Until my employers Memset Ltd. moved to Dunsfold Aerodrome a few years ago, I had no interest in Top Gear whatsoever. I still hadn’t learnt to drive, and the antics of Clarkson, Hammond and May were of no interest to me.
But then we moved into our big brick office, we were directly next to the Top Gear hangar-cum-studio and the Top Gear production offices and garages. We were also overlooking the start of the Top Gear test track, with glorious views of Gambon corner.
Then they started filming. VT pieces, then Star In A Reasonably Priced Car. Then I started watching the show because I was now very curious about the whole thing. And you know what, it may be about cars, but as overall entertainment goes, it was very entertaining. But I did, maybe, learn a few things about cars too. If only I could learn to drive.
Watching the team film some of the crazier segments – including the “improved” ambulances (one of which was a Nuclear disposal vehicle) up close was fascinating. It made you wonder what the actual hell are were doing for this week’s show (or one of the other weeks to allow for editing). They were clearly enjoying themselves but were completely professional at the same time. Watching the BTS of Top Gear was a joy to behold, even if it was behind bars of a gated property.
As the shows continued to film, I continued to watch the shows as they went out. All was well until one day Jeremy Clarkson decided to something completely stupid and caused the entire Top Gear format to go TITSUP (Total Inability To Support Usual Performance) and bring on the death of the much loved/hated show.
Which is why I bought Richard Porter’s marvellous book, And on that bombshell: Inside the madness and genius of Top Gear. Richard was the script editor (amongst other things from time to time) during Clarkson et al. years, having also spent a little bit of time during the Pebble Mill era too.
The book is an amusing history of Top Gear throughout the ages – and I found myself chuckling a few times in public on my way to work as I read through the chaos of the specials, the mad antics of the trio during The Bollocks Hour (which is their downtime period before they start shooting VT links, etc. at the hangar-cum-studio at Dunsfold), and what they were doing with the number 14 Routemaster bus (currently parked in the TG hangar – I see it every day) as a potential item, and as a party bus for the team after a particularly good season end.
Interestingly, Porter has quite a few good things to say about Matt LeBlanc, who has become one of the six presenters of the new, new, new Chris Evans fronted Top Gear. All signs indicate that the new, new, new Chris Evans Top Gear will still be filmed at Dunsfold from what I’ve seen (after all, why change that if you’re going to change everything else). Hopefully they will keep the Star in the Reasonably Priced Car – but then again, maybe they won’t.
Now I’ve finished the book, I’ve moved onto Perry McCarthy’s autobiography, Flat Out Broke: The Original Stig. Perry was the very first Stig (dressed all in black), and way before my time of watching Top Gear. I’ve not far in, but already enjoying McCarthy’s good humour and ability to tell a good story.
In other news – third driving lesson went well. Didn’t get too horrendously confused with lane changing and signalling during roundabouts. Managed with the three lane madness of Guildford’s one way system too. So things are moving forwards quite nicely…