Top Gear

Top Gear series 31 premiere is on fire (literally)

Top Gear is back on BBC America for series 31, because exactly what we need to end the year is the combined craziness of Chris Harris, Freddie Flintoff and Paddy McGuinness.

Now in their fifth season together Chris, Freddie and Paddy have proven themselves worthy successors to the throne of Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May. They’ve made the show their own instead of trying to play to the perceived petrolhead demographic and that comes through in the Top Gear season 31 premiere. The first film, in which the hosts go head-to-head with a trio of Formula 1 drivers, could have been part of any other season. The audience knows how it’s going to play out—the presenters geek out over the fast cars and then get embarrassed by the pro athletes. It’s not a bad film by any stretch, but it’s not something that’s unique to these guys or even reaching their full potential.

What makes the episode great, and quintessentially Top Gear, is the second film in which Paddy details the career of British daredevil Eddie Kidd OBE. It’s a wonderful story that appeals to the British audience and is a new legend for the American viewers. The straightforward part of the feature adds to the legend by interviewing a handful of people closest to Eddie, including his sister, childhood friend and mechanic. The viewer learns more than usual in these kind of films. And it truly takes off when McGuinness is enabled to speak—and act, and react—from the heart, showing how much Eddie Kidd meant and still does mean to him.

Top Gear is at its best when the personalities of the presenters are as central to the show as the cars. Eddie’s feature comes alive because of Paddy’s enthusiasm for the story and his genuine respect and love for Eddie Kidd. You can’t fake that or even script it; you just let it live. It’s incredible to see Paddy decide to jump a motorcycle through a ring of fire in honor of his hero—you can guess how much nerve that took but also how excited he must have been to live out his Eddie-inspired dreams.

“It was great to make that because there will be kids out there who have never heard of him,” Paddy said. “He had an amazing career. Even though I’m a huge fan, I wasn’t aware he had stunt doubled for James Bond and Harrison Ford. The mad thing is that, apart from the grey hair, he still looks the same. He’s a very good-looking bloke. He’s still got a twinkle in his eye and a naughty sense of humour. He has just spent two days trolling me. It’s happening all the time!

“But the celebration we did for him was tremendous,” he continued. “I think for his family and the stunt riders who performed, it was a big moment. Eddie had no idea that he was the reason all those performers got into it. That sequence is a terrific journey. It’s very cinematic and the music’s great. It’s a treat of a film.”

Films like that are what Top Gear is all about—and why it’s fantastic to have the show back. Paddy, Chris and Freddie are a runaway freight train of a trio and they’re continuing to take us on their great adventure.

Top Gear airs Tuesdays at 7:00 p.m. PT/10:00 p.m. ET on BBC America.

Article content is (c)2020-2021 Brittany Frederick and may not be excerpted or reproduced without express written permission by the author. Follow me on Twitter at @BFTVTwtr, on Instagram at @BFTVGram.

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