TV Review: Top Gear Burma Special – Real Men Do Kwai, Or Oh Yes Siam

July 25, 2015



Top Gear: The Burma Special / PGL     


Now that Jeremy Clarkson has official been fired, viewers need to consider the possibility that DVD specials will soon be the only place they can revisit the good old days when Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May would drive roughshod (terrible mixed metaphor, but they’ve had worse in their monologues) through sensitive environmental areas and over entire ancient cultures.

These specials are distillations of all that was great about the programme – wildly over-ambitious targets aimed at by singularly under-equipped individuals whose very clever producers and camera teams have more budget per episode than most of the city councils who allow the episodes to be filmed in their locations.

The ridiculous vehicles chosen for this expedition are trucks, their greater size guaranteeing more than the usual amount of mayhem as the trio of Englishmen navigate Burma’s narrow urban thoroughfares and well-worn, cluttered highways.

Arguably the definitive reference to Burma in Western culture is the film Bridge On The River Kwai (the other option is The King And I, but it’s not like Clarkson was going to shave his head for this episode and at least the bridge plays into the car theme to some degree). So it’s only vaguely surprising that the Top Gear presenters are tasked with building another bridge over that river.

There is over two hours of footage here and there’s not a moment that’s not entertaining in one way or another, be it for the exotic scenery – and the fascinating technology used to show it off to its best advantage – the collective daftness of the hosts or for the over-the-top excess of the show as a whole.

That latter facet is what will be missed the most about Top Gear; the sense that no idea was too outlandish, and the fact that proving that could be done in an amusing way and with such camaraderie.

The Burma Special should not be used to teach kids about a foreign culture, but it is diverting entertainment that bears re-watching.