446. British TV: Top Gear

Talking about one of the UK’s most popular television programmes, Top Gear. This episode features lots of vocabulary related to cars, but a lot more too including your guide to how to speak like Jeremy Clarkson.

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LEPster meetup in Prague – 13 May – Click here for the Facebook page.

More British TV content. This time it’s all about cars. It’s not just a car show though. It’s kind of a comedy entertainment show with cars. And it’s perhaps the BBC’s most popular show for a long time, certainly one of their biggest exports. You’ve probably seen it. It travels well.

Overview of the Episode

  • The story of Top Gear
  • Descriptions of Top Gear and the way they speak on Top Gear
  • Some clips + language
  • The criticism of the show

The Story of Top Gear

What it used to be like…

“The Jeep Cherokee!”

How it came back in 2002.

3 things on Top Gear

  1. Car news and reviews (which are actually quite informative and inventive, even though they focus on unaffordable cars)
  2. Blokey banter between the presenters, where they share car news and take the piss out of each other.
  3. “And then we did THIS.” Ridiculous challenges in which they spend a LOT of money and create some mad entertainment all around cars.

It’s politically incorrect, wilfully irresponsible, male-centric, unapologetically macho and competitive, slightly offensive at times but very well-made television.

I must admit that I always watch it when it’s on, but I’m not completely convinced by the presenters and the general tone, but some of the special episodes were amazingly well made.

The show is popular but also controversial as it has been criticised for being slightly racist or inappropriate. The makers of the show claim they’re not to be taken seriously. Others don’t like it because it promotes irresponsible driving and that it doesn’t take into account any green issues.

The Presenters

James May, who used to live in the building over the road from me. A mischievous motoring journalist who’d never done TV before. He’s tall, scruffy, slow and sardonic. They call him Captain Slow and he’s probably the one you could stand having a drink the pub with. He seems like the nicer, milder one of the three.

Richard Hammond, who comes from the same town as me – Solihull in the West Midlands, the former local radio DJ who also had never done TV work before joining the show. Hammond famously had a big accident during a high-speed dragster race and was seriously injured, spending weeks in hospital recovering from head injuries. They call him Richard “The Hamster” Hammond, even though he’s definitely not a hamster. He’s a man.

Jeremy Clarkson, lives nowhere near me. Used to be a presenter in the early days, and had done talk shows and some other programmes before being part of the Top Gear reboot with his old school friend producer Andy Wilman. Clarkson was fired from the BBC for allegedly punching a producer of the show when he was drunk and hungry. This is what led to them leaving the show.

The BBC found new presenters and continued, but it didn’t pick up the same audience figures or ratings. Apparently the trio of May, Hammond and Clarkson is where the appeal is.
The three of them continue to make a big show about cars now on Amazon Prime in their show The Grand Tour, which as far as I can tell is pretty much the same as Top Gear but with a bigger budget.

A lot of Top Gear is on Netflix and YouTube.

How they speak (Learn how to speak like Jeremy Clarkson)

1. Pauses.
Almost – everything they say – is absolutely full – of pauses.
In fact, some of the pauses are so long – you don’t realise – that’s not even the end of the sentence – because this – is the kind of sentence – that has to end – like THIS.

2. “THIS”
It seems like all the sentences they say have to either begin or end with the word “THIS”
And then we did THIS.
THIS is the kind of car – that my Mum would drive
And THIS – is THIS.
If there’s one word which summarises everything that you need to know about Top Gear, it’s this.

3. Intonation – i.e. Going down heavily at the end of the sentence.

4. Hyperbole
“I think it’s quite possibly the best looking car in the world” I’m sure he’s said that about 5 times on the show, about 5 different cars.
“This is the most amazing feeling I have ever had… with my trousers on.”
“The level of torque is biblical.”
“It goes from 0 to 60 in negative 12 seconds. It is so fast that it actually goes back to the future.
If this car was a guitar player, it would be Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and Noel Gallagher all rolled into one.”

5. Humour – some might call it “British humour”, but mainly it’s dry, sarcastic, opinionated hyperbole with loads of jokey banter and piss taking.

Car review

Porsche Carrera GT Car Review

Language

  • It isn’t styled with the verve or the passion of a Ferrari.
  • It’s form following function.
  • He was ready to take on the Mercedes.
  • Masses of wheel spin off the line.
  • He has got to tread carefully.
  • I’m surprised he’s playing his power ballads today
  • Bit of a wiggle, he’s ok coming up to the hammerhead
  • This is where he spun it before, cannot afford a mistake now.
  • This is maximum attack mode.
  • He’s really opening the taps now.
  • Really working that manual gearbox.
  • Wringing out any millisecond advantage.
  • This is the second to last bend.
  • Hard on the ceramic brake s.
  • Keep it steady.
  • He’s measuring out the power.
  • Gambon corner. Ooh he’s pushing it now, and there he is!

Blokey Banter

Cows or cars

Vocabulary

  • Can anyone see a flaw in my plan?
  • We’ll be out of a job!
  • Steer (top steer)
  • The only drawback I can see are cattle grids.

Challenge

Reliant Robin

The Criticisms of Top Gear

Excess
Decadence
Materialistic
misogyny
Casual racism
Climate change
Irresponsibility
Setting a bad example

Stewart Lee on Top Gear
“Clarkson. He’s outrageous, politically incorrect – but done just for money. He’s like The Sun.
“Hammond – a man who’s been able to carve out his own literary career off the back of his own inability to drive safely.”

Steve Coogan
It’s lazy comedy based on offensive comments. It’s not punching up.
It’s lazy, feckless and flatulent.

What do you think?

  • Francesco Gaeta

    Hi @teacherlukepod:disqus, sorry to contradict you my Jedi Master, but the main TV theme from the olden days of Top Gear, was borrowed from the Allman Brothers Band, in my humble opinion, one of the greatest southern-rock band ever appeared. The song is called “Jessica”, released in 1973 from the studio album “Brothers and Sisters”. Take it away! www.youtube.com/watch?v=_W25lPno3FE

    • I never realised! I thought it was the BBC house band or something. Allman Brothers – amazing group.

      • Francesco Gaeta

        Btw, I really enjoyed the episode as usual. You should be doing more episodes…like THIS!

  • Jack

    Clarkson is a great great voice over artist
    www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sw0XckpkHWQ

  • Jack

    I love old topgear reviews. This one is epic as well

    www.youtube.com/watch?v=qNwNMgT-adc

  • Sylvia
    • Andrew

      Amazing!

      • Sylvia

        Thanks.

    • Jack

      Fantastic. It looks like a real Maserati, nice work Sylvia

      • Sylvia

        Thanks as always.

  • Nick

    Marta I think you can go to a LEPster meetup in Prague ;)

  • Alexander Grek

    They deserve full-length bronze statues in their lifetime for that launch.

  • Ethanwlee

    for me Top gear is my favorite british tv show ever but only until Jeremy, James and Richard’s leaving. Now it’s a totally different show with just same name. :(
    anyway i’ve always waited for u, Luke, to cover top gear and it’s happend! great!

    • Cat

      You have great cars, Ethanwlee, like Hyundai! :))
      I like their shapes and colours. :)

      • Ethanwlee

        u can call me Ethan :)
        and thanks for nice words on Hyundai. Yes, they manufacture decent cars but they’re not “great” tbh :p

      • Cat

        Hey, Ethan! :)
        From the appearance I personally prefer Hyundai to Mercedes. ;))
        Cheers
        Cat

      • Nick

        Don’t say it to German people….

      • Jack

        Catherine will drive a hyundai elentra while we will be thrashing the nurburgring in a mercedes a45 amg :D

      • Nick

        It would cost us some serious amount of money…

      • Jack

        podcasting hardware doesn`t sell cheap ;)

        @teacherlukepod:disqus @catherinebear:disqus

      • Nick

        We can sell it to Amber ;))

      • Jack

        yup, sell the podcasting hardware buy shiny new a45 amg and hit the nordschleife :D

    • Jack

      What were they thinking ? Joey a replacement for Clarkson ? not even in million years.

      BBC = Bring Back Clarkson

      • Ethanwlee

        Well Jeremy IS actually responsible for this result as Luke explain by attacking the producer. He left no choice for BBC but to let him go. Huge loss to all of us..

  • Isabela

    hi luke
    I’m looking forward to one of your wonderful textadventures games episodes you make!!!

  • Agnes

    Very, very descriptive language. As a female I’m not a fan of automotive but I don’t say that I don’t like nice cars, I guess everyone likes.

    Richard Hammond – we have ” Science of stupid” has been broadcasted on telly, like that one, but sometimes the stupidness of some people is terrifying!

    • Cat

      You see, Agnes, Luke helps us to be more open-minded and to embrace topics we would never have thought of! :))
      But surely this episode was aimed at male listeners. Judging from the comments posted here — all males (except Mollie Tai, you, Sylvia and myself) :))

      • Agnes

        that’s the truth Cat, Luke want’s to please everyone and there is no doubt why he is our King! Anyway, I listened to this one once, I’m not much interested in an automotive though I’m glad that male listeners enjoy that one:-)

  • Nick
    • Cat

      :))

      • Nick
      • Nick

        Look at the third one… this is hilarious! :))

      • Agnes

        cute!

      • Nick

        Yes, that’s the perfect word for this :)

      • Cat

        The first cat looks a bit frightened — look at his ears (it’s sign for fear).
        The second one has all the protection he needs: from front and from behind.
        The third one is feeling safe and therefore is in the full focus mode. :))

      • Nick

        The third one looks really surprised to me :))

    • Cat

      You see the letter S there? It’s for Stuttgart! :))

      • Nick

        Is it? 8-|

      • Cat

        1. The first letter on the plate always shows the city:
        S for Stuttgart, M for Munich, B for Berlin, etc.

        2. Then comes the emblem of the Federal State (in this case: Baden-Württemberg)

        3. The following letters one can choose. Usually they take the first letters of their names. For Luke it would be LT.

        4. The last number they can choose or pay for numbers like 777 or 888.

      • Nick

        Thank you for the education, Cat! I wonder who is GO then… :))

      • Nick

        He should be quite rich…

      • Cat

        Lesson No 2 :)

        1. Letters for cities:
        – One single letter means a bigger city, for example: L = Leipzig
        – For smaller cities, there are two letters, for example: LU = Ludwigshafen
        – for counties, three letters

        2. There are 16 different emblems (for each federal state).

        3. The letters who one can choose freely: sometimes they choose letters just to make some text (read together with the letters from the point 1, see above). For example:
        LU (emblem) KE 225
        could mean “Luke” born on 22th of May :)

        4. People choose numbers which they can memorise easily. For example, 225 (s.a. point 3).

        GO 445 means just GO! (a verb) and 445 (I don’t know :))

      • Nick

        It’s not right that people can use letters for everything they want… it’s making a mess!
        Sorry, that probably sounds snobbish :))

      • Cat

        Free society! :))

      • Nick

        What about German’s order?! :))

      • Cat

        Lesson No 3. :)

        Below the letters and the numbers, there you see the name and the phone number of the car dealer (usually some big car dealer “Autohaus”). So, everybody sees where you have bought your car.

        There is a certain “social order” on the highways. People from S (especially Mercedes owners) being seen by some as presumptuous and ruthless. Especially by those who are from the little towns nearby. :)

      • Nick

        It’s everywhere the same: people in Mercedes think that they are better than people in Moskwich :))

      • Cat

        That’s true!

      • Agnes

        Omg!

      • Cat

        But why Omg? :))

      • Agnes

        Cat, it seems to be your car:-))))

      • Cat

        That would be a dream came true. :))

      • Nick

        Her preferable speed not more than 10 km per hour :))

      • Agnes

        Are you serious? I don’t think so… Perhaps as a runner, yes 10 km per hour… but by a car, I think Cat likes higher speeds…

      • Nick

        She once said that she doesn’t want to risk her life in a fast sport car…

      • Jack

        me love stuttgart :))

    • Jack