Top Gear Thursday: Richard Hammond’s ‘Crash Course’ with a Dangle Head Processor

Richard Hammond takes on logging machines in 'Crash Course'

This past Monday (April 16), in the premiere of Richard Hammond’s Crash Course, Richard’s challenge was an Abrams tank, a 1500-horsepower deliverer of destruction, nicknamed “Whispering Death.” Fortunately, there were no casualties, unless you count a Porsche 928, a Chevelle and a classic Mustang and a minivan.

Next week (Monday, April 23 at 10pm/9c), Richard turns from an army base in Texas to the forests of Oregon, where he takes on tree harvesters, which he says were every bit as impressive – and frightening – as tanks.

“This might be the most dangerous thing I’ve operated to date,” he said while learning to operate one of the vehicles. The poetically-named dangle head processor “was the most complicated thing I’ve ever used,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “It was fiendish.”

Next week's 'Crash Course' vehicles.

Before Richard can operate any of these powerful lumber processing machines, he has a lot to learn. He takes lessons in environmentally sustainable forestry, and scales a tree like a real lumberjack.

The tree, he joked to the Hollywood Reporter, felt like it was “15,000 feet high.”

“It was horrible,” he said, “but great that we did and makes for great TV. I was scared and they showed that.”

• The reviews are in.

Crash Course hits the Mark,” says the Austin Chronicle. Newsday called the show “big-size fun.”

“’Lumberjack’” and ‘Richard Hammond’ aren’t the most natural linguistic companions,” writes the L.A. Times, referring to next week’s episode, “but part of the show’s appeal is parachuting a diminutive metrosexual Brit into the most quintessential of American landscapes to give viewers an in-your-face experience of the machines and their operators.”

The Huffington Post’s TV Replay also enjoyed the destruction evidenced in the first episode, offering excerpts of the Abrams tank destroying the classic cars (can we ever get enough of that?), along with a short sketch from host Lauren Zima:

• The opinions that might mean the most to Richard Hammond are the reviews he received from his army instructors at Fort Bliss.
Private First Class Gabriel Wyman said he and his colleagues were sure that Hammond wouldn’t be able to master the Abrams tank in a mere three days.

“When he first got here,” said Specialist Emmanuel Vasquez, “I thought he was going to be horrible with the driving. He did slam on the brakes a couple of times and the crew wasn’t too happy about that, but he proved me wrong. He did a decent job running over the cars and just driving around.”

• Richard Hammond loves working in the States. “People here are so communicative and open to sharing ideas,” he said in an interview with The Daily Beast. “If you chat someone up in the elevator they’ll just talk freely.”

Speaking with GQ, Hammond was even more effusive about Yanks. “Americans are great to make TV with,” he said. “They just get it.”

Calling us “just natural-born communicators,” Hammond said Americans just love to talk. “They do it all the time. If you put Americans together, they just want to talk, and that doesn’t happen in many other places. And that’s great for someone like me, whose job is talking.”

Hammond also offered the magazine his list of the 10 Best American Cars.

• We’ve all asked ourselves the following question: “Is there really an alternative to the Ferrari 458?” Well, in next week’s all-new episode of Top Gear (Monday, April 23 at 8:30pm/7:30c), the boys take a road trip across Italy to find out.

The Star in a Reasonably Price Car is Black Eyed Peas singer and X-Men star Will.I.Am.

• As much as we all enjoy watching other people’s amazing cars, we reserve a particular place in our hearts for our own. As the Hamster himself told the Daily Beast, they’re “a means of self-expression.” Whether it’s “the kid who’s spent every penny from his job to upgrade his car to tell the world he cares about sports cars” or the environmentally conscious driver who wants to send a message with a hybrid, Hammond says cars “are an outfit, and we put them on.”

So here at BBC America, we’re asking you to dress up for us – show us your wheels in our “Rate My Ride” competition. No need to risk your life with daredevil stunts: just send in a photo and a short description of why you deserve special recognition, and you could win a a complete Top Gear Season 17 DVD set, a Stig t-shirt – and the esteem of your colleagues in the car community. The submission deadline is May 6 at 11:59pm ET – complete details and the online submission page are here.