Review: Top Gear (Series 21, episode 1)

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After 21 seasons of fast cars, exploding caravans, and jokes at Richard Hammond’s expense, you would have thought that Top Gear would begin to get a bit stale. But it hasn’t. Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond are back with their latest season of the hilarious show, which this time sees them competing against modern hatchbacks with the ‘hot’ hatchbacks of their youth.

After purchasing their three cars (a Volkswagen Golf Mk2 GTI, a Vauxhall Nova SRi and a Ford Fiesta XR2i) and redecorating them in ridiculous orange velvet and Christmas paper, the men race for the fastest time against the Stig’s teenage cousin, try to carefully navigate their way around a supermarket, and then compete to see who can evade the police for the longest. The result of this is all comedy gold, the sort of nonsense that we have all come to love from Top Gear. After his timed lap, James May is handed a bolt that came loose from his car. “But from where?” Jeremy Clarkson destroys half the supermarket, and Richard Hammond’s unreliable motor ends up rolling over more times than a trained dog.

But by the far the most enjoyable part of this week’s task was the police chase. While one of them drives around 30 miles of deserted Welsh roads, the other two are given a variety of police vehicles and silly moustaches in order to stop and arrest them. This ranges from a typical police car, to police arial drones and a tank. Most memorable is when Richard Hammond bursts through a wall in a giant tank, and simply shoots James May’s car, resulting in a spectacular, fiery explosion and a charred James May sitting stunned in a crater.

This episode is most certainly a trip down memory lane for the older viewers. Jeremy Clarkson re-enacts several classic games he played in the 80s, his most favourite of which is making his car drive really fast, then climb out the window and back in through the other before it comes to a complete stop. I’m not sure if this was something that drivers in the 80s really did, but it certainly made for great television. The Top Gear guys also made several jokes about how modern teenagers wear their trousers low to show off their underwear, something that was also done by the Stig’s teenage cousin.

Top GearIn addition to the task, Hugh Bonneville was this week’s star in the reasonably priced car, much to Downton Abbey-fan Hammond’s delight. Among funny tales of digging his sister a grave and the usual car-talk, the sneaky question of ‘who’s Lady Mary going to marry?’ was snuck into the conversation.

As the first episode of a new season, we were treated to a montage of what to expect later on in the series. Among the typical explosions and a car driving out of a swimming pool, a trip to Chernobyl sounds like a particularly interesting task. It didn’t seem like much money was spent on cars for this season opener, which leaves me excited for what we can hope to see later on in the series. Though as far as first episodes go, I thought this was a good one.

8/10

Top Gear is broadcast on Sunday nights at 8.00pm

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