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Top Gear Puts Me Into Overdrive

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I know I'm a day late with this one, but hopefully I'm not a dollar short… Top Gear. The new season started on Monday night on BBC America, and though I'm not a gear head, I'm an instant fan.

I'd heard prior to the new season starting that the show was fun, but for some reason I'd never really got around to watching it. But, what with my usual weekly fare on hiatus there was a 45-minute window in my viewing schedule and I slotted Top Gear in. Now, frankly, I'm not quite sure what I did without it.

Okay, that's an overstatement. It's fun, but it's not the be all and end all of television. I'm going to continue watching for the rest of the season, though.

For those of you who haven't seen it, Top Gear focuses on driving and all things remotely relevant to it. They test cars, they talk to celebrities about cars (and make the celebs run the Top Gear course in a car), and last night they went searching for the best driving road in the world (it's allegedly in Italy). They also sat and had a chat with Dame Helen Mirren, and tested out a souped-up Volkswagen GTI. The show has three hosts (or, as it's a British show they may be "presenters"), Jeremy Clarkson (the man in charge), James May, and Richard Hammond. They're funny, personable, and their undying love for cars doesn't (usually) overshadow their ability to talk in a manner that you (assuming you're not a gear head) and I can understand. In fact, I laughed out loud repeatedly during the episode and certainly by the end felt as though I knew all of the hosts despite never having met them before. I'm going to reserve saying any more about it though until after next week's new episode (I am considering having my TiVo look for old episodes though).

Last night I stuck (at least somewhat) to a BBC America theme (it's rapidly becoming my favorite network, it's just too bad that I don't get an HD version) and watching the latest episode of Last Restaurant Standing, which continues to manage to stay above the usual reality/contest show in-fighting among contestants. Last night it was even the team that was most deserving to lose that got booted. What could be more perfect than that?

The team in question, a couple, one of whom was American, had absolutely no idea how to run a restaurant. How they even managed to get on the show remains something of a mystery to me. She is a wannabe-actress and he a wannabe-musician. She ran the front of the house into the ground and he didn't run the kitchen at all; he was far more interested in setting up his drum kit than ensuring a successful dinner service. Last night they had to figure out how much to charge for dishes and couldn't work out exactly what their expenses were (pretty much just the cost of the food) and how much they were going to have to charge in order to turn a profit.

It was like they woke up one morning, decided they wanted to be in the restaurant business, and thought that a reality show was the perfect way to make this new-found dream come true. Maybe I'm too cynical, but I think they really just wanted to be in front of the camera in order to boost their acting and music profiles.

One person who certainly shouldn't be in front of the camera, ever, is Dylan Krieger (Bitsie Tulloch), star of NBC's quarterlife (the Herskovitz-Zwick production that was on the web and has now been put on TV). This character, the center of the show, is a mid-20s wannabe writer who has opted to start a website giving all of her personal opinions about her friends – who they love, who they hate, and what she thinks about it. She is then shocked and upset when her friends get angry. Gee, I wonder why.

Judging from the ratings, I was one of the few people who watched it last night, and I'm going to watch again on Sunday (when the next episode airs), but I generally don't do well with self-obsessed individuals like Dylan, so I'm not sure how much I'll watch beyond Sunday.

The show is just teen angst pushed back into people's mid-20s. Worse than that though, the first episode featured wholly one-dimensional, stock characters who acted in entirely predictable (and inane) ways. I hope that just because it was made for "new media" that doesn't mean that they figured they could use old characters and no one would notice. I guess I'll find out on Sunday.

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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.