Last night Boston Legal finished its five-season (okay, four and a half season) run. The finale was touching, poignant, funny, and perfectly Boston Legal. It was a great way for the show to go out.
But, I don't want to talk of endings (I also don't want to talk about Hiro handing his mom pancakes and calling them waffles, even though it disturbed me). I'd much rather talk of last night's new beginnings. Last night the newest season of Top Gear started. Forget good times, the show is a bunch of great times all strung together.
It's possible that I found the show so wonderfully amusing because I didn't start watching it until well after midnight, was moderately exhausted, and on a sugar high from some pretty swell cheesecake. But, whatever the reason, I found myself laughing until my stomach hurt. That could have been partially a result of the cheesecake, but I think it was mainly due to Top Gear.
The premiere found our three heroes looking at fuel economy and trying to come up with less expensive solutions for British police cars. The fuel economy stuff was less impressive; it proved that the Prius is not a great car fuel economy-wise when driven at top speed. I don't think anyone would be greatly surprised by that, but Clarkson, Hammond, and May did point out the all-important truth that fuel economy is highly dependent on what sort of driving you're doing. The Prius isn't meant for driving at top speeds all the time, plus you'd have to be crazy if you were buying it in order to drive fast -- you can find a lot of cars that are a whole lot more fun than a Prius.
The real genius in the episode was the buying of old used cars and having the hosts try to alter them to be police car-worthy. Now, from the start of the endeavor it was obvious (as it always is) that there was no way the guys were going to succeed in their task; they rarely do.
The point, though, is not to see the hosts succeed; the point is to see them try to succeed. That's where the humor lies. Oh, don't get me wrong, they may not succeed, but it would be hugely wrong to call them failures either. They're not failures; they don't succeed because (if you ask me) they're not given the tools to succeed. They're given little money, less time, and (I'm convinced) they're encouraged to be foolish and over the top. They take their jobs seriously, but they don't necessarily take seriously the task at hand.
The guys have fun with everything they do, and their having fun doing the various tasks their assigned translates to the viewers having fun watching the tasks. As an example, in trying to build their police cars, James May decided to have nozzles on the back of his car that could shoot paint onto the windshield of a car behind him and thereby disable that car. Very James Bond-like, very cool, very fun. Of course, as "Q" could have told James May, if the paint doesn't dry instantly it's kind of worthless as a little windshield wiper fluid would wash it off. The show didn't bother to point out that obvious flaw until May deployed his paint spray and the Stig, in the trailing car, turned on his windshield wipers and washed off the paint.
It didn't take the Stig more than three seconds to figure out how to fend off May's paint, and I'm sure that folks overseeing the installation of the spray paint jets knew it was doomed to failure when they were working on it. But to have stopped May from putting in the jets would have been to destroy the fun of the show.
The show may have said that the task was building a better, cheaper, police car, but it wasn't, as with everything Top Gear does, the task was amusing the audience.