Top Gear UK’s Cop Car Challenge is absurdly fun

Top Gear UK cop cars Paddy

The following contains spoilers for: Top gear Series 32, Episode 2, “Bobsledding in the Sinclair C5…with Flintoff Driving. Naturally”, which premiered on BBC America on Thursday 22nd July.

Top gear has a thing for police cars. Both the UK and US versions of the show have done “create your own police car” challenges, while the UK edition paid tribute to 1970s detective shows by creating a spoof tv title series. So when Top gear Series 32 unveiled a feature about TV police cars, it felt like more of the same – until Paddy McGuinness, Freddie Flintoff and Chris Harris proved they are incapable of following any formula. When celebrating classic police cars, they pointed out why those shows are timeless.

Modern procedures have an assortment of generic vehicles, but that’s because series like Chicago PD try to be somewhat realistic. Their characters may be dramatically licensed, but no current police department will have a fleet of Ferrari convertibles. but if Top gear pointed out in the 70s and 80s that the cars from shows like Magnum PI and Miami Vice were characters themselves. They were so different that they were the hero’s faithful sidekick. One of the smartest decisions of the recently resurrected Magnum PI reboot kept Magnum in a Ferrari.

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The first part of the TV Police Car Challenge was choosing their favorite classic TV ride, which went about as expected; props to Chris for daring to be different and pick the Jaguar Inspector Morse. But when the hosts were asked to say which one? new ones car would fit into a TV agent show, they set themselves apart again by creating characters based on their own lives. Instead of just doing a parody like Top gear did in Series 17, the trio came up with extensive backstories and really stepped into their personas.

Paddy became the toothpick-chewing “Dirty Cobra” while trying to mash Dirty Harry and Cobra. Chris became a former racing driver and became a police officer “Dave Tall”, who made fun of his own (lack of) height. And Freddie stole the show as ‘The Preston Ranger’, a start on… Walker, Texas Ranger still wield a cricket bat. He wasn’t nearly as gentle as Jared Padalecki’s new take, but he played the part with total conviction—even when he screwed up getting out of his truck. But that enthusiasm made the series so much fun and different from the last one Top gear police car projects.

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As with the Series 32 premiere, the hosts’ positive energy elevated an already done concept into something new. Top gear gave each character their own separate title sequence, which Freddie had to re-record several times. And while it was no surprise that the show ended with a chase, the way they handled it made it worth watching. Chris ignored Paddy’s instructions to leave his door open while he committed the fake theft, while Paddy’s Dodge Charger Hellcat proved so hard to drive in a straight line that it took him 11 minutes to overtake the “bad guys.” By having so much fun with their characters, the hosts showed viewers what made TV police cars cool.

It is unlikely that procedural persons will ever see the wide variety of cars they have in the days of Miami Vice and Starsky & Hutch. Cop shows are no longer the adventure flights they were decades ago and and it’s just not practical for heroes to drive cars that don’t fit into their world. But Top gear wrote a love letter, not just to classic TV police cars, but to TV in general…and did it in the unique style that Paddy, Freddie and Chris have found for themselves.

Top Gear airs Thursdays at 10pm ET on BBC America, with episodes streaming the week before on AMC+.