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Top Gear USA – It’s a great joke, told badly.

By Andrew Pollack on 11/22/2010 at 09:32 AM EST

I’ve watched Top Gear for years, so with a bit of trepidation I turned on History Channel to watch the first show of Top Gear USA. The idea was to bring the hit British show to the US market. They’d use our roads, our presenters, and some of our cars.

Overall impression: They copied the format, but they didn’t get the joke. It’s like they took the UK version of the show and sucked out all spontaneity, humor, and class then moved it to the ugliest settings imaginable. If Top Gear is steak, potatoes, and a Guinness in a good pub with friends by a fireplace; Top Gear USA is a ham sandwich with mayo on white bread with a Coors Light in an empty Nebraska truck stop. Now I see what my friends in the UK think about the USA.

Where did it go so wrong? The hosts. They’ve got three young guys that couldn’t be more boring. One is like John Boy Walton come back to bore us from history, one is like a young Tony Danza with even less acting talent, and the last one looks like some redneck they pulled off a farm tractor in Arkansas and put through a Hollywood casting generic makeover. They interact with over rehearsed repartee that was written for different people, and are so busy trying to pull off being cool that they crunch any excitement under the feet.

Where else? The test track. Like the real Top Gear, they’ve got a part of an airfield laid out for the track. This one is clearly something the producers got cheap access to out in what looks like the Mojave Desert. You’d think that the big open spaces out there and bright sunlight would make for some great video, but it doesn’t. The light from that desert sun is way too harsh, the haze of heat coming off the payment makes for a good photo once in a while but is painfully districting for videos. The track itself is hideous. You can barely see the car as it goes around track because of the dead brush everywhere on the side. The course itself is laid out with temporary barriers, cones, and colored guide strips on an ancient and cracked blacktop and it has technical sounding corner names and features that are meaningless and boring to most of the audience.

Missed Opportunity? Holy FSM, they made The Stig seem boring. Apparently The Stig is the same guy and makes his appearance in the same way – but instead of having fun with it, they downplayed it to almost nothing with a quiet introduction and none of the hype and pomp of the Jeremy Clarkson intros at all. There was not even a standard “some say….” Introduction. For FSCK’s sake, they didn’t even MENTION that this was The Stig from the UK show – or frankly mention the UK show at all. Instead, he was introduced as a former race car driver who would be there to do nothing other than push cars to their fastest times around the track. Yawn.

What should have been done? First of all, they picked the wrong people to present. Instead of three young car guys without personalities or acting skills, they should have gone with an aging Hollywood tough guy like Robert Conrad or a high energy funny guy like Will Smith to lead the show, with co-presenters like Mikey from American Chopper on the one hand and maybe a really hot Hollywood female stunt driver on the other. That’s the kind of combination to put some fun in the show. The track should be made much more attractive, and they should acknowledge the UK show.

The last big mistake here, and an almost unforgivably stupid one, was pretending that this was a new show and not even mentioning Top Gear from the UK. Let’s face it, 90% of this audience is probably made up of people who have at least seen the real deal if not fully fans of it. When any other show does a spin off, the proven formula is to do a two-part show with the mixed cast to introduce them. That would really have helped this along. At the very least, they could have used The Stig to great effect, having him walk through shaking his head in confusion over the differences , having him get in on the wrong side to drive the first time, or some other little homage to the parent show. They really should have played up his introduction – shown him driving a race car, then a race boat, then another race car across the world to get there. Talk about stepping on the joke!

I really hope changes get made and the show goes in a better direction. It would be a real heartbreak to take any version of Top Gear off the high priority DVR list.

There are  - loading -  comments....

re: Top Gear USA u2013 Itu2019s a great joke, told badly.By D Vasta on 11/22/2010 at 10:03 AM EST
I have it on my DVR and will watch it tonight(I have seen lots of the trailers
and other leaked stuff about the US show). I am also a huge fan of the UK
Original. Keep in mind Top Gear UK has been on for about 10 years. The first
few years are hard to watch short of Jezza. I think they understand the show,
but will need to tweak it to make it right. Give it some time and let us see if
they get it right.

The Australian version of Top Gear is also hard to watch but getting better.
re: Top Gear USA u2013 Itu2019s a great joke, told badly.By fropper on 04/20/2011 at 11:48 PM EDT
top gear usa suks ass i wih they would stop but i have to watch it because of
Foust and PAUL TRACEY is the stig
re: Top Gear USA u2013 Itu2019s a great joke, told badly.By Lindsey on 11/22/2010 at 10:14 AM EST
This breakdown is exactly correct. I have seen every single TopGear Episode
since Series 1, these worthless "Gearheads" did absolutly nothing to uplift the
US version. Not to mention, the preview and the first episode copied the UK
gags and challenges. what a F!@$#ing waste. Change the producers, change the
presenters, get some energy and preverably presenters who have had their left
nut dropped. I wish I could try out to present Top Gear US, and maybe coax
some life out of these idiots.
re: Top Gear USA u2013 Itu2019s a great joke, told badly.By Frank Paolino on 11/22/2010 at 12:04 PM EST
I agree! I kept checking the listing to make sure it was the same "Top Gear".
They took all the fun out of the show, indeed. Wrong people as presenters, Stig
was not fun. It looked like a "high school" attempt.
Thumbs down for me (a real U.K.Top Gear fan, BTW)
re: Top Gear USA u2013 Itu2019s a great joke, told badly.By Kelly on 11/22/2010 at 02:05 PM EST
This is pretty spot on, though cruel to read.

The hosts were very over scripted to me. If the UK hosts are scripted, they
are so good at playing it off that I don't even notice it is all a script.
They can play off one another so well and are the perfect trio. These 3, well,
not so much. Foust was good, I did like him but the other 2....not so much.

Was that really The Stig?? If so, he deserved a much MUCH better intro than
the one he received. I agree with the author, the disorientation and "wrong
side" jokes would have been hilarious! I laughed as I pictured it in my head.

I agree, there should have been a mention of the long running & very successful
UK version. Then again, I think that would make new views watch the UK version
and then become very disappoint with this version and cease watching it.
It was just the first show, so hopefully things will change after the pilot.
re: Top Gear USA u2013 Itu2019s a great joke, told badly.By Topless Gear on 11/22/2010 at 02:11 PM EST
I watched the BBC shows for the humors and getting away from the NASCAR, NHRA,
muscle pony cars genre that permeates the US line-ups. So if the hosts are
funny and cars are interesting I will keep watching. If not, then I just watch
re: Top Gear USA u2013 Itu2019s a great joke, told badly.By Devin Olson on 11/22/2010 at 04:02 PM EST
Thank you sir for saving me from wasting an hour of my life. I'm a huge fan of
Top Gear (the real one). I was hoping that Top Gear USA would manage to not
suck -but expecting that it would.

I'll be deleting it from my DVR without bothering to watch it.

Thanks again.
re: Top Gear USA u2013 Itu2019s a great joke, told badly.By John Shilling on 11/28/2010 at 07:50 PM EST
You are right. The hosts of the UK version really do make the show. Since I am
their age give or take a few years I get them. I like the fact it isn't in the
U.S. and the different cars they test. Most of the cars I will never see ever
in the U.S. But I have noticed that most of the programs I watch get cancelled
anyway so maybe this version of Top Gear will do just fine. They are not aiming
at 40-50 year old males. I do know 20 year olds that like the UK version as I
do. They like the hosts too. I guess we will see. I hope it does good anyways.
re: Top Gear USA u2013 Itu2019s a great joke, told badly.By Deep Throttle on 12/15/2010 at 10:38 PM EST
You nailed it! Tanner is the only guy with any cred. Ditch the others and add
some combination of Paul Tracy, Ben Collins, Tommy Kendal, Robin Miller, Don
Sherman, Pat Bedard, etc.. People with some lust for high performance
motoring. Their "test track" is a WASTELAND! Shoot it at one of the country
club road courses that are popping up like crabgrass. Given this economy one
of them must be almost broke enough to cut them a deal. And if History
Channel/BBC claim they can't afford a better location then bag the f'in' show
now. Why bother. The production values are pretty good but the scripting is
TERRIBLE! I'll donate my services to get some BBC flavor into the scripts. If
they're not going to play up the Stig send him home (see: just bag the show).
Has ANYONE on the U.S. Production team even watched the BBC version? They're
running out of time. Make the changes now before what's left of the audience
checks out.
re: Top Gear USA u2013 Itu2019s a great joke, told badly.By Deep Throttle on 12/15/2010 at 10:43 PM EST
Does anyone have the address for the production company? If we bitch to them
maybe they'll make some changes.
re: Top Gear USA u2013 Itu2019s a great joke, told badly.By davidA on 01/08/2011 at 02:16 PM EST
This may be the worst car show on television. There is no humor and the hosts
have no personality at all. They don't interact well and have little or no car
knowledge. It is a total bore and does nothing but yawn me to sleep. I've
watched 3 or 4 shows now and will not bother wasting my time with any more.
re: Top Gear USA u2013 Itu2019s a great joke, told badly.By Tom L on 01/09/2011 at 11:08 PM EST
This show really is a total joke. Some of the cars are cool, but hard to look
past the idiots driving them. And there staged races, now thats a real joke.
How could three people, leave from one point to another, traveling three
different ways always arrive with in seconds of each other. One episode by
boat, plane and car racing to key West and get there with in seconds of each
other, give me a break. Now this week Ferrari vs Jet plane from Hollywood to
Las Vegas, Ferrari wins by 4 minutes. This was a 500 mile trip, even if the
Ferrari traveled 100mph without stopping for gas = 5 hours. Even with security
measures, a plane trip couldn't take longer the 2.5 hours. Not to mention the
Ferrari stopped along the way for some glame shots on a bridge over pass and
gas. If the races were real, there would be a hands down winner every time, and
not by minutes or even seconds. But that wouldn't make for good tv. Oh and in
the closing of this episode the three idiots actually called a 4-door BMW a
coupe, coupe = 2-door, dumb asses! How about the GM past/future car model
episode, who cares about cars that died because they couldn't sell them. Who
the hell wrote the tests they would preform on the cars, fill them with water
and see how far they could drive, who has more cup holder and who could spill
less soda or if the parking brake would hold on old unserviced cars. What the
F-ck, Idiot's. This show must be aimed at the 45-55 year old male yuppy that
knows nothing about cars other then to put gas in it. I think I just watched my
last episode of Top Gear, unless they fire the producer, writers and the three
jack ass's!!! Come on History channel, your better then this.
re: Top Gear USA u2013 Itu2019s a great joke, told badly.By Dejoe on 02/06/2011 at 12:08 PM EST
At least there's gonna b some new shows on the BBC I give up on the America
version I mean how can u even compare the two I'd rather watch the life time
channel some one please get this crap off tv tanner foust kinda cool but the
whole shows lame and to the other two hosts we should have yal thrown under a
lambo yal dumb idiots... Then I'd watch yals show lol yal SUCK MAJOR BALLS
re: Top Gear USA u2013 Itu2019s a great joke, told badly.By Matt on 06/01/2011 at 01:27 AM EDT

100% agree. I'll watch pirated UK Versions long before I watch the US show.
re: Top Gear USA u2013 Itu2019s a great joke, told badly.By Maxdog on 08/21/2011 at 12:37 AM EDT
I couldnt agree more. I have been watching Top Gear UK, (The One and Only in My
Book) for 6 years now and love every min of em, I can watch em over and over
and they never get old. Jezz Jim And Dick have such a great chemistry and are
just genuinely funny, I watch this So called Top Gear US and feel like I am
watching a highschool reenactment of Top Gear UK, It is just horrible and when
I watch them test a crappy plastic ZR1 Vette against a Technologicaly brilliant
Ferrari 458 and say the Vette is a better car, I about fell out of My chair.
Great the vette is fast driving in a line, thats what we all do every day when
driving. Bottom line the show is a rip off and a bad one at that, trying to
copy the shows take by take.. They try to act like the UK guys and fail so bad
I cant even look at the show without feeling like I am watching a "car show"
with dudes who dont know CRAP about cars. Sorry for the ranting but it makes Me
sick what they did to the Top Gear name. Thank God I get BBC!!
re: Top Gear USA u2013 Itu2019s a great joke, told badly.By Baronator on 10/05/2011 at 03:13 AM EDT
"crappy plastic ZR1"

I do hope you realize that the ZR1 is the second fastest production car to go
around the Nurburgring, right? Give credit where credit is due, and quit
propagating stereotypes just because it's an American made car.
re: Top Gear USA u2013 Itu2019s a great joke, told badly.By tim on 10/18/2011 at 07:50 AM EDT
OK captain America..

US citizens are not renowned for their sense of humour.
re: Top Gear USA u2013 Itu2019s a great joke, told badly.By 99ways2die on 06/25/2014 at 05:41 PM EDT
I'm American and Corvette was replaced by another fiberglass car posing as
Corvette after 1967. The Euro look don't work on any American car and it's
time we stop trying to copy them and stick to our own thing. Let the Europeans
do their thing, they are way better at it. We are better at ours. Ok so they
now are getting to where they use "A little Carbon fiber". And the rest is
still Fiberglass. Time to get out of the old Fiberglass kick and use the good
material. Carbon Fiber is they way of the future, it's lighter, way stronger.
way safer and just completely better and NO a Carbon fiber hood on a Fiberglass
shell does not count.

Maybe it's just time to stop building the Corvette since it's been nothing but
a shell of what it used to be anyway and just start from scratch. Who cares
how fast it is, it's ugly,. it's still Fiberglass and it's over rated, only the
engines are worth salvaging.
re: Top Gear USA u2013 Itu2019s a great joke, told badly.By 99ways2die on 06/25/2014 at 05:32 PM EDT
Welp they made changes alright. Now they got even lazier and don't have a
hanger scene, the Stig is only there to help on some of the challenges and
basically it's 5th gear with out the hot girl. Worst part is the last episode,
they did a "Modification" on a bus. The bus they supposedly modified was a way
newer bus and the mods could not have been done over night. I still watch it
just because some times it's fun but how it is still even running is way beyond
me and not in my pay grade to try and figure out. Especially since I'm not
getting paid to do so. Producers said it was because the American crowd where
interested in the challenges more then the hanger scene but in reality the
reasons for that where because of everything you mentioned. So instead of
spending a little friggin money making the track nicer and making the Stig a
bigger part of the show they just dumped the hanger scene altogether. You can
ask any American what they like best about TGUK and we will all say the same
things, the Conradery and antics of the hosts, Jeremy's big fat mouth, watching
the stars drive the little toilet and the Stig on the Test track. In other
words EVERYTHING! If they didn't cheap out the American version so much the
answer would have been the same. Plus Tanner is a great driver, I have much
respect BUT that being said Top Gear only needs 1 pro, the Stig.

Some say if he has a microchip in his brain that shows his position on the
track through the visor on his helmet, while others say if him and Tanner where
to get into a fist fight, his punches would look like he was shifting the gear
box to a Bugatti Veron at 200 Miles Per Hour.

All we know is THEY CALL HIM THE STIG!

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