'Top Gear: The Complete Season 11 + 12'
(Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, James May, et al / DVD / NR / 2010 / BBC Home Video)
Overview: 'Top Gear' takes extraordinary and ordinary cars to the limit and beyond to find out if they're as good as manufacturers claim. Full of extreme stunts, challenges, celebrity appearances and weekly features, 'Top Gear' is far more than a car show, you'll find no boring stats or impenetrable conversations about camshafts here.
DVD Verdict: Hosts Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May love themselves a fast, sleek, beautifully styled automobile. They rarely agree on which car fits all those descriptions, but that's half the fun. Watching them charge headlong into the producer-assigned "challenges" to push a given vehicle past its recognized abilities usually results in a large amount of fun.
Maybe they're forcing outdated Italian race cars to prove their merit long after their glory days, or perhaps they're attempting to outfox a pack of hounds in a sports utility vehicle. Whatever the task, they tend to offer some amusing color commentary after the fact.
Even if 'Top Gear' has begun to tilt slightly further towards being a comedy show with cars than a car show with comedy, it's still wildly entertaining. In its eleventh season, ''Top Gear has made a noticeable effort to cut back on huge events like the cross-desert rally of the previous season, and in exchange features a single mission-per-episode format.
If you follow the show regularly you'd know that that means every episode of the season is now essentially the same with no two or three episode arcs to break it up. With a simple six-episode season there's not much need to break it up, so the omission of that multi-episode mission doesn't negatively affect 'Top Gear's eleventh season all that much.
As in every series of 'Top Gear', a guest is brought on for every episode to try their luck at "Star in a Reasonably-Priced Car". This season's guests include Michael Parkinson, Will Young, Mark Wahlberg, Harry Enfield, Kevin McCloud, Boris Johnson and (amusingly) Sir Tom Jones. It's always sad when a star comes on the show and fails miserably, because Clarkson then attempts to give them some commendation like "Well, Sir Jones," after he did rather poorly on his lap, "I think we can say you have the highest time on the board by anyone who's ever sang in Vegas." He was the only one on the board with that distinction.
The season may be longer, but it, like series 11, doesn't have one big moment to define it. Its final episode, the Vietnam Special lacks any real pizzazz due to the rather clumsy vehicles chosen for it (motor scooters). It's hard to get excited about a challenge where the team's maximum speed is about 30 mph. But at least this series had a special, I guess.
And, if you remember back from 'Top Gear 10,' the Botswana Special (which is a lot of fun) has been included in this set in its Director's Cut incarnation. It's just as fun, so if you haven't seen it in awhile the jokes still get laughs. A few extended scenes and commentaries for the Botswana and Vietnam specials comprise the rest of the extras, with some deleted scenes and a photo gallery bringing up the rear. They may talk about cars somewhat, but it's really an excuse to deliver some funny automotive one-liners. This is a Widescreen presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.