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Top Gear is without doubt the top programme on TV for car enthusiasts and the long running show is currently airing on BBC2 on a Sunday night or you can see numerous repeats on cable channel Dave. It is often referred to as "boys playing with toys" but to define this as solely a male orientated show would be wrong, you only have to view the studio audience to realise that this programme has universal appeal across both gender and age ranges. If they are to be believed there is a nineteen year waiting list for tickets to the show however if that is the case some of the audience must have registered in the womb.
There are three presenters in all and one other member of the cast who has never uttered a single word and each of them brings a different quality to the programme. Until recently Jeremy Clarkson was probably the nest known of the three however after a life threatening accident whilst filming a stunt for the show Richard Hammond received a huge amount of publicity. Of the three he is also the one who has branched out most into other TV presenting work although the third member James May has also had his own show recently focusing on wine and food.
Clarkson is by far the dominant character on the show, he has a reactionary, don't care who I offend attitude; he is in favour of fox hunting and thinks that cars that pollute are not a bad thing. He is also the most competitive of the three and the worst loser, one of the features the show often does involves the three presenters competing against each other in a challenge or series of challenges. These can sometimes be a bit wacky in design and often provide the most humour in the show. For example one of my all time favourites was when they raced to deliver a truffle to the restaurant at the top of the Nat West tower in London starting from the south of France. Clarkson was in a Bugatti which cost £5 million to make while Hammond an May were flying in a small plane for which May had a licence to fly the only problem being that his licence did not permit him to fly at night.
Hammond is the impish cheeky chappie of the three who has a twinkle in his eye and an obvious love of speed. I like the way that he reviews the cars that he drives as he brings a real passion to his presenting. He is a big Porsche fan which means he has a spot on opinion on cars as far as I'm concerned. He is also the one most likely to stand up (his lack of height is the thing he gets teased about the most) to Clarkson and certainly in the challenges the one most likely to beat him.
The final presenter May is a bit of a hippie character often derided for his slow driving and complete lack of directional sense, this bloke could get lost in a lift. He has a rather under stated method of reviewing the cars he drives but I do find him very knowledgeable and he is the perfect foil for the other two more out going characters even if this does mean that he is the butt of most of their jokes and also he probably gets slightly less air time than the other two.
The basic format of the one hour show will see the presenters reviewing three cars, most of the time these are new productions although they do occasionally review classic cars. Sometimes the review will focus on just the one car in a straight road test while other times they may review three different cars that are in the same class, for example they may review three people carriers of the latest off road models on the market, as you would expect with three opinionated people they do not always agree but what the viewer does get is a useful insight into each car and it can certainly help with any buying decisions. The back drop for some of the tests can be pretty spectacular, as well as normal roads cars get tested in some stunning locations such as beaches, European locations and sometimes on airfields or race tracks.
For the top end motors they also test them over a single lap and keep a record of the times in a league table, for this the fourth member of the team known as The Stig takes over although his true identity is subject to some conjecture as he is always wearing a helmet and never speaks. Some people think it is Damon Hill but I'm pretty sure it is not as Hill has taken part in one of the driving challenges and Stig had a much better time, more likely it is a test driver from either a rally or saloon car team.
Another regular feature is "a star in a reasonably priced car" where celebrities get to drive a bog standard family saloon around the test track in a one lap timed race, prior to seeing the lap they are interviewed by Clarkson to discuss past cars they have owned however the fun part is to see how competitive they are when put behind the wheel.
This show is consistently funny however how memorable a particular show is depends on the make of car they get to review and more importantly the challenge that they complete, for me the funniest was when they were challenged to convert a people carrier into a convertible and then complete some challenges one of which was to drive through a car wash, this resulted in them destroying a brand new one million pound car wash as it went up in flames. Another favourite was the time May feel down the side of a hill on the Isle of Mann and a really interesting challenge from the current series was when all four raced from the west to the east of London using car, public transport, cycle or in the case of Clarkson a speedboat, the final outcome was very interesting.
This is certainly a great show and not one just for petrol heads a sit has a great deal of humour and some presenters who are opinionated and passionate about their subject matter. This is one of only three TV programmes that I tune into without fail or record if I'm not home so it must be good.