"Top Gear 10" DVD Review
April 28, 2009 by Zach Demeter
Car enthusiasts have been enjoying the BBC produced Top Gear for years, which has aired domestically on BBC America and BBC Canada. Unscripted (for the most part), the show covers a much wider range of vehicles than you would be led to believe by the various clips that float around online. Whether itís a Honda or the latest Ferrari, every car gets a fair shake on the show and inbetween the love of cars, exciting stunts and experiments are conducted by the cast, such as crossing the Kalahari desert and developing an amphibious vehicle (yes, again). And thatís just within this tenth seasons ten episodes.
If you thought Top Gear would calm down a bit and the presenters would start to act their age. Well youíre wrong. Season 10 is one of the most ambitious, featuring some challenges that only the very brave or the very stupid would dare to undertake. For example, who in their right mind would attempt to drive through the Kalahari Desert in three 20 year old bangers? Or try to cross the treacherous English Channel in a fleet of amphibious cars that are less seaworthy than the average church? You guessed it Top Gears three intrepid presenters Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May. Of course Top Gear is much more than just three grown men who should know better larking about. Thereíll be some serious car journalism in there too with exhaustive road tests of the latest models; looks back at the history of motoring; man versus machine experiments and weekly power tests featuring the worldís most exotic super cars. And, of course all the tried and tested Top Gear favorites will make a welcome return including the news; the cool wall and The Stig whoíll be putting the rich and famous through their paces in the regular Star in the Reasonably Priced Car feature.
Huge summary? Yeah, but it does wrap up this season quite well. Thereís a lot to take in here, with the fifty minute episodes (sometimes a little less, sometimes a little more) covering a vast array of content. Going into the show Iíd only known a little from the YouTube clips and random episodes Iíd seen, so I didnít actually know that they did everything from making boat cars and participating in mobile home derbyísóitís really just an incredibly diverse and terribly interesting show that I challenge anyone to put down after just a few episodes. Ok, so if you donít care about cars then youíll likely not give to craps about it, but those who are even slightly interested in hearing about BHP and naught-to-60 will find the show just absolutely fantastic to watch.
I think one thing that makes the show so brilliant is that whereas Iím usually saturated with the usual BMW and Audi vehicles via Car and Driver and Road and Track, this show really does cover every spectrum of the car world. Granted, this season 10 is a bit dated (2007, I believe) and considering the show itself is already through with season 12, the US DVD releases are a bit behind, but even though the cars Iím seeing on it are a few years old, itís still a whole hell of a lot more fascinating to look at than a car magazine, as I get the same specs and commentary on Top GearÖbut complete with the audio and visual component as well. Trust me, as exciting as it is reading about a supercar showdown, when you see it on Top Gear, itís a whole other beast.
So highlights of the season? Well, the desert crossing was quite exciting and the first episode of looking for the perfect roadÖwell, letís just say I never got tired of hearing the engine notes of the respective Porsche, Lamborghini and Aston Martin cars. There were a few disappointing episodes in the bunch, particularly the episode where James May drives around an Alfa Romero and we just hear the three guys talk for most of it (although it is entertaining and we do get to see a brief glimpse of my ultimate dream car [Dodge Viper], but itís mostly just a rather quiet episode). Having said that, even the dull episodes are more than filled with enjoyable moments, so itís really just one of those shows that, no matter what, youíre going to enjoy watching it. Again, if you like cars.
Really, the show speaks for itself. Twelve seasons strong and no signs of stopping, Top Gear is just as engaging and interesting to me as Mythbusters and, in a way, with some of the crazy ďmissionsĒ that they go on in Top Gear, parallels between the two shows could be drawnÖbut I wonít, just because Iím lazy and I may just be imagining that. In any case, Top Gear is a new favorite of mineóand thatís good, because I got eleven seasons to catch up on. Highly Recommended.
BBC Video brings Top Gear 10 in a barebones packageóno extras, but all ten episodes of the season are included, with it clocking in at over 500 minutes, thereís plenty here to keep you occupied for awhile. The majority of the video for the series is fine, although it is incredibly interlaced and pixilated in some cases. Maybe because of the PAL to NTSC conversion, butÖman, the quality can get a bit hairy. Itís not unwatchable and certainly still better than standard broadcast, but itís a bit disappointing when the beautiful photography of Africa or Sweden is marred by a sub-par transfer.
The set itself arrives in a standard single-width case, with three discs inside (one on the left side, two on the right) inside of a ďScanavoĒ case (never seen this particular style before, I donít think). Space-saving, however, so Iím all for it. Also included is a reflective-foil and embossed cardboard o-sleeve, to help purify the presentation somewhat. Again, zero extras, but still worth picking up since the content of the show itself is so lengthy.
Overall a solid release and one thatís Recommended for fans of the show, but those who will only watch it once should probably just give it a Rental.
Top Gear 10 is now available on DVD.