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Top Gear: The Complete Season 17(TV) (2011)
The Top Gear crew embark on their seventeenth season.
For more about Top Gear: The Complete Season 17 and the Top Gear: The Complete Season 17 Blu-ray release, see Top Gear: The Complete Season 17 Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on March 1, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, James May, The Stig
» See full cast & crew
Top Gear: The Complete Season 17 Blu-ray Review
The Top Gear crew returns for another bitingly funny spin around the block...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, March 1, 2012
Bantering, bickering Brits Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond are back for another wry lap around the Top Gear track, their seventeenth since the now thirty-five-year-old series was relaunched with a shiny new coat of paint in 2002. And the formula has yet to grow old. Season 17 (or Series 17 if you prefer) is just as good, just as irresistible, just as funny, and just as addicting as ever. Unobtainable dream rides, hilarious international challenges, and stars in reasonably priced cars are only icing on the gearhead cake as Clarkson, Hammond and May do their absolute best to level the motoring field. Don't have any hope of coming within three feet of a Ferrari or an Aston Martin? Top Gear whispers, "give me your tired, your poor." Don't know a thing about motoring or auto manufacturers? "Give me your huddled masses yearning to breathe free." Too American for a British motoring show? "The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me." Clarkson, Hammond and May open their arms to all, be they on this side of the Pond or the other.
Where do the wily trio head this year? First episode, first stop: South Africa, home of an intimidating military vehicle called the Marauder, a blood-red beast Hammond takes for a spin on the streets of Johannesburg and, eventually, off-road, through a wall and over top of a few cars. Back in the UK, though, it's all speed and smooth driving. Clarkson, typically the cantankerous host, drops some variation of the word "perfect" not once, but twice, in reviewing the BMW 1 Series M Coupe and, even more so, in whipping through the countryside in a £500,000 Jaguar Eagle Speedster (a sleek, throaty throwback Clarkson calls "the most beautiful car I've ever seen," adding "it might actually be the most beautiful thing I've ever seen"). The hosts also discuss everything from the MINI coupe to the MG 6 to which is faster: a professionally-driven MINI WRC or a gold-medal-winning skeleton ice-sledder... which they put to the test in Norway with another "unscientific" experiment. Episode One guests include rocker Alice Cooper and Olympian Amy Williams.
Next up: the Italian Riviera, where Clarkson, Hammond and May are tasked with choosing a hot hatchback, wind their way out of the labyrinthine city of Lucca, and gather numerous items in a cross-country scavenger hunt, including a cedar tree branch, a dog, and a bicycle (all of which must fit in their hatchbacks). Clarkson chooses a gaudy Citroën DS3 Racing, Hammond a small-statured Abarth 500C, and May an ultra practical Renaultsport Clio Cup. Back in the Top Gear studio, though, it's business as usual as the hosts review the Aston Martin Virage and chat about Jaguar E-Types, the gorgeous Aston Martin V12 Zagato, Citroën DS5 and, much to their amusement, the Swiss-modded Jaguar XK called The Growler. (For those in the US, "Growler" is apparently English slang for... well, you'll have to wait and see.) Episode Two also features comedian Ross Noble slinging jokes at the Top Gear crowd.
From there, it's off to Las Vegas, where Hammond puts the Range Rover Evoque through its paces. Meanwhile, Clarkson takes the McLaren MP4-12C head-to-head with the Ferrari 458 Italia, Clarkson and Hammond pit a Mercedes CL 600 against a BMW 850Ci in a Nissan Pixo-inspired drag race, and the hosts talk about the 46-liter, 12-cylinder Brutus (built on a 1908 BMW chassis), popular car owners' clubs, the 2012 Olympics, the new BMW M5, used luxury cars and whatever else strikes their fancy. There are fewer cars in this one, sure, but the trio get great mileage out of everything they cover. Episode Three's guests include Formula 1 world champion Sebastian Vettel and Cher, or rather a cross-dressing Cher impersonator.
The fourth outing in the seventeenth season stays closer to home and finds Clarkson using a machine, May writing on a blackboard and Hammond lobbing fruit into a caravan. At the Top Gear Technology Centre, the droll enthusiasts tinker with a classic Jaguar XJ-S (adding wheels that allow it to travel on train tracks), build a functional train with four (very literal) cars, and race the two resulting "trains" in Loughborough. It isn't all railways and races, though. Clarkson reviews the Jaguar XKR-S and 2012 Nissan GT-R, the Stig nearly breaks a series record, May talks up the Nissan's launch control feature (much to the chagrin of Clarkson), and the three men argue about the dumbest features on the market and the "bumpiest road in the known universe." Episode Four welcomes guest Rowan Atkinson to the Top Gear studio and grounds, where he earns laughs and sets an extremely impressive lap in the show's reasonably priced car, a Kia Cee'd.
Coming round the Series 17 bend, Clarkson, Hammond and May head to Albania to help out their old friends in the Albanian mafia with a demolition project. When that falls through, they head back to jolly old England and mount a combat-prepped FV434 armored recovery vehicle, an FV180 CET and a mine-clearing Armtrac 400, which they unleash on an unsuspecting row of dilapidated houses. Along the way, Clarkson tests and reviews the Lotus T125 (after complaining that the episode has to come in at 59-minutes to accommodate the start-time of the Motor GP race), and the hosts skewer road-ready aircraft, the overpriced "Mini Inspired by Goodwood" and take a few shots at the Aston Martin Cygnet & Colette. Problems? Only that the Top Gear crew seems to have spent a chunk of their season budget early on, leading to fewer supercars, monster machines, and more homebrewed banter. It's just as watchable, of course, but you can almost feel Clarkson and his cohorts checking their wallets. Episode Five's very special guest? "Jesus," Clarkson deadpans, before introducing Irish rock star and humanitarian Bob Geldof.
Clarkson, Hammond and May top off Series 17 by reviewing the Lamborghini Aventador, holding a cross-country electric car race between the compact Nissan Leaf and the more aggressively compacted Peugeot iOn (neither of which look comfortable at all), debating the merits of the "hardcore, especially ridiculous" Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Black Series, retooling the British national anthem, and marveling at a rally team comprised of amputee veterans. Before the sun sets, Episode Six invites X Factor judge Louis Walsh, who's mocked mercilessly for his poor lap around the Reasonably Priced Car track. ("The handbrake is on!") Series 17 doesn't end as strongly as it launches off the starting line, but it hardly matters. There's no end in sight for Top Gear, and Clarkson, Hammond and May don't appear to be running out of steam in the slightest. No one who knows me would call me a gearhead, but I never miss an episode. If you have yet to give the show a go, I can't recommend it enough. Me? I can't get enough, especially when the series comes in such surprising and diverse six-episode bursts.
Top Gear: The Complete Season 17 Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Complete Season 17 features a solid 1080i/AVC MPEG-4 encode, the highs and lows of which will be very familiar to anyone who's barreled through a previous Blu-ray release of Top Gear. Minor but pervasive aliasing is the biggest issue videophiles will note, followed by intermittent artifacting and a bit of occasional noise. Then there are the in-vehicle shots, captured via lower quality, standard definition cameras, all of which pale in comparison to the footage captured in the studio and in the moments before the trio climb into whatever hatchbacks, sports cars or machines of destruction they assemble for any particular episode. Otherwise, there isn't much to complain about. Colors are bright and lively, skintones are spot on, black levels are nice and deep, and detail, though inherently hit or miss, is quite good, especially when it comes to closeups of Clarkson, Hammond and May on the Top Gear couches. Fans of the series will easily shrug off the presentation's shortcomings, but newcomers may have to go through an adjustment period. Approach with measured expectations and enjoy everything the encode has to offer.
Top Gear: The Complete Season 17 Blu-ray, Audio Quality
As is the case with previous season releases, Top Gear stalls out with a standard Dolby Digital stereo track. While true to its broadcast presentation, BBC's two-channel mix is flat, thin and underwhelming, not to mention a far cry from what it could be. Imagine an Aston Martin whipping from speaker to speaker, the drone of an Italian sports car approaching from the rear, the roar of a V12 engine, the studio crowd laughing from all sides... imagine the series with LFE support, rear speaker throttle, and a fully immersive soundfield. Not that the Dolby Digital mix is a thirteen-car pileup. Voices are clean and clear, noise and hiss are only an issue when the hosts head outdoors, and every engine has serviceable power, every tire a decent screech, every burst of applause or laughter passable punch. It's far from ideal, sure, but no one should skip Top Gear just because it doesn't feature a lossless track.
Top Gear: The Complete Season 17 Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Top Gear: The Complete Season 17 Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Top Gear is back for another spin around the Blu-ray track and it's a blast. Perfect? Not at all. That Blu-ray release would feature a perfectly proficient 1080p encode, a lossless 5.1 surround track, and a bevy of extras. The 3-disc release of The Complete Season 17 is merely serviceable, though; it gets the job done and little more. Fans won't complain -- particularly those who have previous Top Gear seasons on their shelf and know exactly what to expect -- and most newcomers will be so taken with the show that any shortcomings will suddenly be all too easy to overlook.
Top Gear: Other Seasons
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Top Gear: The Complete Season 17 Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Top Gear: The Complete Season 17 Blu-ray - November 22, 2011
Next year, BBC Home Entertainment will bring Top Gear: The Complete Season 17 to Blu-ray. Hosted by Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May, this talk show takes a light-hearted and energetic look at all matters car-related. Top Gear: The Complete Season ...
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