What do Survivor, American Idol, Big Brother, and The Office have in common? Well, like many popular American TV shows they are remakes of popular British TV shows. Now you can include Top Gear on that list.
Never heard of Top Gear? The BBC program happens to be one of the most popular TV shows on the planet. The irreverent, crazy, and wildly fun BBC series featuring Jeremy Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond is shown in many countries around the world. The show follows these three friends who are crazy about cars. They go on car adventures, such as a race between a car and bobsled, a race between a climber and car, a race between a Bugatti Veyron and an airplane, a challenge to cross the English channel in homemade amphibious vehicles, a drive to the North Pole, etc. They do a segment called, “Stars in a Reasonably Priced Car,” where celebrities get into a Suzuki and race around a track, then have their times posted on a board against other celebrities. Sometimes they might even review a car.
Originally Jay Leno, who is a car nut, was approached to do the American show. He would have made an excellent host, but in his article in UK’s The Sunday Times entitled, “I hope we don’t ruin TopGear,” Leno discusses why many believe the American version will never work.
“I like the show just the way it is. Jeremy and the guys are extremely talented … I think it would be impossible to recreate or live up to the standards of the British show.
I don’t think you could be quite as freewheeling with your opinions as you can on the BBC, because sponsors pay for the programmes. Sponsors would be unlikely to embrace any criticism.” (March 30, 2008)
Leno is right. Will it be possible for sponsors to put up with criticism of their products and still advertise on the show? It’s telling that the show is airing on the History Channel. Originally the show was slated to go on NBC primetime. The History Channel is far from primetime.
The BBC version is an extremely fun show to watch, even for non-car people. It’s yet to be determined whether this new American version will be of the same caliber. Few sequels and remakes are. They have done remakes of the show in Germany, Russia, and Australia. The American version will be produced by BBC Worldwide so it will retain some of character of the original.
America is a car-obsessed culture, and we are highly dependent on our automobiles. The show could work well. Those other TV show remakes are still on the air (except the Russian version) and are quite popular. Maybe the producers will find what Americans audiences will like to see and will strike a chord, but it will be challenging.
The hosts will be professional driver Tanner Foust, comedian and actor Adam Ferrara, and racing analyst Rutledge Wood. The American Top Gear is going to be airing Sunday November 21st at 10/9C on the History Channel. Fortunately, I don't have cable.. so I can't watch and be disappointed.