Jeremy Clarkson's final Top Gear episode
The final episode of Top Gear featuring the line-up of presenters that has brought it notoriety and adoration in roughly equal measure consisted of two films shot for the recent series but which, until now, had not been aired.
It displayed the infectious chemistry between Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May that had been honed over 12 years of adventures. It was like an intimate farewell gig by a much-loved band.
First, the trio immersed themselves in the lifestyle of classic car enthusiasts. They barrelled down rainy country lanes, sipped brown beer and stroked their chins. It was “Jeremy’s idea of hell”.
In an evocative Seventies-style montage packed with visual jokes, the presenters then customised their clapped-out classics and tested out their souped-up vehicles, finally trundling into a Wings & Wheels motor and airshow - Clarkson’s Fiat 124 Spyder on the back of an AA lorry.
But it was Hammond who had to then star in the airshow - strapped atop a loop-the-looping stunt plane, screaming with terror. So far, so gently jolly.
he second, more eventful segment saw them try to become SUV enthusiasts. Scrapes included driving up a ski slope and towing caravans around a track. Sparks flew and so did caravan parts. Finally came a mud-flecked, off-road race with terrifying consequences for the loser: making an after-dinner speech to a stony-faced corporate crowd.
There were tears of mirth, toilet humour and mild incontinence. Huge fun, if typically puerile. May sported a selection of hideous jackets and hair that magically changed length. Hammond’s goatee gave him the air of a schoolboy playing pirate dress-up. Jowly Jezza got all the best gags.
Both segments were amusingly action-packed but bolted together, were one-paced and, at 75 minutes total, would have benefitted from an edit. Although it's worth noting (also departing) producer Andy Wilman’s explanation: “They're not the greatest work we've ever done - they were meant to be good, solid films towards the end of a long run - and not what I’d choose to bow out on.”
Proceedings were broken up by sombrely low-key links from May and Hammond filmed in an eerily empty TV studio. Instead of Clarkson, there was literally an elephant in the room, as a life-size model pachyderm loomed large behind May and Hammond, in silent homage to their absent friend. It was a lovely touch.