DVD Review - Top Gear: The Complete Season 13
Top Gear is possibly the best thing to come out of England. I was channel-surfing in my hotel in London when I came across three guys attempting to sail amphibious vehicles and failing miserably...and I was in love. I don't know much about cars, but Top Gear is not your traditional car show; rather, it's a show about three presenters who love cars and the various car-related shenanigans they get into (and then occasionally about cars). It's bitingly funny, at times entirely immature, and the most entertaining show on BBC America, whether you understand everything they say or not.
Thankfully, BBC Home Entertainment was wise enough to start releasing Top Gear on DVD awhile back, and today saw the release of season 13. Come along with me as I poke around the further adventures of Jeremy, Richard, James and The Stig.
Top Gear is a phenomenon in the UK, and rightfully so, because it's bursting with personality. The three presenters - Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May - all have their own unique character traits and an easy banter between them that can't be duplicated (and yes, sadly, we in America have tried). All of them are smart, funny and easy to like, and undoubtedly by an episode or two you'll have a favorite. Me, I'm a Hamster fan.
The best part of the series is the ambitious and sometimes absurd challenges the presenters embark on. This season, you'll see Richard and James try to race the Royal Mail in a Porsche, Jeremy and James try to come up with their own advertisement for the Volkswagon Chirocco (with disastrous results), Jeremy being chased by the British Army, and a faux reveal of the identity of the show's mysterious racing driver known only as "The Stig." The latter is painfully ironic considering that the man behind Stig's helmet, Ben Collins, elected to rain on everyone's parade and reveal himself as the Stig so he could write a book. He was subsequently let go from Top Gear, and now swears he's going to lead his own competing series. I'm not particularly impressed.
Top Gear also features a segment called "Star In A Reasonably Priced Car," where various personalities take to the show's track to see who can set the best time. In this set, those celebs include Jay Leno, sprinter Usain Bolt, Sienna Miller, comedian Michael McIntyre (in one of the most hilarious interview segments ever on this show) and AC/DC's Brian Johnson.
I didn't receive these discs in their retail cases, so I can't comment on the packaging, but if it's anything like the previous seasons, it should be just a simple plastic snapcase. I love it when packaging is easy.
There are two forced trailers (one for Torchwood: Children of Earth and one for BBC America) before the main menu on disc one, but you can skip those by hitting the chapter-forward button on your remote. Graphically, the main menus look great, but the episode menus leave something to be desired. The menus themselves do have a "play all" and "episode selection" option, and each episode has chapter selection - but without pictures or anything resembling episode names, so it could be difficult to locate a particular part of an episode if you don't remember it very well. At least for on-air listings, the episodes were named by whichever guest star was appearing, but here they just say "Episode 1" or "Episode 2."
Video and audio are presentable enough here, though the video isn't the crispest I've ever seen; it's not, however, any worse than if you had recorded the episodes on DVR and were watching them there. You do have widescreen presentation, which is nice. Previous volumes have elicited complaints that they've been edited from their original BBC broadcast versions, but since I watched these episodes on BBC America (which tends to be edited to begin with), I can't speak to that. If there are edits, you still get the majority of some great episodes regardless.
The Special Features
BBC Home Entertainment has finally started including special features on Top Gear DVDs, and this release is no exception. It comes with a smattering of modest special features:
- "Stig POV": A short featurette allowing us to see some of The Stig's drives from his point of view, which is interesting if you're even vaguely into the cars they feature on the show.
- "Spitfire Magic": Almost four minutes of the guys with Spitfires.
- "Ken Block: Slow Motion": Slow-motion footage from James' day with stunt driver Ken Block. It's pretty amazing to look at, but there's only just over three minutes of it here.
- Extended interviews with Brian Johnson and racing driver Jenson Button. Both of these are just about fifteen minutes, but my interest in them waned over time. It depends on your interest in either of the personalities.
- "Lamborghini Murcielago Run In Abu Dhabi": Just over a very fast, very loud minute of the Lambo doing what the Lambo does best.
- "Train Race Sequence with Jeremy Clarkson": More footage from Jeremy's adventure on a steam train from the first episode.
It's good to see some extras on these sets, but for the most part they're rather brief. I'd still love to see the three hosts on a commentary track over one of these episodes. Heaven knows what they'd say about some of their adventures and blunders in retrospect.
The Bottom Line
Recommended. Regardless of the mixed bag of special features and any possible edits there might be, Top Gear is still too much fun to pass up. Even if you have no idea about cars, it's impossible not to enjoy this.