I, like many, was a fan of Top Gear. So a book that promises to take you “inside the madness and genius” of the programme was naturally of interest, especially if it was funny too (and how could it not be?).
The author was there before Andy Wilman took over as producer and the ‘new’ Top Gear was born, so has some insight into the whole affair from start to end. The chapters that largely flow chronologically through the series, but with the occasional step out to cover a specific topic (like The Stig, for example).
All well and good, punchy and amusing if not belly-laugh funny. I certainly had a few chuckles. What it lacked was a great deal of depth. You get the feeling the author didn’t want to reveal too much for fear of accusations he ‘sold out’ the family, although this may equally have been due to rushing to get this out while the headlines were still fresh.
The finish is a little brusque, we go from ‘all things swimming along’ to ‘a bad year’, to ‘it’s over, there’s not much to say.’ He then adds ‘by the way, I got a job on their new show.’
It does reaffirm what fans of the show hoped — that the three presenters are basically the same in real life and that the whole thing was as much fun to produce as it was to watch (if much harder work). It’s like discussing all your fondest memories of the show with more dedicated fan who has a better memory.
You forget how long the show ran for (22 series over 13 years!) and that it stumbled a bit in the early days (James May didn’t join until the second series). It became such a staple and changed car shows so much that you don’t remember what a revolution it was.
A good, if wistful, look back at the childish antics that often wrought entertainment gold.