On the Bubble: Top Gear

Posted on April 25, 2012


My wife and I started watching BBC America because of shows like Prime Suspect, Wire in the Blood, and other terrific crime dramas. Plus they showed the digitally re-mastered run of Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

While we watched those shows, we kept seeing commercials for a show that seemed to combine exotic cars and crazy stunts. I had to watch, and while I did, my wife got hooked.

We Watched It

Top Gear stars three car nuts – Jeremy Clarkson (center, in the photo above), Richard “Hamster” Hammond (left), and James “Captain Slow” May (right; the guy in the helmet and track suit is The Stig). They talk about cars in a studio, take exotic cars for test drives, and do elaborate comparison stunts between different kinds of cars – hot hatchbacks, muscle cars, touring cars, etc.

The stunts are often hilarious, and sometimes unbelievable. They race fighter jets, Olympic luge competitors, and Volkswagen Beetles falling from the sky. They turn trucks into amphibians. They tried to turn a car into a space shuttle.

The three stars are opinionated, outspoken, people, each with a unique point of view. Jeremy Clarkson loves power and Mercedes-Benz, and is completely useless with tools. Hammond likes a combination of power and precision, and far prefers Porsches. James May loves comfort and luxury. Both Hammond and May know how to turn a wrench.

On the Bubble

The problem is that Top Gear seasons are very short, roughly seven weeks. So we go long periods of time without seeing new episodes. For a while, reruns were good enough to get us through the dry stretches. Now, we’ve seen them multiple times and don’t care anymore.

We saw the season 17 Christmas special, in which the three hosts drove vehicles representing British manufacture across India. The interplay between hosts came across as mean-spirited. The special was about them being ridiculous to each other, not bothering to respect or participate in the local culture, and had little or nothing to do with cars.

I couldn’t remember why I watched the show at all. I was ready to quit, until we watched the first episode of the season – which was back to normal.


Yes, I know that there’s an American version of Top Gear on the History Channel. I watched the first season, and it was pretty darn good by the end of that season. It started becoming its own thing instead of just a direct copy of the British show.


Have you ever turned off any reality show because the interplay between the cast changed for the worse?

Posted in: television