What a shame. ‘What an absolute crying bloody shame, and a missed opportunity’.
It’s all I could think after sitting through 90 minutes of prime-time car-based television adventuring thanks to the ‘boys’, and their increasingly immature, pointless old car antics. For those who didn’t watch (and I suggest you do while it’s still freely available on the BBC’s excellent iPlayer service), the Top Gear trio ventured to India, for some old school car capers – just the sort of thing that we love to do here.
But whereas previous specials were inspired, brilliant edge of the seat entertainment combining humour and drama perfectly, this one seemed tired, uninspired and, well just plain, unoriginal. ‘Jezza’, ‘Captain Slow’ and ‘The Hamster’ (perfect nicknames for a trio trying to pass themselves off as superannuated public schoolboy mischiefs) know how to craft some of the best television known to mankind – but equally, when they get it wrong, it can be truly cringeworthy. And this year’s effort – in the main – was just that. As I said, a bloody shame.
Considering the ‘boys’ were in India for a fortnight, and ended up experiencing the sheer chaotic, downtrodden, vibrant, wonderful magic of this incredible country (something that most of us could only dream about), we never really felt as though we were really there at all. Indians are inquisitive, friendly and downright hospitable people as a whole, but for the most part, the locals that did make it on to the small screen, were just background. And considering that Top Gear is such a huge success or the BBC there, that really did do them down.
In fact, in an interview for Radio Times, Clarkson said as much, claiming that all three had been touched by the Indians. So how come it never came across that way? Nope, all that we were treated to, as armchair fans, was three middle-aged men cocking around.
Then there were the cars, and obviously their choices were dictated by the premise that they were there representing Great Britain, but once again we were treated to the sight of three perfectly usable classic cars nominally valued at £7000 each – a Mini Cooper, Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow and Jaguar XJS – systematically being trashed for no good reason. Where’s the logic in that?
But I guess it give the ‘boys’ another excuse to do ourselves down with the same old cliches (which, thankfully, they did manage to try and address in a half-hearted, predictable way at the end of the programme). No doubt, if nothing else, it opens up another younger generation to the notion that ‘British=Bad’. So, cheers, then.
To me, it was the brainless thuggery in the name of ‘entertainment’ that really rankled. Dumping the air con refrigerant out of the Rolls-Royce was just plain stupid (whether it was staged or not), as were the bizarre modifications to the cars. The way that poor Mini (a beautiful example by the look of what was on screen) had its face torn off – yes, it must have looked funny to some people – was horrible. Then there was the Jaguar. A lovely example, absolutely wrecked. So, cheers, then – again.
And people wonder why we – as a nation – place such little value on old things.
So whereas the South American, USA and Vietnamese adventure specials genuinely came across as being truly arduous, with three friends coming together to truly experience a challenging road trip, this one was flat, seemingly of little point. Other than a couple of brilliant moments (the night drive on the dual carriageway, and the exhaust pipe ‘cricket), it was true car crash television. And time perhaps, that Top Gear needs a bit of a break, and maybe a rethink.
But then, you can’t help but think that as long as millions of people watch it globally, it must be good, right?
Please, then, Top Gear team – play on your strengths. You’re all brilliant – Clarkson is a great writer and true car man, May is sheer class, and the writing and production on the programme is simply world class. You have, and no doubt will continue to, produce extraordinarily good television. Brilliant moments in your history such as the DB9 race to the South of France, the Senna tribute, trip across the USA to New Orleans, are head and shoulders above any other car related TV, and stand alone as brilliant moments. More of this please.
And less of the pointless dossing about that utterly ruined the trip to India.
Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...
Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.