars and all the better for it.

The show starts with James May reviewing a Vauxhall Corsa special edition. He isn’t taken with it, as he wants to drive a more normal car with more modest aspirations. He ends up with a Fiat Panda and goes into raptures about how it is fun because it struggles with things like cornering and driving on a motorway. This makes no sense to me. There is then some sort of point made about the general obesity of the populace and the fact that we are all likely to get fatter in future. I don’t know if something was lost in the edit or not, because there seemed to be the germ of a conclusion that meanders to nothing without a like for like comparison.

This, of course, is not the real reason anyone is watching the program and turns out to be largely filler. Ryan Reynolds guests as the “star in a reasonable priced car” whose job is to get a largely underwhelming sensible car around a race track as fast as possible. This is preceded by an interview segment where he actually makes for a funny and engaging guest and some publicity for his forthcoming film is inexpertly shoe-horned in. He does reasonably well in the car, too.

Next up is the entertainment segment of the program, and the real reason that most people would watch the show: in this week’s feature Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond are helping out in a film remake of the Sweeney (I have no idea if this is real or a contrivance for the sake of Top Gear) by creating a series of car chase scenes. Clarkson gets hung up on trying to create a gritty chase reminiscent of The French Connection whereas Hammond wants to create something more fantastic along the lines of the Dukes of Hazzard. This gets to the root of the differences between the two men but also provides much of the humour and drama of the section. It’s passably amusing, but overlong. Something the program editors seem to tacitly admit in their decision to split the feature into two segments.