Now it's time for the world's most-watched factual TV show. That's right, it's Top Gear, which has graced us with new episodes on Mondays just two weeks after its US counterpart returned on Tuesdays. It's double the mayhem with two shows on two nights. You're welcome, America.
Tonight, Jeremy Clarkson introduces the premiere with the usual montage previewing the rest of the series, which you can see with this article if you missed it, and which includes the also usual explosions, infighting and high-speed manuevers. He's then joined by co-presenters Richard Hammond and James May, the latter of whom has just turned 50, which Jeremy is not impressed with. "All he had to do to get to 50 is not die," he gripes.
Richard introduces the first film of the season, where he's evaluating the Pagani Huayra. The car's body is made from carbotanium - a blend of carbon fiber and titanium - and it's got an impressive amount of horsepower. It has a power-to-weight ratio better than that of a Bugatti Veyron. Richard declares himself "in love" with the Huayra, which he pronounces an improvement over his beloved Pagani Zonda.
Obviously, we must then find out how fast it goes around the Top Gear track. The Stig, who's "become obsessed with national anthems" since the Olympics, clocks in at 1:13.8, making the Huayra the fastest car ever to have done a lap at Dunsfold. Oh, and Jeremy professes his love for consonants.
And now, The News, so James can celebrate the Dacia Sandero for all of 30 seconds before Jeremy cuts him off. Richard then gives a dramatic reading of a children's book about tractors, which gets really uncomfortable. He then gives an update on the Race2Recovery team, the war amputees we met in series 17, telling us that they completed the incredibly difficult Dakar Rally, Congratulations, chaps!
James narrates a film about the new Bentley Continental GT Speed, not to be confused with the GTC, GT Speed, GTZ, or GTC Speed. To put the Bentley through its paces, Captain Slow takes it to a Welsh stage of the World Rally Championship, and gives the keys to racing driver Kris Meeke. Their job is to beat an actual rally car. Unfortunately for Kris, he has to rely on James to give him directions. This is the man who once got lost on an oval. Good luck, Kris.
Captain Slow falls behind right out of the gate, making the driver very cross with him. "Either get it right or shut up," Kris tells him. However, James eventually gets himself together, and the Bentley goes through all sorts of terrain you'd never expect to see one on. While the film ends abruptly, James informs Jeremy and the studio audience that the Bentley beat a proper rally car by a whole two seconds.
Homeland leading man Damian Lewis is this week's Star in a Reasonably Priced Car. Jeremy doesn't believe that Damian doesn't know how the series ends, until the actor tells him that the writers are spontaneous types, and therefore nobody knows. "It's a bit of a surprise I'm still alive, I think," he quips. His car history involves an Alfa Romeo and a TVR.
When it comes time to discuss Damian's actual lap, there's footage of the track covered in snow and water, and then more film of the Kia Cee'd sliding all over the place. It eventually slides across the finish line completely sideways. His time may be the slowest ever, at 2:09.1, but no one can say he wasn't trying.
No Top Gear episode would be complete without a challenge. It's up to Jeremy to create something smaller than the Peel P50 - which die-hard fans will recall he once drove through the BBC, including in the background of a news broadcast. He's named his creation, which looks like a dysfunctional Transformer, the P45. Richard just stares at it wide-eyed in worry.
Cut to footage of Jeremy driving the P45, using his smartphone for satellite navigation, holding up traffic, getting his face smashed into the windscreen, and screaming every time he goes over a bump in the road. In other words, this isn't that much different from Jeremy in any other Top Gear film. Finally, he just packs up the P45 and takes it on the bus.
You'd think that would be the end of this nonsense, and you would be wrong. The bus drops Jeremy off in London, where his car promptly runs out of gas. Once that's rectified, he visits a local shopping mall, where he stalls as it takes a pair of guys almost two hours to swap out his petrol engine for an electric one more tolerable for the crowd. He buys an inappropriate present for James at the mall, then visits the British Library, where his batteries go flat.
This forces him to go back to the petrol engine, which causes a huge racket. After making an undignified exit from the library, Jeremy crashes around in the dining room of a restaurant, then gets himself a ticket to a West End play, where he discovers that he can't eat popcorn in the P45. The next morning, he breaks another car wash.
As if that's not enough, he takes his creation to an "important business meeting" with the Dragons of Dragons' Den (for the uninitiated, the UK predecessor to Shark Tank). His presentation fails miserably, with such classic lines like, "Can you really get children to work in a factory? 'Cause that would be brilliant if you could." The Dragons eviscerate Jeremy's P45 and his poor business sense. Richard and James don't have anything nice to say, either. Jeremy thinks that the P45 might be still a commercial success - if he was dead. And on that bombshell, it's time to end this recap. See you next week!
(c)2013 Brittany Frederick. Appears at Examiner with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted.