Top Gear is back; and it is better than ever.
After all of the criticism that followed the Christmas special, when the three hosts were sent to India on a “mission” on behalf of the British government, the show is ready to break the already sky-high record for number of viewers.
As always when a new season starts (this is the 18th), they showed a preview of what they would present in the seven new episodes. After a fake preview “made to please the newspapers”, they showed the typical Top Gear style with great cars, special effects and a lot of amusement.
Yesterday’s show was about seeking an alternative for those people who do not want to buy a Ferrari 458 (priced £170,000).
So, the three presenters went on a trip through Italy from Lecce to Rome in a Lamborghini Aventador (Jeremy Clarkson), Noble M600 (Richard Hammond) and McLaren MP4-12C (James May). Needless to say, the show did not lack the entertaining and funny jokes.
The “Star in a Reasonably Priced Car” (i.e., the interviewee sent onto the track) this time was Black Eyed Peas singer Will.I.Am., who has recently started his own car company “to help my people get out of the ghetto as I did with my whole family.”
The show received a lot of criticism after the airing of the Christmas special, when the presenters were sent to India to try to stimulate British commerce with their former colony.
However, there were many complaints: according to The Guardian, the BBC received 23 complaints towards the jokes and gags that were referred to as “offensive to India and Indian culture.”
This is certainly not the first time the show has faced such accusations (Wikipedia has a whole page dedicated to the Top Gear controversies). Throughout the years, they have made fun of Romanians, Italians, Germans, North Americans and Albanians, which were all depicted as members of the Mafia (“they all drive black Mercedes!” Clarkson said).
For this latter case, the BBC received 600 complaints after they showed which of the three cars they were driving would be the best to hide the corpse of a fat Albanian man in its boot.
However, before making fun of other countries, they first make fun of themselves: three middle-aged men acting like fools, ridiculing themselves in every episode of the show.
This is the essence of Top Gear, and this is why the show has 350 million viewers worldwide and is by far the BBC’s most viewed show in the UK.
The format is always the same: supercars taken on trips throughout some countries, weird challenges involving bargain cars and interviewees sent onto the track in their “reasonably-price car”.
Now, more than ever, the show must not change its structure and its spirit just because of the criticism received.
Top Gear’s most dedicated fans just do not care about the racist, sexist or whatever implications the show has, because it is all these elements together that make the programme what is.
And nobody at the BBC wants it to change.