Image via BBC
Everything I know about cars, I learnt from TopGear. I can tell my Aston Martins from my Maseratis, my Lotuses from my Lamborghinis (most of the time). I pronounce Porsche correctly*, I understand that you're not a true petrol-head until you've owned an Alfa-Romeo, and I appreciate the transcendent beauty of the Bugatti.
Bugatti Veyron - Image via BugattiI also get that the bigger number after the V equals a faster, noisier car, though I don't quite know what horses have to do with it. And I don't own a car, can't change a tire....or drive a manual.
So why on earth do I watch TopGear?
It all started in England, with the Sunday evening ritual of slobbing in front of the TV. TopGear was on at 6:30pm, one of my flatmates was male, and for his sins he put up with a lot of Trinny & Susannah. It didn't take long to get hooked on the laughs, enthusiasm and general buffoonery that goes into each TopGear episode. The petrol-head presenters Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May spend most of the time taking the piss out of each other (which is always fun), and getting up to ridiculous hijinks that usually involve pitting a fabulous car against something ludicrous - like BMX riders, heli-skiers, planes, trains and water (really).
The boys in action - image via TopGear
Then you've got the Stig, the resident, tame racing driver who test-drives all the cars, and puts the visiting celebs through their paces in 'stars in a reasonably priced car'. Fanning the flames of intrigue surrounding the Stig's identity is Jeremy and his introductions:
Some say he naturally faces magnetic North and that all of his legs are hydraulic... all we know is, he's called the Stig.
Some say he lives in a tree and that his sweat can be used to clean precious metals... all we know is, he's called the Stig.
Some say he's terrified of ducks, and that there's an airport in Russia named after him... all we know is, he's called the Stig.
Some say his skin has the texture of a dolphin's, and that wherever you are in the world, if you tune your radio to 88.4, you can actually hear his thoughts... all we know is, he's called the Stig.
Some say he has no understanding of clouds, and that his earwax tastes like Turkish delight... all we know is, he's called the Stig.
Some say his tears are adhesive, and that if he caught fire, he'd burn for a thousand days... all we know is, he's called the Stig.**
The Stig - image via TopGear
Given such zany dialogue, it may come as a surprise that TopGear won an Emmy for Best Non-Scripted Entertainment. Bless the Yanks.
So I like the quirky hosts, the random stunts and shiny fast things zipping around the track. Most of all, I love the production value. You'd think there would only be a handful of ways to shoot a car, but these guys know how to impress. Firstly, they take the cars to impossibly beautiful locations and capture them from all manner of impossible angles. As the series have progressed, the stunts have become sillier, and the editing, snappier. Our SBS may be broadcasting Series 2, but the Pom, ahem, acquired Series 11, so we've been able to enjoy the evolution of the show first hand.
And speaking of evolution (or devolution, depending on your point of view), TopGear Australia will be coming to SBS on Monday September 29 at 7:30pm. Now I personally think the success of the original is everything to do with the personalities of the presenters, but I'm happy to give the local boys a shot. Charlie Cox, Warren Brown and Steve Pizzati have some large - or rather small in Hammond's case - shoes to fill, but as a motorsport commentator, cartoonist/motoring colomnist, and jounalist/Porsche race driver respectively, I think they fit the bill. And then of course there's an Aussie Stig. Who will it be? At least Mark Webber already has the shirt.
Brown, Cox & Pizzati - Image via TopGear
But if the homegrown version fails to impress, head on over to TopGear's new channel on YouTube to delight in the feats of daring-do (and downright stupidity) that the BBC boys have geared up over the years.
Image via YouTube*Though that has more to do with my love of all things Deutsch.
** Stig introductions from Bebo