By Alan Pergament
It was a good idea to close the Skyway for four hours in July for the area to get all the positive publicity from the episode of "Top Gear" that premieres at 9 tonight on The History Channel.
It certainly was a much better idea than the one concocted by the three male stars of the show to take a 35-mile trip down Lake Ontario via a homemade amphibious vehicle from Western New York to Toronto.
Buffalo never looked more beautiful than it does in the picturesque shots of the city, the waterfront, the Skyway and the Cobblestone District that are viewed early in the episode.
The overhead shots of the city were worth closing the Skyway no matter what silly idea Rutledge Wood, Tanner Foust and Adam Ferrara concocted for this episode, which is titled "Can Cars Float?" If you miss the premiere, it also airs at 1 a.m. Wednesday, 11 a.m. Nov. 5 and 3 a.m. Nov.6.
In my Sunday column, I confessed that I've never seen a full episode of "Top Gear." I watched a preview of this one as a civic duty.
But I obviously don't have any way to compare how strange the idea behind this show is to previous episodes. On its own, the idea is way up there towards the Skyway in foolishness. (A Twitter follower just informed me that amphibious cars was done twice in the British version of "Top Gear" and was one of its most popular shows. I haven't confirmed it.)
Viewers are immediately told tonight that they are going to see "the most ambitious challenge we've ever done."
The challenge for the three men is to take automobiles, add some parts of boats and end up with a homemade amphibious vehicle that can do normal things on the highway as well as on the water.
Tom Hanks had it easier in "Captain Phillips."
Adam rigs up a Jeep Wrangler, Rutledge a Volkswagen Cabrio and Tanner a Plymouth Conquest and away they go first to the Skyway.
They have a lot of fun trying to prove their vehicles can negotiate the road before they head to Lake Ontario to prove they can work on the water.
The best line occurs when one of the cars starts smoking. "What, did you elect the Pope?" cracks Adam, the comedian of the group.
The music chosen for their missions is also a highlight.
I won't tell you what happens but I will say don't try this at home.
The episode is the most fun when things don't go swimmingly, which is often. Chains break, engines stall, transmissions don't exist, jokes fall flat.
In short, Diana Nyad had it easier swimming from Cuba to Key West, Fla.
I kept thinking how dangerous it was for the trio to try this until I realized that a camera crew had to be following them or we wouldn't see such pretty pictures.
I also kept thinking that what they were doing wasn't exactly safe for people driving cars near them on a 30-mile trip to the American side of Lake Ontario, either. But presumably there were precautions taken that aren't visible.
In the end, I'd advise you to go along for the choppy and occasionally entertaining ride because the journey is no more contrived than the movie "Gravity" and a heckuva lot cheaper.
But it is safe to say that the chance I'll be back to see another episode is about equal to the chance that I can walk on water.
taggedTelevision | TV news