For me, cars can best be described as four wheels and a big yawn. Unless they were built in the ‘30s and are pretty to look at, they just don’t hold my interest. There’s too many letters and numbers and mechanics involved – “it’s a Mark 12PDQ and it’s got a V-8 with 400 cylinders and a Belgian hamster fan belt.” My brain just doesn’t get it.
What my brain does get – and in fact, likes very much – is BBC America’s “Top Gear,” a show ostensibly about cars but much more about three British guys doing ridiculous things at unsafe speeds. For example, there was the episode where they painted “NASCAR sucks,” “I hate country and western” and “Hillary For President” on the sides of their cars and tried to drive through Alabama. I emphasize the word “tried” because, in true American fashion, a whole bunch of rednecks proceeded to chase them from a gas station and try to kill them. Welcome to the USA, British people! Then there was the time one of the hosts, Jeremy Clarkson, designed his own interior for a Mercedes. He wanted it to be homey, ergo he put in stone floors, plastered over the doors, added a wood burning stove – complete with chimney out the trunk – and replaced the seats with cozy dinner table chairs…that were not nailed down. For finishing touches, he added a book case, miniature globe and tea service. You can best imagine the test drive by picturing a doll house strapped to a turbo charged engine and driven be two adult men who should know better but thankfully, just ignore common sense. Oh, and then there was the time they played soccer with subcompacts:
There are some boring bits to get through each week – like when they talk about cars – but those moments are mitigated by the camaraderie and sly senses of humor of hosts Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond, who you might recognize from another BBC show, “Brainiac. There are celebrity test drives, too, where they let everyone from Gordon Ramsey to Ewan McGregor drive crappy little autos around a track as fast as they can, pitting their best times against each other. They also feature interesting little items on new technologies for cars, explaining these gadgets in easy-to-understand terms that actual make them look interesting and desirable. I learned loads from watching their piece comparing the homing systems of carrier pigeons to the navigational innards of a GPS system.
So even if you’re not too wild about cars, don’t be afraid to take “Top Gear” out for a spin. (See what I did there?) The show underscores one of life’s most important lessons: funny British guys really can make anything fascinating.