Here is what I know about cars: Some of them have thingies that stick up on the back and some don’t. Some have automatic transmission and some have standard, which I’ll have to practice on again if I ever go on The Amazing Race. Almost all of them have wheels. I’m…not very into cars.
Which is why I’m shocked at how excited I am that the new season of BBC export Top Gear premieres tonight on BBC America. It’s ostensibly a show that reviews the latest cars (with gorgeous cinematography, to boot), but what it really is is a Sorkinesque exploration of guys doing something they love while taking the piss out of each other as a way of expressing affection. Co-hosts Jeremy Clarkson (The Tall One), James May (The Floppy One), and Richard Hammond (The Hamster) like cars, but one gets the feeling they like laughing and each other more. And I like them an awful lot, too, especially when they are engaged in general wackiness:
—building an amphibious vehicle and trying to cross the English Channel
—purchasing $1000 cars in Miami and driving to New Orleans (their conclusion, after a task that required letting the other guys paint phrases on their cars and being chased by rural residents who didn’t take kindly to such legends as “Manlove Rules OK”, was succinct: “Don’t go to America!”)
All of this plus a show dog (Top Gear Dog!), a tame race car driver known only as The Stig, and Star in a Reasonably Priced Car, a celebrity interview segment capped with said celebrity taking a timed lap in a cheap car (the times being posted for all posterity). Tonight’s star? Helen Mirren. Let me impress this upon you: tune in to Top Gear, and you’ll get to see Dame Helen Mirren–in a helmet–racing around a track in the equivalent of a Ford Focus trying to beat out competition like Ewan MacGregor and Hugh Grant. And that won’t even be the funniest part of the show.
Season premiere tonight on BBC America at 8pm EST with a replay later that night at 11.