When I was traveling across country, everyone I encountered just had to tell me about his or her favorite television show. Yes, Americans passionately love their television shows, and I constantly got pulled into conversations about shows I’d never seen.
As I listened to people expound about Game of Thrones and Mad Men, I wondered what current show was my favorite. The answer came quickly. Top Gear on BBC America.
Yes, I drive an eleven year old Chevy with a squeaky belt, and I love Top Gear UK.
Yes, I am a chick, and I love Top Gear UK.
Top Gear is a show about cars. They drive cars, they test cars, they talk about cars. There are other Top Gears, but I think the UK is the funniest. Their feats of sardonic wit have made me double over with laughter. This got just a bit dangerous as I was running on a treadmill at the time.
Top Gear has three co-hosts. None of them are heart-throb material nor annoyingly hipster. There’s James May, the aging hippie. There’s Jeremy Clarkson, the tall fella with curly hair who is too smart for his own good. Finally, there’s Richard Hammond, the short fella who could be the heart-throb but really isn’t and gets grief for his very white teeth.
The Top Gear hosts don’t just drive cars. They love cars with a pure, unembarrassed, totally sincere, unironic love. They describe cars with language that borders on bad poetry.
However, it’s not all a flower garden of petrol burning love. They have their issues. They don’t think too highly of Prius (I say pre-us, they say pry-us) owners or caravans (we call them motor homes). They regularly offend other countries, but as an American, I must say their muscle car trip to Bonneville to make an information (not entertainment) documentary was hilarious.
There is also the Stig, an anonymous silent race car driver who tests super fast cars around a track. I always admired the zen of the Stig; then I learned that the Stig did not get respect and walked. There is now a new Stig. Please Top Gear, respect the Stig.
Even with the controversy, I’ll still watch Top Gear, and I don’t just tune in to see the celebrity lap in a reasonably priced car. In fact, most of the celebrities are boring and understeer on Gambon.
The show gets really fun when the hosts go on misadventures with cars. It’s rare that grown men are allowed play with grownup toys. They usually have to be responsible and sensitive. They have to care. These guys are just themselves in that guy way. They’re not going to solve the world’s problems, and they’re probably contributing to global warming.
But so what. They’re selling a fantasy. I will probably never drive a Ferrari around a test track (although it looks like fun, and I’d like to try if possible, but first you’d have to teach me how to drive stick).
They know it’s a fantasy, and we know it’s a fantasy, and they know that we know it’s a fantasy. It’s okay to have a little fantasy on TV. It doesn’t have to be reality all the time.
One of the funniest misadventures on Top Gear was the Amphibious Car in a reservoir challenge. Clarkson’s meltdown at the end is hilarious: