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Top Gear USA: Your Verdict?

Posted in auto industry, Car Stunts, Cars, Cool Stuff, Fast Cars, Funny, Lamborghini, Television, Top Gear by Leigh | November 23rd, 2010 | 14 Responses |

top gear USA

You’ve heard them – your friends and coworkers railing with righteous indignation against Top Gear USA.

“It’s nothing like the UK version,” they howl.

“It’s not funny.”

“There’s no rapport.”

“It’s a goddamn insult!”

Or, like me, you were sent a host of emails and texts containing such terse and pithy messages as “FAIL,” “EPIC FAIL,” and “WTFail.”

So everyone has been pulling their hair and gnashing their teeth as if Beelzebub had yacked in their Lucky Charms. But was it really THAT bad?

I watched the premiere on Sunday night and – fire up the wicker man – I was not induced to vomit. Yes, truthfully I didn’t think it was terrible. I was entertained, even. I guess I am a simple person because when I see fast cars driven dangerously by humorous lunatics, I just can’t help but be amused. It certainly wasn’t Top Gear UK and it definitely has its flaws, but the show has promise.

Top Gear USA Lamborghini

Top Gear USA is like the Gran Turismo 5 of TV shows. We’ve been tantalizingly promised this for years, and like devout followers, have sat through delays, heartbreak and persecution without losing hope, but – I’m shocked as I realize this – it seems as if even GT5 has less to live up to than Top Gear USA, with its inevitable comparisons to Top Gear UK – a show which sits deservedly atop the echelon of the greatest forms of escapism ever imagined by a person, and were I to become Bishop of Rome, all those involved in Top Gear UK would be destined for sainthood. But putting Clarkson & Co. out of your mind while watching their American cousin allows you to enjoy the show for what it is. And it is fun.

top gear USA

Yes, the script was rather awkward, and replete with jokes that were far from witty and more miss than hit (to cut the hosts some slack, I doubt Patrick Stewart could have done more with that script). The in-car segments felt recited, and frankly, the interview with Buzz Aldrin was a disaster. But the show is obviously in nascency. As stated, it could definitely benefit from improved writing, and it clearly lacks the lens filter budget of the UK show, but it shares the original show’s enthusiasm for all things four-wheeled.

We all agree that no one can top Clarkson, May and Hammond. The rapport between the three cannot be replicated, and really shouldn’t be. An imitation of it would as transparently fake as a Type R badge on a Camry. The only way to succeed as an offshoot is to start from scratch and allow a new cast of cohorts to develop their own style and banter.

Top Gear USA Lambos

By now we all know the UK hosts very well, whereas most of us are unfamiliar with their American counterparts.  The UK hosts are often more appealing than even the cars and the challenges. I personally like all of them. We know May has an obsession with technical detail, drives slowly and gets lost on his way to work, but is quite the pianist. Hammond apparently whitens his teeth, went to art school to meet chicks, and has a genuine fondness for American muscle.  And Clarkson is just simply incorrigible. Once viewers become more acquainted with Tanner Foust, Rutledge Wood and Adam Ferrara, and they develop a rapport of their own, I’m sure opinions of the show will improve overall.

The only area where Top Gear USA could seriously stray into irritating territory is in redoing the UK challenges. I noticed that in an upcoming episode, Foust shows a blind man how to drive the test track, and I saw a clip of another episode involving a car racing skiers down a ski trail, variants of each occurred on the UK version, not to mention the whole “cars being pursued by military vehicles” theme. I hope the US show aims for original content because I’d be surprised if its audience isn’t entirely comprised of huge fans of the UK version who have undoubtedly already seen the UK episodes. Doing an American version of the same stunts, while amusing for new viewers, would be repetitive and annoying for Top Gear veterans.

In any event, I think this was a valiant first effort – definitely better than I expected. Give me gorgeous exotics, tire smoking, and redlining thrills and I’ll be happy. Top Gear USA has so far delivered. Give it some time to get polished and I bet it could be a respected offshoot of its British cousin. But that’s just my opinion. What’s yours?

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14 Responses

  1. Kurt Ernst says:

    I agree with all your observations. Was it the worst automotive show ever filmed? No. Was it the best? No. Was it somewhere in between? Yes, yes it was.

    I agree that the entire Buzz Aldrin clip was a train wreck, and Tanner Foust, who appeared to be devoid of humor or personality, was the big disappointment. Adam Ferrara had the funniest line of the night when describing the Lambo he was driving: “It’s like being aroused at gunpoint”. Rutledge Wood was the surprise of the show – he actually came across with more personality that either Foust or Ferrara.

    The hosts need time to develop a rapport, and the show needs time to figure out its own direction. Copying the Brits won’t work, and success will require far better writing than we saw on the first episode. Personally, I’m willing to give the whole first season a chance, so long as the episodes show progress and improvement.

  2. Missed a gear says:

    ..the selection of hosts could have been better…. Foust is the only one with hoonage cred….the other two fellas, belong at bar talking cars, not hosting a enthusiast’s show. I must say the vehicles on the first show were insane, and the viper completely ripped it up on the track, the stig drove the sh!t out of it!
    just my .02

  3. Tony Intrieri says:

    I agree with just about everything you stated, however I’m not sure if it’s the writing as much as it’s the delivery. All the lines seemed mechanical and wooden and that is something they need to work on. I have seen Tanner on other shows and even though I’m sure he’s a great guy, he doesn’t seem to be real when delivering lines.

    Another Supercars Exposed (bad line delivery to the point of gagging) with better camera work won’t hold the Top Gear crowd for long.

    They should let these guys be themselves and let them say what they think at least half the time if they want the public to buy into the show. The reason Top Gear BBC works is BECAUSE they let the hosts be themselves and because they are all comfortable doing so.

    If these guys are entertaining then let them entertain and if they are not then find someone who is.

  4. Reader says:

    After 15 minutes I turned off the tv. Boring, boring, boring. Reminds me of a band of teenage boys chosen for their cuteness and appeal to preteen girls, not their talent. The three don’t entertain and individually seem uninteresting. The quirky Brits on the original Top Gear are usually interesting to view even when they aren’t talking about cars.

  5. Michael says:

    totally agree. You have to let them stand on their own, but they will need to do original challenges. I think the hosts will be ok. Adam is funny. No doubt Tanner can drive and Reid well even though he is a good old boy he will have to make himself standout. If you are going into this show expecting it to be as good as the original you will be disappointed. Rehash of good BBC shows don’t work. Ever watch “Coupling” and then see US version? Diehards do not want to see “same challenges in a reasonably priced hosts” They have to do something different. Think they have made all the episodes this year so if they survive and I hope they do then invest in the “BBC Camera filters” and do some epic original challenges, don’t script everything and let the guys have fun and naturally cut on each other. You can’t script comradarie. Just let the show run it’s ten episode and watch it for what it is and give them a chance. Back them enough to renew it, the budget will increase and the show will get better. Quit whining that it is not the BBC version because you know what? It isn’t. It is the “USA” version. It has cars going fast. Quit whining

  6. Set says:

    They need time to develop it, to really mature into the roles. In time, I think it will become a great show.

  7. chuggada says:

    I honestly like the hosts, they seem to have the right chemistry which will shine through more when the show gets less awkward for them, sure Adam and Rutledge my not have near as much credit as Foust, but I’m pretty sure James May doesnt have as much credit as Clarkson and Hammond. Also, from the first episode alone, Foust was doing things to cars that I have never seen the guys at Top Gear UK do. So in the end I think it balances out. I also think that all the people who are hating on Top Gear America, expected it to be the same show is TGUK. It’s not, it never will be, it’s its own show. Thats the beauty of it, it doesnt replace old Top Gear.

  8. RCM1301 says:

    The highspeed in-car camera work were PATHETIC!! All a blur and shaking – even my 13y old daughter mentioned that 4 times. The biggest mistake they make is to copy the BBC format. They should come up with their own format and ideas. Feel betrayed that they even use The Stig!! My goodness, there is only ONE Stig!

  9. speedie says:

    The thing that makes the UK show truly funny is their ability to crassly mock all cars regradless of origin. I actually think they pick on British cars the most. I can never imagine the US show dissing the Tesla like the UK show did. I even had a hard time seeing how three Lamborghini’s could not out race a viper. Really? I know the show will improve, but it has alot of improving to do if it wants to be even remotely as successful as the UK show.

  10. Mattlach says:

    The ads were bad enough so I didn’t bother watching. We have enough shows with fat southern douchebags trying to jump piece of shit 70s muscle cars already…

    It was completely missing the class (if you can call it that) that the original version posesses, and is an insult to the Top Gear name…

  11. BigRuss says:

    it really sucked…. ima see if next weeks episode is any better… doubt it but hey if they can get Ken Block to do a lap in their car they may have replaced Tanner….

  12. […] December 4th at Irwindale Speedway in Irwindale, California and includes such competitors as Top Gear host Tanner Foust, Vaughn Gittin Jr. and X-games multi-medal winner Bucky Laskek. There is […]

  13. BigRuss says:

    i will say that TGA has gotten better… it doesnt hold a candle to the first season of TG that was cancelled…