There’s something about Top Gear and Africa. They seem to fit together very well. Like Jeremy Clarkson and the phrase ‘he is bloody annoying isn’t he?’ After a couple of very poor specials, Top Gear returns to the continent where they filmed their best special: Botswana in 2007. This time they are set the simple challenge of finding the source of the River Nile in British estate cars that cost less than £1500, what could possibly go wrong? From an entertainment point of view, nothing. Unlike the boring trip to Bolivia or the embarrassing, and frankly racist ‘trade mission’ to India in 2011, this year’s Top Gear Special was funny, exciting and almost moving. Certainly when Hammond was left on the side of the road with a broken car and the night closing in you *almost* felt sorry for him. Like every new series of Top Gear our man-children, sorry presenters, are turning more and more into a parody of themselves. Jeremy Clarkson is a right-wing foghorn, Richard Hammond is an embarrassing dad stuck in a mid-life crisis while James May is stuck in an unknown decade that no one can remember, possibly one where the entire world looked like a Hornby train set. Of course the cars they purchase perfectly that fit their on-screen personality. Clarkson buys a BMW 5208i, all speed and the belief you should get out of his way because he is important. Hammond purchases a small yet flashy Subaru Impreza while May’s Volvo 850r is May in car-form, unflashy and practical in a British sort of way – basically it is useless on anything worse than a country road in Kent in a light drizzle, which is half the fun. Incidentally, none are lion proof. From the first moment they set off you want the cars to fail so you can watch the presenters bounce up and down like a toddler with a broken toy. Some of the fixes are genius – like James May’s home-made under guard – while others are a disaster waiting to happen. You won’t be surprised to hear that Clarkson falls into this category. More importantly each of these situations don’t feel staged, a problem Top Gear is suffering from more and more recently. Indeed the ‘wonderful’ moments where the camera crew show the same level of photographic skill as a tourist on safari, failing to get even Africa’s biggest animals in shot and in focus, makes everyone in the audience feel they could be a BBC camera person – fulfilling thousands of dreams many have had since the BBC’s recent Africa documentary series. Though that’s not to say it’s perfect, the American tourist gag in part two felt laboured while the whole adventure feels slightly stretched over its two hours running time. A single episode of 90 minutes would have suited the show much better. All in all, Top Gear’s more recent special is Top Gear at its best filled with adventure, beauty and friends clearly having fun. Most importantly it shows Africa and its people at its best.]]>