I’m a little bit partial to this week’s episode of Top Gear, being that it was shot in my neck of the woods. The only thing more fun than watching automotive mayhem is watching it when you know where it is they’re destroying.
The aim of this week’s episode is for the hosts to take three cars which were commercial failures and try to turn them into cult classics in my hometown of San Diego, which is apparently a huge used-car market. Rutledge is first to show up, behind the wheel of a 1992 Subaru SVX. Tanner brings a bright-red 1986 Merkur XR4Ti (say that three times fast), and then there’s Adam with another Cadillac. Their goal? Sell ’em on live TV and see who can make closest to list price.
But before that, it’s time for the usual series of Top Gear challenges. The hosts arrive at an empty field, where they have to tackle situations specific to each of their vehicles. Adam must drive across a series of speed bumps with champagne in his Caddy and see if its suspension holds up. Eight of the sixteen bottles survive the journey.
Tanner’s “German washing machine,” as Adam calls it, has to navigate a racetrack with a trio of German Shepherds who’d like to eat the sausages around Tanner’s neck. Tanner does his best to placate the dogs while knocking over beer-topped poles along the way, and then can’t get out his driver’s side door. Clearly, this is going well so far.
What’s in store for Rutledge? To test the Subaru’s “unique window construction” that allegedly keeps the car dry in the rain, he gets to wear a suit full of sponges while Tanner hits him with a fire hose. Predictably, Tanner unloads on Rutledge, while Adam laughs at Rut’s attempt to use his windshield wipers as if that’ll help him. Somehow, this whole thing sets the Subaru’s horn off repeatedly.
Tanner’s Merkur is named the winner of this first series of events, and then it’s on to the next gig. Rut’s horn still won’t turn off and Adam’s dashboard goes on the fritz. Clearly, the guys need help, so they arrive at a marketing firm, but they have some difficulty pitching to the ad execs. Not as bad as James May and Jeremy Clarkson trying to make a Volkswagen ad, but close. “Let’s just focus on breasts,” Tanner says, with a straight face.
Left to their own devices, the guys arrive at a car dealership in National City to get ready for their commercials. Rutledge is the first to hit the airwaves, in a spacesuit with some smoke and some severe audio problems. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen Rutledge mildly cranky.
Tanner’s ad involves him driving circles around a local TV personality, so basically it’s typical Tanner. But the show saves the craziest for last: a tux-wearing Adam, his Cadillac Allante, and a string quartet. It resembles a low budget magic act, with Adam’s trademark wit: “Drive a Cadillac, because we’re all gonna die.” You’ve got to hand it to Adam – win or lose, everything he does is memorable.
As fun as all this is, the bottom line is someone has to win and somebody’s got to lose. Have the guys improved their schtick since the “Used Car Salesmen” episode? Not much. Tanner learns he’s been mispronouncing the name of his car the entire time, and Rutledge’s horn goes off again. Adam is the first to make a sale, at $2,000, and Rut gets low-balled at a mere $200, so he crashes Tanner’s attempt at auctioning off his car and buys the Merkur.
Adam and Rutledge’s punishment for losing is to participate in a race between two hideous double-decker cars, a la the “Top Gear UK versus D-Motor race” from years ago. Their celebrity co-drivers are Dax Shepard and Sean Hayes. It’s Adam and Sean vs. Rut and Dax for the title of…first loser, if they can dodge a bus, an RV and each other. It’s an awkward full-contact race, with Sean declaring that he’s going to die and Rutledge questioning Dax’s sanity. In the end, it’s Team Rutledge with the victory.
Did the guys do anything to restore the reps of Subaru, Merkur or Cadillac? Probably not. But did they come up with some hilarious advertising slogans along the way? We most certainly did. And if we learned anything, it’s that hosting a car show doesn’t make you a great car salesman. Who’d have thought it?
Adam Ferrara Destruction Counter: 3 episodes / 0 cars destroyed or rendered inoperable
In case you missed it this morning, check out my interview with Rutledge, where we dish on season three and the comparisons between versions of Top Gear.
For more from Brittany Frederick, follow me on Twitter (@tvbrittanyf).
(c)2012 Brittany Frederick/Digital Airwaves. Appears at Examiner with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted.