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Top Gear: Old Episodes, Good Times

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About a month and a half ago (maybe a little more, but I’m not sure why that would be relevant) I sat on an airplane listening to two individuals behind me discussing their problem with BBC America. They said that while enjoyed many of the shows on the network they felt that all too often when they turned it on, Top Gear was airing.

I know, that’s completely crazy, isn’t it? Why should it ever be an issue to watch an episode of Top Gear, even, perhaps, the same episode of Top Gear over and over again. Unless you’re a true gear head there is simply no way that you can possibly remember all the facts and figures the show gives you about the cars they’re testing out, so there’s always something for you to learn no matter how many times you watch an episode. And, if you are a gear head, I can’t imagine that you’d ever turn down the chance to watch anything about cars – particularly the wide variety of cars that they routinely examine on the series.

I bring all this up because, if you didn’t know, BBC America is currently airing new-to-you episodes of the series. Well, they’re new to the States anyway, and therefore, I assume, new to you. BBC America has dug back into the archives and is currently showing season five of the series. Personally, I really look forward to the moment when they finally work they’re way backwards to season one, just so I can see how the new series began, but that isn’t to say that I’m not truly enthused with season five.

There are plenty of people, and there are moments when I might count myself among them, who are constantly perturbed by the fact that we get shows from across the pond month and/or years late. However, in the case of season five of Top Gear, I think it actually makes for a fascinating study. Season five of Top Gear was originally broadcast in England in the Fall of 2004. So when Jeremy Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond take a look at cars – more so the average cars for regular old human beings, but not entirely – and suggest which car is better than another (last night they particularly liked the redesigned Ford Focus), we have the opportunity to look and see whether they’re pick actually managed to be the better car for more than a month after it was driven off the lot.

As another example, and this time I am going to use a supercar even though I said that tended to be less interesting, last night the guys looked at the Ferrari Enzo which managed to post the fastest power lap time (that’s not a spoiler even if you haven’t seen the episode – it originally aired six years ago). Discussing the time, Clarkson said that they had talked about it and couldn’t imagine another car on the road or even soon to be on the road that might be faster except for the Bugatti Veyron, which they still described as only potentially existing in the future. We all know at this point that the Bugatti Veyron does exist and, if you’ve watched later episodes of Top Gear, you may even know how it fared when it went around the track (that I won’t spoil for you).

So, again, I’d have to argue that the folks behind me on the airplane were just plain wrong. Be it a new but old episode, a repeat, or completely brand-spanking new, I’d argue that Top Gear is always a worthwhile investment of one’s time. Frankly, I’d say more about it, but I have an episode on my iPhone that I haven’t seen in a week and a half and it’s calling to me.

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.