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Give some middle aged men, some expensive toys and tell them to make a TV show, and what you get is either combination of Pimp My Ride and Extreme Makeovers, or Top Gear. A show that could well be described as the top magazine TV show on TV right now (though saying that, there's not really much competition) mixing cars with 40 something year old men and allowing them to do as they please.
So before we get onto the cars, lets first get on to the presenters, the real stars of the show, they include the pompous Jeremy Clarkson. Like him or not, it's hard to listen, watch, or read his work, with out having an opinion on the controversial leader of the pack, whether it's newspaper column, his books, or of course Top Gear, he's either going to make you agree with him, or make you wish he'd shut up. Secondly there's Richard Hammond, a short but quite attractive younger one, who's often mocked due to being short, but yet is probably the most likeable of the three. As well as writing for one of the tabloid, he's found huge success in other TV work such as Brainiac and Total Wipeout, which often makes the best of his easy going and casually charismatic nature. Filling the final slot is the likeable but often the most unwilling to fully encompass the idea of boys with fast toy ethos. James May, nick named Captain slow due to the safety first nature of his racing, is a classically trained musician who has also started to make more appearances on TV with things about wine and transport. Without forgetting the additional member of their racing driver “The Stig” who is used to test the cars around their track to see which are the fastest as well as taking minor roles in come of the challenges.
So onto the magazine format of the show the show often starts with Clarkson driving a fast car and giving it a review whilst he plays with it. Usually a rather expensive car that us mere mortals cannot possibly ever buy, but rather admire from a far as rich people let us glimpse them occasionally. After the review The Stig then tries them around the track and the times recorded along side the other cars from the previous shows to show which is the fastest.
After that there's often a “News Section”, often with the three guys ripping into the politicians and the green activists as they are often against fast driving (simple really). A laugh at some silly car designs often follows with the occasional “serious” note such as a little look at the future of the industry. This is often seen as a way to have a cheap shot at French cars which are regularly the target of the shows humour. Other targets for humour are Americans (in general) and of course Morris Mariner owners club.
After the news the show goes into a challenge, where (usually) the three presenters are given X amount of £ to buy a car which will fit into specific criteria and compete over a series of events. These usually end up testing things like top speed in a drag race or testing a boot capacity. Or at least that's the idea they usually end up smashing each others cars up in an amusing and slapstick way. Other challenges can see the presenters working as a team such as in a 24 hour race, or in a 2 v 1 competition seeing May and Hammond working together to beat Clarkson. Often Clarkson is in a super car as the other two use public transport to race across a country. This often makes up the bulk of the show, as we see that presenters complaining about their cars whilst winding each other up about theirs whilst doing 3 or 4 challenges with a winner decided on made up scoring criteria.
After the first part of the challenge they usually do a “Star in a reasonably priced car”, these range from TV personalities, to rock stars, to Movies Actors and models. The occasional racing driver is also occasionally on the show too, these use a cheap car that all the others have used to do a lap of the track. The times are again recorded and put on a league table with the fastest at the top. Before each “Star” does their lap they often have a chit chat with Clarkson wbout their car history (or whatever book/movie/album/TV show is about to come out of theirs).
The show then goes back to the challenge to see which of the cars is the best at the set challenges. In the most recent episode the three had £3,000 to buy a car to do a classic rally. The “boys” were each given a co-driver, one was a super model who knew nothing about racing, one didn't speak a word of English, whilst another was a “little person” who couldn't see over the dashboard. They then turned up late to the race and what was supposed to be a “live” race with the proper competitors turned into a private race between the three of them.
The show usually concludes when a winner has been decided, with regular breakdowns, crashes and misfortune throughout.
So onto a quick summary for the lazy folk who can't be bothered to read: 3 guys get to be big kids and drive cars quickly whilst crashing and taking pot shots at the French with a regular dose of hi-jinx.