‘Top Gear’ leads to family bonding over British snark

I know next to nothing about cars. I can pump gas, and that’s about it.

But most Mondays, you can find me sitting next to my mom watching BBC America’s “Top Gear,” which is all about cars. My mom doesn’t even drive, but she’s watched “Top Gear” for years.

Brenna Peters, managing editor, news

For those not in the know, “Top Gear” is a show about all-things-automobile hosted by Richard Hammond, James May and Jeremy Clarkson. These three British chaps have told me everything and nothing about cars.

I could learn a lot from the show, but I watch it for the challenges and the strange cars the hosts have to drive. The best challenge happened on the road trip episode in which the presenters drove from Florida to Louisiana. They were told to paint slogans on each other’s cars in order to get shot at or arrested while driving in Alabama. Clarkson and May wrote “Man love rules OK” on Hammond’s pickup truck, which got them chased out of a gas station.

Another good segment was when Clarkson, who is 6-foot-5, had to drive a 1964 Peel P50, the smallest car in the world. It looks like half a car and is so little that it almost doesn’t have room for one person.

Seeing Clarkson scrunched into this small car is comical enough, but watching him drive it is even better. Clarkson is able to drive the car into the BBC offices – including the elevator – and sits in the car during a meeting.  He also grabs the car and pulls it, showing it’s probably faster and more comfortable just to walk.

My absolute favorite episode is when Clarkson has to drive a Reliant Robin, a uniquely British three-wheeled car, with one wheel in the front and two in the back. My sister and I waited for years for a Reliant Robin episode, after becoming obsessed with the idea of a three-wheeled car when it was joked about in the Georgia Nicholson novels.

And that episode didn’t disappoint. Clarkson barely gets onto the street before his car tips over. The car has problems staying upright, as nearly every time Clarkson makes a turn, the car ends up on its side. At one point, the car rolls across a cricket pitch, sliding cleanly between players.

What I love about “Top Gear” is that I don’t have to know anything about cars to enjoy the show. All I need is a love for snarky British humor and I’m set.

But I’d recommend avoiding the American reboot. It is awful. Stick with the original dream team of Clarkie, Captain Slow and Hamster.

The original British series wins every time.


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