'Top Gear' (US) 1.07 'Used Car Salesmen' Review
The best episodes of Top Gear, in my opinion, are the ones that give Jeremy, Richard and James the most potential for embarrassing hijinks (drivetime radio, anyone?). In this episode of the American edition, Adam, Tanner and Rutledge are challenged to become used car salesmen - so I figured if ever they were going to get in trouble, this would be the time.
Before we get to that, though, we travel to San Francisco, where Rutledge is testing out the Honda CR-Z (Compact Renaissance Zero) hybrid. He tells us it has "two seats and a weird space" in it, and refers to it as a "cruel joke" for going so slow initially. That's not exactly a ringing endorsement. To really make up his mind, though, he decides to race the CR-Z against a pair of cyclists, bringing Adam along to be his navigator. This segment is most notable for the ensuing hijinks: the pair immediately start bickering, at one point they nearly kill the cyclists, and at another Rutledge takes both hands off the wheel while driving. I'm not sure if it's good that the clip is entertaining, or bad that I completely lost interest in the car in favor of the mayhem.
Following that, the boys travel six hours south to Glendale, where they're challenged to see which of them makes the best used car salesman. This means going to (and being searched at) a police auction in a bad neighborhood in order to purchase cars they can move, which is an uneviable experience. Merchandise in hand, they each hatch ridiculous plans to beat each other, and seem to drag out the strangest outfits in their closet to seal the deal. Adam looks like he's taken time off from a New Age retreat and Rutledge appears like a walking Magic Eye painting, while Tanner's tie harkens back to the 1970's. What follows is pretty much a circus, including a pony, and it's the most amusing challenge yet.
This week's guest is actor Tim Allen (Home Improvement, The Santa Clause), whom Rutledge refers to as "car guy royalty." Allen tells an amusing anecdote about how he received thousands of angry letters after appearing to crush a Chevy Nomad in one episode of Home Improvement (it wasn't a Nomad). He's the best guest that Top Gear has had so far, because he not only knows his cars very well, but is self-deprecating and funny; he takes over the interview from Rutledge and no one minds.
Everyone goes for broke in this episode of Top Gear, and that's why it works so well; they don't seem to care about anything, least of all their dignity. The original hosts are so great because they're not afraid to fall on their faces and they take it with a smile when they do. This is the first time we've seen Adam, Tanner and Rutledge really put in that kind of position, where they are out of their comfort zone and so willing to expose themselves to potential humiliation. This newfound attitude makes them legitimately funny and interesting, rather than in previous episodes, where they're obviously trying too hard to be funny. It just goes to show that when they lighten up and throw the expectations out the window, these guys can be honestly entertaining - now, will they remember that or is it just a fluke?
For more on Top Gear (US), check out the Top Gear (US) coverage category at my blog, DigitalAirwaves.net.
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