Top Gear: The Automotive World’s Monty Python

Mystery Racing Driver

It’s difficult sometimes to write an informative article about the World’s Most Watched Factual TV Show as most people already know everything there is to know about your subject, but with Top Gear (UK version), fresh material is served up on a silver platter each and every week. The show has around 350 million viewers in over 170 countries worldwide and has become much more than just a car show. It’s become Monty Python re-incarnated.

My first experience watching these guys came some time in 2008, and before you all cast that impatient groan of disbelief, I know it has been on air since sometime back in the 70′s, but it takes me a while to catch up. Anyway, I was flipping through the Channels one Sunday afternoon and there was a re-run of a show that had aired earlier in the year. It was an episode where the boys were tasked with building a car capable of crossing The English Channel, as a boat. I thought, “what the heck, let’s see what the fuss is all about”. What followed was some of the most entertaining TV I have ever seen. The sight of these three clowns trying to sail across possibly the most dangerous water in the world in a car, suggests insanity, but these fools had it in abundance.

I have linked to the episode below. It’s only a clip but you’ll see what I mean I’m sure.

Prior to watching, I had always wondered why Top Gear was so popular. I now knew why. It’s not necessarily the content that attracts viewers even though it is diverse and very informative. In my opinion, it’s all about the presenters. They put themselves in your shoes. They talk just as Joe Public would if he was up there on stage. Their conversation verges on beer-talk at the bar between buddies. It’s that spontaneity that sets them apart, much in the same way that Monty Python’s Flying Circus did back in the 60′s and 70′s. When you sprinkle in a dose of incisive, cutting edge reviews to make the real car buffs drool, you add that sense of credibility that creates a viewer for life. There is no substitute for quality. For my own personal taste, the show’s on-air team of Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May are like that dark truffle chocolate you buy at the store. Too much and I start to get sick, but their success is unquestionable.

The show captures a huge audience with a wide range of different segments including “The Stig”, who is a fictional character that test reviews vehicles in a white racing suit for the show. He would drive the car around a test track to produce a fast time which would be graded on their “Power Laps” feature which determined the fastest car on the road. At one time, F1 Driver Michael Schumacher was thought to be the actual person behind the white suit but that was later shown to be incorrect. Typical.

Top Gear is a culture. It has a following beyond car enthusiasts. They test cars from both ends of the spectrum – from a Lamborghini Gallardo to a Volkswagen Golf, so it’s appeal casts a wide shadow. Each of it’s presenters has a career on their own. If you really want a quality, entertaining 10 minutes viewing, take a look at James May’s ride on a U-2 spy plane. It’s captivating and so well produced, but an example of how individual these personalities have become. There have been many knock-offs and copies of the show attempted throughout the world but frankly, they all pale in comparison to the original.

As I wrote earlier, I can take Top Gear in small doses only, but it definitely ranks up there as one of the all-time greats of TV shows.

One Response to Top Gear: The Automotive World’s Monty Python

  1. [...] me put the two focal points of my article in perspective. James May is one of the presenters of the Top Gear show and has been deservedly dubbed “The Slowest Driver in The World” or “Captain [...]

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