James May’s 20th Century (2008 w/James
May’s Big Ideas (2007)/Acorn/Athena DVD Set)/Top Gear 18 (2012/U.K. Version/BBC DVD Set)
Picture: C/C+ Sound: C+ Extras: C+ Main Programs: B
I am a
big fan of the BBC series Top Gear
and if the cars and other vehicles are a collection so amazing that you will
rarely find anything to rival it, the three hosts put the show over the top (no
pun intended) and have made that show one of the most important from British TV
in the last 30+ years. However, the hosts
are so smart, talented and well-spoken that they have other projects they have
made including their own occasion TV mini-series.
is one of those amazing hosts and James
May’s 20th Century (2008) is an exceptional (and exceptionally
fun) science and technology TV series that looks at how the unprecedented
technological innovations of the Industrial Age in said century changed our
lives forever and more often for the better in six episodes that consider all
kinds of factors as the following shows:
Honey, I Shrunk The World asks if airplanes or cars did
more to make the world more accessible, plus how TV, computers and the Internet
made this possible. Blast Off! looks at how rockets and space travel (coming out of war
innovations) changed the world permanently.
Body Fantastic looks at how
the medical world and its innovations permanently changed our perceptions of
life, life expectancy and what we expect out of life will never be the same
again. Take Cover! looks more directly at the impact of war technology on
our lives. Inventing The Teenager is another great segment showing how
technology along with higher standards of living (and unspoken child labor
laws) liberated the age group. Big City, Bright Lights rounds out the
series by looking at the rise of cities and how technology keeps allowing them
to grow and usually benefit people in general.
was not enough, a second shorter but just as smart series is included on one
DVD. James May’s Big Ideas (2007) runs only three episodes, but is as
terrific (we will count it as a second series and not an extra) continues the
same line of questioning and examination.
Come Fly With Me tries to
think of new ways we can travel and get around better with the most
efficiency. Man-Machine looks at our relationship with technology and how the
technology is melding with us more than you might expect and interesting ways
you may not have seen or heard of yet. Power To The People talks about the
future of our energy needs and have some great ideas of its own.
such a natural in front of the camera and is able to talk to the audience
instead of at, with a personability and naturalness we see too little of these
days. Even if you have never seen Top Gear, you will really enjoy this
terrific set, especially since it has hardly had a much-deserved U.S.
audience. Extras in a nicely illustrated
booklet on the subject including informative text and text bio of May on the
many seasons of Top Gear are on
Blu-ray and more on DVD. For whatever
reason, the BBC has this time decided that Top
Gear 18 (2012) will only be issued on DVD for now and though that will
disappoint some fans, I still enjoy seeing the show and these are still quality
discs for the format.
with the decent India Special, we get 7 regular season episodes and extras over
three DVDs as May is joined by Richard Hammond and Jeremy Clarkson. The cars tested this season include the
Mercedes SLS AMG Roadster, Fisker Karma, Maserati Gran Turismo MC Stradale, more
hilarious comparison races between the trio picking cards they think can endure
& win, a piece on helping out on the making of a car chase for the new
feature film remake of the classic British TV cop series The Sweeney (on Blu-ray elsewhere on this site) and a tribute to
the end of the Saab Motor Company.
not have as many superexoticars as usual, but this is still a solid season and
has some great laughs, including form their news segments. It is great to see the show as strong as
include a Season 18 Welcome, a bonus
episode of the U.S. Season Two
version of the show with different hosts, Jeremy observes grazing fans and
extra footage of the guests driving their “reasonably priced cars” which should
be watched after seeing the actual shows.
enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Century
and Gear, plus the anamorphically
enhanced 1.66 X 1 on Ideas are new
HD shoots, but the two May series
tend to be a little softer overall, though they have plenty of fine visual
moments. The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0
Stereo in all three cases is are simple, but clean and clear; professionally
recorded and mixed as usual for the shows May tends to show up on.
- Nicholas Sheffo