And on that Bombshell: Inside the Madness and Genius of Top Gear, by Richard Porter
© 2015 Orion Books, ISBN 9781409164746 (Paperback)

For 13 years, 22 seasons and 175 broadcasted episodes, Richard Porter served as the script editor for the Top Gear phenomenon. His involvement commenced with the series’ first faltering episodes in front of a tiny studio audience in 2002 all the way through to the very last episode presented by James May and Richard Hammond – minus the sacked Jeremy Clarkson – in May 2015.

Along the way, the series grew into a truly world-famous series that spawned spin-off versions in a host of other countries. The original British edition saw countless cars put through their paces (along with plenty being destroyed along the way), the near-death of one of its presenters, while dodging diplomatic incidents and plenty of media storms over the political correctness (or lack of) the show’s hosts.

The incidents do take the gloss off what ultimately transformed from a shabby, backwater BBC2 production into a record-breaking, Emmy-winning, worldwide icon of TV broadcasting.

And on that Bombshell takes the reader behind the scenes of one of the world’s most successful TV productions to give insights into the show’s origins, along with plenty of highlights and lowlights along the way. There were never-broadcast disasters, controversies and plenty of laughs along the way.

With the title sitting on the shelves in the wake of the show’s high-profile shutdown and curiously-anticipated reboot later this year, you could easily be mistaken for thinking this is just a cheap, hastily-written attempt for one of the show’s former figures to make a quick dime on the last remnants of tyre smoke from the final episode.

Far from it. Richard Porter was one of Top Gear‘s truly instrumental figures. He developed countless segment ideas, right down to the logistics and research, through to scripts, gags and one-liners. The classic banter between the show’s three hosts was certainly not all down to the trio in front of the cameras.

His book works on many levels. Not only does it give terrific insights into how Top Gear was produced, but you also get to learn about unseen sides of the three presenters. Each chapter stands on its own, covering different aspects of the production or various self-made incidents the show had to endure.

First and foremost, it’s a book for Top Gear fans. For the non-fans, there’s still plenty to learn and understand about the making of a successful TV show. It’s not laden with car trivia or unseemly criticism and gossip – in fact, Porter seems perhaps too keen to avoid offending anyone.

There are meatier aspects of the show’s history that are covered better in other books, or indeed avoided altogether. The Argentinean scandal and the final fracas that brought down the curtain aren’t given the depth they perhaps deserve, while the Arctic Special (which was Hammond’s first filmed sequence after his near-death crash) and the show’s Australian connections are just two major events that aren’t given any coverage at all. Perhaps there were some editing decisions needed to get the book out fairly quickly, and one hopes that Porter might pen a follow-up title covering the missed sections.

And on that Bombshell: Inside the Madness and Genius of Top Gear is currently available at major book resellers. Our review copy was kindly provided to us by Hachette Australia.

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Geoff Burke

Journalist at MotorsportM8
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