• DRINK TO THE LASSES: Notes from a Woman's College Womb
    DRINK TO THE LASSES: Notes from a Woman's College Womb
    by Mary Beth Ellis
  • Twentysomething Essays by Twentysomething Writers
    Twentysomething Essays by Twentysomething Writers
    Random House Trade Paperbacks
This area does not yet contain any content.
« Need Scrubs. And Also Scrubbing. | Main | Solo in Your Mailbox »
Thursday
May072009

Gearing Up

The last time I was home, Country The Brother-In-Law was watching this... thing... as his sons ran about the room, shrieking.  They called it "Fast Cars."  My sister called it "The Stupid Show That I Hate."

It was, in fact, the BBC's Top Gear, and at the moment all I knew about it was that it was causing Will The Smaller Child Nephew to totter about the house saying "Unfortunately" and "Lamborghini" in a full-on Yorkshire accent.  This was occasionally broken by "Uncle find Queen!" when Josh The Pilot was unable to locate the house's well-worn copy of Cars and I was unable to produce Freddy Mercury as a substitute.

What Will and his older brother shrieked as Top Gear unspooled into the living room was "Truck on fire!" Because that's what their favorite episode involves:  A truck on fire.  And why was it on fire?  Because one of the hosts had been driving it down a hill with a bale of hay and an electric heater in the cargo hold.  And why was he doing this?

I have learned very rapidly that "why" does not apply on this program, because, as Josh explained, "... It's Top Gear."

Julie The NephewsMama is correct:  On its surface, Top Gear is highly annoying.  You walk through the room in which it's playing and they're racing a BMW against a skier with a parachute or delivering a ten-minute mash note to a gear shift or building a police car out of a Land Rover or some other go-to-hell adolescent thing, and it is, unless you're in on the joke, largely stupid. I dug in my heels against Top Gear for this and a million other reasons, the most compelling of which is that I hate car shows, I hate car racing, and I hate, in fact, cars-- as long as the one in my driveway starts up when I need it to and glides to a stop at the proper liquor stores, I spend precisely 0% of my day fretting over how it happens.  The only thing I really enjoy about automobiles is the fact that they enable me to use the drive-thru.

But as it happens, Top Gear isn't a show to be watched, even though much of  its cinematography is gorgeous; the BBC has a helicopter, and it's not afraid to use it.  Top Gear is a show to be read.  This program has some of the best writing I've ever heard on any show of any genre.  Smart, vibrant writing.  The cars are often addressed as anthropomorphic beings, and a desert-dry sense of humor makes the shop talk not only bearable, but actually entertaining:  "Inside,"  one host said about some big honking unpronounceable car or other, "it's the usual blend of dead animal and rainforest."  Even I'm able to bend my brain around that.

The talk itself is, of course, highly attractive to the American ear.  Since all three of the hosts have a strong  British accent, nearly everything they say sounds five hundred times more intelligent and definitive than it would if it came out of the mouth of, say, Dennis Rodman.  This bodes well for little Will; if he continues acquiring his verbal skills from Top Gear, he'll interview his way into a post with the State Department by the age of five.

And then there's The Stig, the show's anonymous professional driver, who is only seen careening various supercars around a track in a white firesuit.  He never talks.  He never puts his turn signal on.  He just drives.   As with all things Top Gear, you don't question why all this drama is necessary; you simply submit to the program's assertion that it is.  So powerful is The Stig that when I found an online article outing him, Josh The Pilot turned away from the screen.  He likes his Stig enigmatic with side of F-U.



There's something to be said for that.  The Stig is a snappy dresser, drives great cars, and never, ever speaks.

He just may be the perfect man.

don't worry, Uncle eventually found Queen at:  mbe@drinktothelasses.com

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments (14)

[...] Beth has a new media boyfriend, and she’s entirely unsure what he looks like. Share and [...]

I usually avoid Top Gear also, except when they're got some good looking British celebrity driving around acting like The Stig. Or the episode when they picked on Brian Cox about his Prius.

May 8, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterstarnarcosis

Normally we ff the "Star in a Reasonably Priced Car" interviews, because out of all the episodes we've seen, we've only ever heard of, like, two. And one of those two was... Ewan McGregor. That one got watched in slo-mo.

May 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMB

I, like you, hate cars. But I love Top Gear. Yes, it's incredibly adolescent, but I love it for their crazy antics, and the way they talk about the cars so that anyone can understand is great. I actually love the star interviews. My two faves were Gordon Ramsey and the new Dumbledore. Best episode? When they go on holiday in an RV and accidentally start a pan fire that turns into a van fire. Or maybe the one where they make their own convertible and, upon taking it through a car wash, start the car wash on fire. Hmm... They are involved in a lot of fires, aren't they?

May 8, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteramy t.

Josh and I had a lot of discussion about the Great Caravan Fire. Hilarious as it was, we're trying to decide if it was staged or not. A lot of that show is clearly set up (like The Stig getting arrested during the Scotland race) and it seems mighty suspicious that they'd *just happen* to burn the whole thing down. We desperately want it to be real, if only for the shot of Jeremy clutching an inflatable alligator raft as the flames rage out of control before him.

May 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMB

I have just recently discovered this show. And although I share your sentiments regarding our four-wheeled overlords, I admit I enjoy this show. A lot.

The caravan trip was hilarious. Definitely most of it was staged though.

My other favorite was this race they had in Japan, with Jerry driving the Nissan GTR, and the other two blokes traveling in the bullet train.

Stig is like Pulp Fiction's Gimp ;-)

May 8, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterred pill junkie

Well of COURSE you watched that in slow motion.
I mentioned Brian Cox because that happened to be the last one I caught, and they RIPPED him for being the worst course driver EVAH. Very funny.

May 8, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterstarnarcosis

I don't like car shows or car races either, but I like Top Gear. They do crazy, funny things, they travel giving us a unusual glimpse into other countries, and I love to listen to the British accents!

I agree with Josh - no way do I want to see The Stig unmasked! That's just wrong.

My husband tells me an American version of Top Gear is planned. Somehow, I just don't think it will be as good.

May 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCJ

[...] that it makes it infinitely easier to stalk the people I already stalk, such as Keith Lockhart and The Stig.  And Michael J. Nelson, who I tweeted and HE TOTALLY TWEETED BACK, LOLBRBROTFLMFAO and I [...]

My brother got me into this show. I just happened to sit down while he was watching TV and found it hilarious.
I think it would be the funnest thing ever to get paid to drive cars really fast and destroy them in a witty fashion. I would either do that or be a Mythbuster because they get to blow things up.
This does not mean, however, that I love cars. To me, cars are like hot men: they just need to look gorgeous, sound good, and perform well.
Accents = Amazing.
It's a simple fact.

July 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHannah

[...] As The Readers are well aware, this English major has attained the ability to know what a “spanner” is, thanks to the BBC.  I’m writing an article on Top Gear and need to interview avid viewers who are not me.  I’d have to put your full name if I use your answers, so if you’re The Stig, this probably isn’t a good game for you to play. [...]

August 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterObsession Convention « B

[...] Posted on Sunday, August 29, 2010 by MB| Leave a comment Faithful The Readers are well aware of my vast mental storehouse of car knowledge, both assumed and applied, so I sat right up when received word that there was a new Bugatti Veyron (something something [...]

[...] Posted on Saturday, August 28, 2010 by MB| Leave a comment Faithful The Readers are well aware of my vast mental storehouse of car knowledge, both assumed and applied, so I sat right up when received word that there was a new Bugatti Veyron (something something [...]

[...] PM: Dear England:  Due to the fact that you have given the world Top Gear, I’m going to pretend that this whole “Mutton Chops” business never happened.  [...]

November 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBreeders’ Cup, Part III:
Comments for this entry have been disabled. Additional comments may not be added to this entry at this time.