Road’s all the rage with boof­head trin­ity

Top Gear 7.30pm, SBS

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv - Ben Wood­head

THIS Bri­tish paean to bo­gan­ism is es­ti­mated to have 350 mil­lion view­ers world­wide, which is just as well. Af­ter tonight’s episode the ra­dio ca­reers of the car show’s three hosts are as good as over.

Top Gear ’ s maker, the BBC, ap­pears to have taken the view that the needs of the many out­weigh the needs of the few in let­ting hosts Jeremy Clark­son, Richard Ham­mond and James May loose on 224,000 of its South­ern Coun­ties Ra­dio lis­ten­ers.

The trio is dis­patched to host a three- hour drive- time pro­gram and by the time the de­ba­cle wraps up, the hor­ri­fied faces of South­ern Coun­ties’ pro­duc­ers in­di­cate they may have some choice words for Beeb man­age­ment. From Clark­son’s in­tro­duc­tory: ‘‘ Right . . . um’’, the ra­dio pro­gram is an un­mit­i­gated dis­as­ter.

As the sit­u­a­tion de­gen­er­ates, May drives a South­ern Coun­ties sports re­porter to rage over cricket scores and Clark­son urges po­lice to shoot the owner of a stranded car­a­van dur­ing his traf­fic re­port.

The boof­head an­tics of Clark­son, Ham­mond and May are what have made this once- con­ven­tional auto show a global hit just a few years af­ter it was put on hia­tus thanks to dwin­dling rat­ings. They have also sparked some de­bate over what di­rec­tion the show should take. Fu­ture se­ries — SBS is screen­ing this episode about a year be­hind BBC2 — de­vote an in­creas­ing amount of time to mo­tor­ing- re­lated stunts that don’t have a lot in com­mon with the car re­views that have been Top Gear ’ s bread and but­ter since the late 1970s.

Some view­ers have com­plained about the pro­gram’s chang­ing for­mat. But the stunts, which in the first episode of this sea­son re­sulted in the three hosts set­ting fire to a car­wash, are by far the most en­ter­tain­ing part of the show.

That’s not to take too much away from the car re­views. Th­ese are han­dled with panache and hu­mour that is buoyed by Top Gear ’ s glo­ri­ous pro­duc­tion val­ues. Tonight Clark­son puts a Jaguar XK through its paces along­side a BMW 650 and a Mercedes SL350. He also pits a Corvette Z06 against a blaz­ing trail of petrol.

Ham­mond, mean­while, mounts a hot­ted- up four- wheel- drive called a Tom­cat ( not to be con­fused with the two- headed hy­dra Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes) and races an even more hot­ted- up kayak around an Ice­landic lake.

Celebrity chef and renowned swearer Gor­don Ram­say sits down for a chat with Clark­son and takes a run around the Top Gear test track as this week’s Star in a Rea­son­ably Priced Car. The BBC’s cen­sors spend as much time with their fin­ger on the bleep but­ton as Ram­say spends with his foot on the gas.

Speed thrills: The de­cid­edly un- PC Jeremy Clark­son

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