Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Yuletide TV Day 19: Top Gear

Series: Top Gear

Episode: S12E8 "Vietnam Special"

Original airdate: December 28, 2008

Santa? No

Other holidays mentioned: None

Availability: Netflix 

Unique Christmas Story:
I have to hand it to the British. They really dig putting Christmas and television together. While most U.S. shows stop running new episodes the closer it gets to Christmas, England uses Christmas as a time to break out special episodes of series. It's a tradition perhaps made most famous by Dr. Who (and before you ask, no there won't be any Who on this year's list), but it has been adopted by other British shows. Even if a show isn't normally on the air around Christmas, it still might pop up for a special one-off episode. Imagine if American TV started doing that. Think of a Breaking Bad or Archer  or Sons of Anarchy Christmas special. How awesome would that be?

Anyway, Top Gear, one of the most watched the world, also puts out a special episode around the holidays. Instead of an episode filled with a handful of small segments, the Christmas Special usually involves a multi-day trip in an exotic locale where the cars and presenters are put to the test in extreme conditions. These episodes are almost all wonderful, but I chose "Vietnam Special" because it deals with two important holiday themes: travel and gift-giving.

I never understood people who go on trips during the holidays. I can understand leaving after Christmas to take sometime before the New Year to go visit some tropical paradise, but I've always spent Christmas with my family. I don't know how to do anything else, nor would I want to. People always complain about travel, but half of them bring it on themselves (the other half of course doing the right thing and visiting their family). 

The boys of Top Gear head to Vietnam to try their hand at something a little different. They are given what they believe is a large amount of Vietnamese currency to buy a car. They find however, they have only enough to buy some motorized bikes. So in a Top Gear first, they spend an entire episode riding motorcycles and motorized scooters, instead of flashy sportscars. 

On their cycling trip they need to travel the length of the county, over 1,000 miles in seven days. People might not like airports during the holidays, but I don't think they'd trade for a chance to ride through the harrowing streets of Vietnam on a motor bike. 

One of the great things about Top Gear is that show really is all about the journey. They've spent multiple episodes trying to find the world's best driving roads, so even though they're traveling on beat up bikes, as opposed to say a Bugatti, the trip is still a pleasure to watch. See, while I may not enjoy suffering the pains of traveling during the holidays, I do delight in seeing the suffering of others in these kind of circumstances. The boys always give each other a hard time on these kind of trips, and this one they take on another challenge to make one another miserable.

Despite their small bikes, they each try and get either very large or very delicate gifts for each other to strap onto the back of their bikes. The goal is to try keep the gifts in one piece; a challenge when traveling through the wet and wild roads of Vietnam. 

However, underneath the razzing in some genuine affection the boys share for each other, not so unlike some our own Christmas celebrations I would guess.

Unique Christmas Message:
Keep up or get left behind, that's in the Christmas spirit, right?

I look for someone to save me.

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