The 11th season of Top Gear dominated the summer of ’08, but that’s not all that year had to offer. Back to finish up the fall into winter of ’08, the 12th season succeeds in not only giving the show a proper dozen seasons (series), but also in continuing the consistency of quirky, comical and informative exposure to the automotive world. Jeremy “Jezza” Clarkson, Richard “Hamster” Hammond and James “Captain Slow” May continue to take on the newest supercars, and even some old long-forgotten ones, around the track for a wit-filled yet quite meticulous review process to let us live vicariously in the wealthy automotive world.
The 12th season kicks off with a crash, a bang and an overwhelming smell of burning when Jeremy, Richard and James buy second-hand trucks and try their hands at truck driving. The boys travel to the U.S. to test three new generation big-engine ‘muscle’ cars with a great American road trip from San Francisco to the Bonneville Salt Flats in the heart Utah, then are challenged to drive from the heart of Switzerland to the North West coast of England on one tank of fuel while James travels to the frozen North and enlists the help of F1 world champion Mika Hakkinen. Jeremy scampers around the test track in the feisty new Fiat 500 Abarth, Porsche 911, and the Pagani Zonda F Roadster and finally after years of waiting, the Stig finally gets to set a lap time in the remarkable Bugatti Veyron. To top things off this seasons ‘Star in the Reasonably Priced Car’, features talk show legend Michael Parkinson, London Mayor Boris Johnson, musical legend Tom Jones and Hollywood star Mark Wahlberg.
Of course, the life of the show doesn’t solely exist in the world of elitist automotive. Throughout the season the trio are put to test throughout more challenges that most often result in side-splitting laughter, and leave you wanting more. Which, fortunately, they deliver in copious, and ridiculous amounts. Whether you call it a lorry or a semi-truck, they race these roadway behemoths to the appeasement of the Top Gear producers, as well as finding out how an overly expensive powerboat can compete with a Ferrari Daytona, and even testing how well a Corvette’s V-8 can create a smoothie.
Even if you enjoy every episode in the season to its fullest potential, you will undoubtedly find yourself enamored with the season finale romp through Vietnam. A trip that is riddled with an overwhelming amount of difficulties that await them, and it offers a wide range of hilarity that will never leave you questioning as to when it will finally end. The excursion through the infamous country offers more than just camaraderie hijinks, however, as it unexpectedly introduces you to various beauties you never expected such a place to hold. All the while sprinkling some of the most thought-provoking moments the show has ever offered to its viewer, some of which are intentional, and others that will simply surprise you.
Whether you’re a long-standing fan of the show, or have never even heard of it, the show easily appeals to more than just the car-lovers of the world, and can quite easily be summed up as Highly Recommended – even if you only watch the Vietnam Special.
Since this season contained my all-time-favorite episode (the Challenger/Corvette/CTS episode), I was eager to hop into this set and see what new goodies it held. Well, surprisingly, it actually does have an array of special features so that was a nice little surprise. Sadly none of them are over the core episodes (this was another six episode season), but rather we get a series of “Special” episodes and deleted goodies from the series. There’s plenty on this set to keep even the most diehard of Top Gear fans occupied, even if they’ve already seen the majority of it.
The set itself arrives in a standard Amaray four-disc Eco-DVD case. No fancy slipcase or anything of the sort is included and the discs themselves are all alone in the vast, black case. Menus are simple and easy to navigate and video and audio is solid. Although there is interlacing, which isn’t surprising since this was a PAL show and it had to be converted to NTSC for this R1 release. Still, it’s a solid set all around and well worth it if you’re remotely into cars. My sound system made do with the stereo soundtrack and even pumped out some decent bass for that highly enjoyable scene in which the ZR-1 and SRT-8 rev their V8’s to set off car alarms. Fantastic.
Commentary for Vietnam Special (Executive Producer Andy Wilman and Crew)
Botswana Special – Director’s Cut
Commentary for Botswana Special (Executive Producer Andy Wilman and Crew)
Cool Wall – Uncut
Boris Johnson Extended Interview
Top Gear Awards Extended Version
Considering previous releases were completely barebones, this is quite a robust selection for this series. The commentaries are an especially nice treat and the selection of deleted scenes and extended/uncut material is welcome as well. Not being a die-hard fan of the show (only a casual viewer) I don’t know for sure exactly how much of this bonus material was seen previously, but either way it’s a nice little bit of padding for this set—it ballooned the normally two-disc releases to four for this set, so that’s definitely some added value (and, as of this writing, it’s only a four dollar difference between season 11 and 12 on Amazon).
Overall a Highly Recommended set. Not only is the complete season in it, but you get a couple of bonus “Specials” that are longer than usual. Awesome all around.
Top Gear – Season 12 is now available on DVD.
Season review by Andrew.
DVD Review by Zach Demeter.