Join 3,512 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Ambitious but rubbish, or "the cutting edge of cocking about"
January 15, 2008 10:44 AM   Subscribe

Top Gear is coming soon to America – unfortunately without the charms of Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, James May and The Stig. To produce a worthy rival program, the American version will have a lot to live up to:

Top Gear drive across Africa (2,3,4,5,6,7,8), race 400 miles to the North Pole (2,3,4,5,6,7), conduct their own Winter Olympics (2,3,4,5,6), compete in a Silverstone 24 hour endurance race (2,3,4,5,6) (using their own home-grown biodiesel (2,3,4)), create their own limousines using ordinary cars (2,3,4,5,6,7) and their own amphibious vehicles likewise (2,3) – and then again with the aim of crossing the English Channel (2,3) – and build and launch a rocket made from a Reliant Robin.

Other fun outings include a British Army tank hunting down Jeremy Clarkson, James May racing a cyclist through Lisbon, a game of football with Toyota Aygos (and a followup), a race from the south of France to London featuring a Bugatti Veyron against an aeroplane (2,3,4,5), the world's smallest car, Jeremy attempting to do a 10 minute lap around the Nürburgring in a Jaguar S-Type diesel, and Sabine Schmitz attempting to do a 10 minute lap around the Nürburgring in a Transit van. (Also: Jeremy responds to the producer's pleas to review a family car for once.)

On the plus side, perhaps the American presenters will make a better live band than Clarkson & co, or at least have the finesse not to get very expensive cars stuck in a Parisian car park.

(And for a big finish, the Top Gear theme played by car exhausts.)
posted by bent back tulips (82 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
Will they drive American cars?
posted by srboisvert at 10:47 AM on January 15, 2008


Are there that many people who like top gear but don't just get it from the magical bittorrent faries already?

Also, the US version will suck. I have forseen it.
posted by Skorgu at 10:47 AM on January 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


This is old news, Discovery Communications made this announcement about two years ago.
posted by parmanparman at 10:50 AM on January 15, 2008


The dustbin of television history is already chock-full of great British shows that were turned to utter shite by being copied in America (with The Office being one of the very rare exceptions). I'm looking forward to watching the American Top Gear show about as much as I'm looking forward to my first colonoscopy.
posted by clevershark at 10:50 AM on January 15, 2008


BBC America carries it on cable. Always great fun. I think the English sensibility is what makes it fun, though. Besides, we already have Tom and Ray.
posted by The Deej at 10:51 AM on January 15, 2008


I already have a motto for the US show: "Ambitious but rubbish"
posted by clevershark at 10:52 AM on January 15, 2008


This is why I watch Top Gear on BBC-A. Like, ALL THE TIME. It doesn't matter if it's a rerun and I jus happen to catch it while channel surfing. I will stop everything to watch it. And I know absolutely nothing about cars. Unfortunately, all this show helped doing is make me want to drive ridiculous cars. The episode with the Capt. Slow driving the Bugatti Veyron had me mesmerized.
posted by kkokkodalk at 10:53 AM on January 15, 2008


I like my British shows British, thanks very much. Next they'll try a US version of QI (shudder).
posted by doctor_negative at 10:54 AM on January 15, 2008


Do they keep the original music on BBC America?
posted by smackfu at 10:56 AM on January 15, 2008


BBC America carries it on cable.

Aren't they a couple of seasons behind though?
posted by clevershark at 10:57 AM on January 15, 2008


Skorgu:Also, the US version will suck. I have forseen it.
If, like me, you've only watched Top Gear in ten-minute YouTube snippets, you're likely to feel that even the British original is about 90% suck, when you finally catch a complete episode. Those ten-minute snippets are the very best bits, after all.
posted by Western Infidels at 10:57 AM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


The only thing that makes Top Gear any good is the hosts. Otherwise it's an average car show.

1a. Copy Top Gear
1b. Remove success factors
2. ????
3. profit?
posted by blue_beetle at 10:59 AM on January 15, 2008


Top Gear already came to America once.
I doubt the American version will have the "attachments" to drive across the deep south with gay-love declarations and anti-NASCAR slogans emblazoned across the cars.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:02 AM on January 15, 2008


See?
posted by Thorzdad at 11:05 AM on January 15, 2008 [2 favorites]



Yes this will suck.


It's because everything on American TV has to be dumbed-down and explained-- and BLAND.

You can't be clever. You can't be sexy or fun. You can't take risks. American producers are all about not offending people, not "promoting wreckless behavior", not being sexist.. etc etc...

And you can bet there will be the insipid warnings on screen like: "DO NOT ATTEMPT".
posted by wfc123 at 11:07 AM on January 15, 2008


Sigh.

Another British show that the Americans will think they came up with.
posted by disgruntled at 11:13 AM on January 15, 2008


They have warnings on British shows too. Like Brainiac.
posted by smackfu at 11:14 AM on January 15, 2008


Western Infidels I have all the episodes of this series in their full British glory and I have no idea what you're talking about. Sure the reviews are of cars that aren't sold here and I've never heard of most of the Stars (or the Reasonably Priced Cars for that matter) but that doesn't detract one iota from the funny.
posted by Skorgu at 11:18 AM on January 15, 2008


This week on Top Gear the Dodge Caravan, Chrysler Sebring and the Pontiac Aztek.
posted by Mr_Zero at 11:22 AM on January 15, 2008 [5 favorites]


And, next we try the Escalade Hybrid, the Suburban Hybrid, and the Hummer Hybrid.
posted by acro at 11:28 AM on January 15, 2008


Yanks don't get it.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 11:35 AM on January 15, 2008


..American producers are all about not offending people...

The big problem is that the producers will be scared of offending the car companies who are some of the biggest advertisers on TV. I can't imagine how they could produce Top Gear here without the advertising department of the network influencing the car reviews.
posted by octothorpe at 11:39 AM on January 15, 2008


I really, really hate.......Top Gear
They always end their sentences.......like this
It gets really annoying after........a while.
posted by Sk4n at 11:40 AM on January 15, 2008 [4 favorites]


This is old news, Discovery Communications made this announcement about two years ago.

Except that this time it is NBC fronting the show.
posted by briank at 11:41 AM on January 15, 2008


for those who want more, here's an, um, episode list.
posted by the painkiller at 11:43 AM on January 15, 2008


I doubt the American version will have the "attachments" to drive across the deep south with gay-love declarations and anti-NASCAR slogans emblazoned across the cars.

Perhaps they'll go to England and try to drive Ford Sierras painted in Newcastle colours through Middlesborough.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:47 AM on January 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


"The only thing that makes Top Gear any good is the hosts."

This bears repeating.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 11:50 AM on January 15, 2008


Young man! Top Gear will help you to accept and embrace the thought that one day you will be middle-aged male too.

(I don't have driver's license and never have driven a car, but Top Gear is just so much fun: I had already watched most of those YouTube links, just because I couldn't get enough it from TV alone.)
posted by Free word order! at 11:50 AM on January 15, 2008


Those ten-minute snippets are the very best bits, after all.

What the crap? The best thing about this show is that the presenters are interesting. Clarkson's wittiness and opinions, Hammond's giddiness, and May's utter Britishness are what make the show what it is. The best episodes aren't even about cars, they're about 3 guys with a large BBC budget clowning around like kids. They do what we secretly all want to do, but are too adult to. I love cars, I love the idea of them, their cultural icon status, and the role they play in defining or reflecting aesthetics, despite the fact that they're utterly insane and don't make sense in the context of the environment. You can tell that the presenters feel the same way. There's nothing much passion and energy about what they do. You get to know the presenters in way that other shows just don't. You sometimes hate Jeremy for his total arrogance, or get annoyed by James May's pompousness, and sometimes you get caught up in their excitement for what they do.

Then there's the cinematography and the music. The production value of that show is incredible -- couple that with the interaction between the presenters, and that's what makes it successful. I imagine the American version is going to be about as interesting as Fifth Gear, which manages to make interesting cars boring. Also, their presenters are creepy sometimes, and convey their passion for cars in a completely bizarre and awkward way.
posted by spiderskull at 11:51 AM on January 15, 2008 [5 favorites]


The only thing that makes Top Gear any good is the hosts. Otherwise it's an average car show.

?

Name another average car show that ever pitted a Lotus Elise against an Apache attack helicopter. To me, an average car show is the revoltingly bland, agonizingly formulaic carmaker suckup show MotorWeek.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:51 AM on January 15, 2008


Skorgu: I've never heard of most of the Stars (or the Reasonably Priced Cars for that matter)
I think the show would be much funnier and more interesting if the whole "Stars In Reasonably Priced Cars" segment were replaced with 15 minutes of Jeremy Clarkson getting hit in the groin with various blunt objects, describing the experience with that indignant whine of his the whole time.

And even that, I'd probably turn off after the first minute or so. A little Clarkson goes a long way.
posted by Western Infidels at 11:57 AM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


I watched a couple of episodes of Fifth Gear recently. It's ghastly. Basically it's a shameless copy of the more interesting stunts you see on Top Gear, but done two seasons later.
posted by clevershark at 12:00 PM on January 15, 2008


There are few things I care about less than cars, but have always enjoyed Top Gear because of those guys - from where I sit, I can't see the point of doing the show without at least some of them.
posted by coolhappysteve at 12:03 PM on January 15, 2008


I think the show would be much funnier and more interesting if the whole "Stars In Reasonably Priced Cars" segment were replaced with 15 minutes of Jeremy Clarkson getting hit in the groin with various blunt objects, describing the experience with that indignant whine of his the whole time.

I used to think that the very idea of "Ow, my balls!" as a television show was ludicrous, but I think we've found its target audience. Only I always thought I'd see that on Fark, not in the blue.
posted by clevershark at 12:04 PM on January 15, 2008


...but Clarkson was reluctant to spend extended periods of time in the US.

No comment.
posted by chuckdarwin at 12:24 PM on January 15, 2008


Fifth gear comparisons are right. We can't even copy Top Gear correctly.
posted by bonaldi at 12:25 PM on January 15, 2008


Conclusion: This will suck.
posted by Artw at 12:29 PM on January 15, 2008


I used to think that the very idea of "Ow, my balls!" as a television show was ludicrous, but I think we've found its target audience. Only I always thought I'd see that on Fark, not in the blue.

Nonsense. Your assumption that anyone who finds cars interesting lacks any intellectual sophistication is pretentious. Top Gear has a huge audience (they claim it's in the millions), and any blanket statement about them is going to be baseless.
posted by spiderskull at 12:41 PM on January 15, 2008


Yep, it's going to suuuuck. Thank god for Bittorrent.

What the hell are they thinking? 'We'll take a show that's good, remove everything that makes it good, and hope it's still...good?' Do they realize that the Underpants Gnomes do not, in fact, have an MBA?

People don't want "Top Gear Lite", they want Top Gear. It's a show most known for reviewing ridiculous cars that few people, if any, will ever buy, and for insane antics that are just as funny when people are driving on the wrong side of the road. Why would the U.S. version be different from the British one?

Is it really that hard to just get the U.S. distribution rights to the show and put it on the air? It can't possibly be cheaper to do an entire new show than to just FedEx a tape over once a week or something. (Or get a satellite link, whatever it is that they do.)

And they wonder why their ratings are terrible. *holds head in hands*
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:43 PM on January 15, 2008


I really, really hate.......Top Gear
I sometimes think I'm a lone voice howling in the wilderness in my extreme dislike of Top Gear... and especially since the recent beatification of Hammond.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:44 PM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


It seems obvious that this will be like the American Fawlty Towers and not like the American Steptoe and Son or the American Til Death Us Do Part.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:45 PM on January 15, 2008


clevershark: I used to think that the very idea of "Ow, my balls!" as a television show was ludicrous, but I think we've found its target audience.
You misunderestimate me, sir. I do not propose to watch an "Ow, My Balls" show; I propose that an "Ow, Jeremy's Clarkson's Balls" show should exist, somewhere.
posted by Western Infidels at 12:58 PM on January 15, 2008


Your assumption that anyone who finds cars interesting lacks any intellectual sophistication is pretentious.

er, WTF are you talking about?
posted by clevershark at 1:06 PM on January 15, 2008


The big problem is that the producers will be scared of offending the car companies who are some of the biggest advertisers on TV. I can't imagine how they could produce Top Gear here without the advertising department of the network influencing the car reviews.

This is absolutely true.

In Britain, Top Gear lasts an hour without commercials. The US broadcast is an hour with commercials. During the parts of the show where Americans see a commercial break (with lots of car ads), the British viewers are often seeing scathing commentary on the automotive industry. You simply can't do that in commercial television.

Of course, the BitTorrent isn't censored.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 1:12 PM on January 15, 2008


One of my little "guilty pleasures" on Sundays -- while the show is on of course -- is getting the fresh torrent on Sundays, which usually shows up shortly after the show broadcasts.

Now I'll have nothing interesting happening on Sundays until the summer... [sigh]
posted by clevershark at 1:15 PM on January 15, 2008


I sometimes think I'm a lone voice howling in the wilderness in my extreme dislike of Top Gear... and especially since the recent beatification of Hammond.

Hey, hey, it's OK. I hate top gear too. I've hated it for years. And not only do I hate the mindless beatification of Hammond, I also hate the assumption that anyone who thinks Clarkson is a national oaf (and in print, a piss-poor PJ O@Rourke manque), rather than a national treasure is a killjoy.

Bah. I'm off to watch something with subtitles.
posted by rhymer at 1:27 PM on January 15, 2008


But where will they find an American journalist who can be an ignorant right-wing cock?

Oh.
posted by athenian at 1:35 PM on January 15, 2008


Spiderskull is right ,TG's production values are amazing yet sometimes all that incredible cinematography is let down but very poor scripting. Not only some of their 'unscripted adventures' are clearly set-up but -worse yet- they're not even funnily set-up. I'm thinking of that caravan 'accidentally' set on fire when they went caravaning for example.

Sometimes they rely so much on the presenter's interaction that they seem to forget that something interesting should be happening.
posted by blogenstock at 1:43 PM on January 15, 2008


I'm a huge fan of the show, and I don't even drive a car anymore. I just really enjoy those three verbally thrashing expensive or cheaply made cars, aptly pointing out which are fit for plonkers, thick punters or poofters. And which are fit for kings.

and the worse is, our version will review American cars, which as you know....are bloody awwwwful, and for pikeys.

Yes May is a git, Clarkson an oik, and Hammond a bit of a ponce, but I don't care (long soft a), I adore the show

You're all welcome to argue with me about it, but it's as pointless a debate as Hammond and Clarkson holding their ground on which is better, the Porsche or Lambo, respectively.

I think they should call the American version Top Gear: Diesel.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 1:53 PM on January 15, 2008


Wasn't the problem with the US Top Gear that they couldn't say a car was crap without being sued by some US corporate giant?

A US version will be saddled with the same constraints, so all we'll be left with will be Jackass with cars.

(I note the the BBC America versions seem to discard the pithy point of view stuff which I remember seeing in the UK)
posted by marvin at 1:58 PM on January 15, 2008


If you want to see Top Gear Lite, check this out:
Jason Dawe was a presenter on the Top Gear television show on its first season after it was relaunched. His main part in the show was to present different bargains for used cars, as opposed to the super car reviews and entertaining motoring challenges, which were done by the two other presenters, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond.
posted by smackfu at 2:12 PM on January 15, 2008


About the one "tone change" I've seen since Hammond had his accident is that all the "gay" jokes that used to go to Hammond are now targeted at May... and there's been a lot more of those than in the previous seasons.
posted by clevershark at 2:20 PM on January 15, 2008


Next they'll try a US version of QI

I almost want to see that done, just as a yardstick for how far it's physically possible to fuck up a TV show...

They have warnings on British shows too. Like Brainiac.

the difference being that Brainiac is shite...
posted by russm at 2:25 PM on January 15, 2008


Jason Dawe was a presenter on the Top Gear television show on its first season after it was relaunched.

Oh god his segment was bore. Just watch the look on Hammond's during Dawe's bit, he can barely stay awake. They had James May do Dawe's bit when he joined in Season 2, same thing, you could actually see Hamster start to nod off a bit. It was useful advice, but made for poor telly.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 2:29 PM on January 15, 2008


Next they'll try a US version of QI

Blah... I'd rather see a US version of Charlie Brooker's Screenwipe, which Lewis Black as the host and shown on HBO so we can hear him talk naughty.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 2:33 PM on January 15, 2008


There's going to be an Australian Top Gear, too.

I predict it will be woeful, but maybe the yanks will like it. After all, Steve Irwin was a nobody until The Crocodile Hunter made it big on American TV.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:46 PM on January 15, 2008


Next they'll try a US version of QI

I almost want to see that done, just as a yardstick for how far it's physically possible to fuck up a TV show...


How about an American Shameless?
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:48 PM on January 15, 2008


Or an American Inspector Morse?
posted by Flashman at 2:51 PM on January 15, 2008


Ah c'mon, don't be too down on US TV. My Name Is Earl, 30 Rock, The Sarah Silverman Show, Robot Chicken, Family Guy & The Simpsons have kept my torrent client churning away and are way funnier than Clarkson & co. They've all made it to UK TV (eventually & a season behind although in most cases).

I'd give a lot for some decent NBA coverage over here tho'...especially as ESPN.com seems to have a block on every clip showing a Knicks win. (OK, so not *that* many blocked.)
posted by i_cola at 3:08 PM on January 15, 2008


Or an American Inspector Morse?

Columbo's charm, Perry Mason's intellect and Grissom's anal retentive attention to detail. I'm sorry, we don't do that kind of thing here.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 3:11 PM on January 15, 2008


For more of the same humour, SniffPetrol.com is by one of the top gear scriptwriters, Richard Porter
posted by Lanark at 3:13 PM on January 15, 2008


BBC America carries it on cable.

Aren't they a couple of seasons behind though?


I dunno. It's new to me, though, so...
posted by The Deej at 3:14 PM on January 15, 2008


If any Aussie is super-keen, you could always audition to be the host of Top Gear in Australia:

http://www21.sbs.com.au/topgear/
posted by chronic sublime at 3:37 PM on January 15, 2008


There is no American actress that I can think of off hand who could replace Kristen Scott Thomas for the Cool Wall, so they've got that hurdle to jump. (And the fact that it is no longer used is no excuse.)
posted by IndigoJones at 5:20 PM on January 15, 2008


er, WTF are you talking about?

Ah, I misunderstood you and reacted as such. Nevermind my jibberish comment.
posted by spiderskull at 6:44 PM on January 15, 2008


I don't think it's possible to do Top Gear without it being British. Might as well give it to Bollywood as give it to American TV.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:59 PM on January 15, 2008


I'm still waiting for the Americanized version of "The IT Crowd". (Last I heard it was going to be a mid-season replacement. Not sure how the writer's strike will figure into that.)
posted by Wild_Eep at 7:18 PM on January 15, 2008


fff: The Beeb seem to be trying to sell it to everyone, so perhaps there will be an Indian version.
posted by pompomtom at 7:28 PM on January 15, 2008


fff: The Beeb seem to be trying to sell it to everyone, so perhaps there will be an Indian version.

That would be awesome. They would have to pedal all the cars.
posted by Mr_Zero at 7:38 PM on January 15, 2008


And dear God! would I love to see Pimp my Autorickshaw!
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:46 PM on January 15, 2008


Fifth Gear is at least informative, if far less consistently entertaining. I think of it and Top Gear as complements, not competitors.

I also expect any American Top Gear to be theoretical, as this sort of thing has been announced several times (including once with Clarkson, Hammond and May) and it's never gone through. If anyone ever DOES make an American version, I will also expect it to be horrible, combining the worst tendencies of dull autoshows like Motorweek (coming up this week, we review the Dodge Caravan again!) and over-the-top reality schlock like Supernanny Dances With Big Brother on a Kid Desert Island.
posted by chrominance at 9:59 PM on January 15, 2008


Thank you for the episode link, the painkiller!
Just what I always wanted; it's a shame that they don't have the earlier ones.
posted by hadjiboy at 1:26 AM on January 16, 2008


How about an American Shameless?

We're more than capable of turning an excellent show into absolute shite for ourselves -- as Shameless perfectly demonstrates.

Seasons 1 and 2 -- excellent television.
Subsequent seasons -- moronic dross, living off its former glory.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:26 AM on January 16, 2008


BBC America (and until recently) BBC Prime (the thing that is seen all over Europe, in the Middle East, etc.) are called BBC but aren't quite BBC. In other words, they are a separate company, and they buy programming from BBC, Channel 4, and ITV (though, thankfully, mostly from BBC) that they deem will be popular with the non-Brits.

Top Gear on BBC America is chopped up to remove the commentary bits and to shorten it up. BBC Prime's version used to do this too, but now they have a version with all the bits intact, and they call it Top Gear Extra.

Incidentally if you live in Europe within satellite range of Astra 2A/2D where the Beeb is available, for free, it is so worth while to install a satellite, because BBC Prime is late, full screen only, and sucks.
posted by derMax at 4:51 AM on January 16, 2008


satellite dish.
posted by derMax at 4:52 AM on January 16, 2008


spiderskull: The best episodes aren't even about cars, they're about 3 guys with a large BBC budget clowning around like kids. They do what we secretly all want to do, but are too adult to.

Now that bears repeating.

(What makes it fun for me is that the clowning is by and large so innocent. Boys with toys, occasionally a little good-natured ribbing, but all about the joy of cool stuff versus the joy of humliating other boys.)
posted by lodurr at 5:28 AM on January 16, 2008


I'm awaiting the American version of Spaced with nothing but depression and dread.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 7:18 AM on January 16, 2008


Sure, most American ports of popular British shows suck, that's a given.

But an awful lot of you seem to think that British TV is this vastly superior product in comparison to American TV. Last time I was in London, British TV consisted of 90% reality TV shows, 5% reality TV shows starring Gordon Ramsey, and the rest made up of a mismatch of terrible sitcoms (Two Pints) and reruns of The Simpsons and American crime scene shows.

Maybe we caught you guys on a bad week -- and there are certainly a bunch of shows on UK TV (Top Gear included) that are worth watching -- but remember that most of the shitty American reality TV shows and game shows started off as shitty British reality TV and game shows.
posted by billypilgrim at 11:20 AM on January 16, 2008


British TV execs and culture journalists engage in periodic bouts of hand-wringing about the superiority of US TV shows like CSI, The Wire, House, etc. etc.

There's evidently a similar attitude the other way. Grass greener...
posted by athenian at 11:48 AM on January 16, 2008


British TV has also really embraced the concept of "sideband" shows. Shows that are related to the "big" shows, but on lesser channels and intended for the diehards. Examples: Xtra Factor or Doctor Who Confidential or Big Brother Little Brother. Chat shows or behind-the-scenes or whatever. For some reason, the US doesn't have that at all. Maybe because US sister channels aren't as tightly coupled to their parents.
posted by smackfu at 11:54 AM on January 16, 2008


British TV has also really embraced the concept of "sideband" shows. Shows that are related to the "big" shows, but on lesser channels and intended for the diehards. Examples: Xtra Factor or Doctor Who Confidential or Big Brother Little Brother. Chat shows or behind-the-scenes or whatever. For some reason, the US doesn't have that at all. Maybe because US sister channels aren't as tightly coupled to their parents.

I know that Fox Reality Channel airs a similar "sideband" show to American Idol.
posted by gyc at 12:11 PM on January 16, 2008


We're more than capable of turning an excellent show into absolute shite for ourselves -- as Shameless perfectly demonstrates.

Or The Bill, which was great in the original half-hour format, but turned into a pathetic soap opera with lip service to police stories almost immediately after it shifted to the one-hour format.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:02 PM on January 16, 2008


« Older Scans from a storybook adaptation...  |  Million-dollar mistake at Drea... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments