Top Gear is Coming to America

Posted: June 17, 2008

American car enthusiasts with satellite dishes have been envying the British for years.  As true gearheads know, the U.K. has the only automotive program worth watching.  Top Gear is a BBC production, on the air since 1977.  Hosted by three friends, the show features test drives of all of the latest European cars, performed on an empty airport runway with no regard for traffic laws.  It also places celebrities in reasonably priced cars and times them in a lap around a racecourse. 

But what makes the show work are the "challenges," when the three hosts are pitted against one another in bizarre automotive tests.  Buy a used car from the 1970's, for example.  Then sit inside of it in a wetsuit, breathing through a snorkel, as a fire truck fills it to the roof with water…and see how far you can drive it before the doors burst off.

Stretch a cheap car into a makeshift limousine, then use it to escape from terrorists wielding paintball guns.  (The guy who picked the convertible, by the way, lost that one badly). 

Or, say, buy a cheap used two-wheel drive car for under $1,500…and drive it clear across Botswana, mostly offroad.

It's like nothing else on television.  And fans of the show on BBC America have been pining for their own version for years.   

They're about to get their wish. 

Edmunds Inside Line reports, "Production is set to start this month with comedian and radio personality Adam Carolla, Eric Stromer and Tanner Foust at the helm. BBC America is producing the program for the U.S. An on-air date was not yet released."   

Reuters reports, "NBC announced the show as a pilot in the winter, but the project has not yet been added to the network's year-round schedule, which was unveiled in May."

E! Online reports, "Carolla accepted the gig after renowned car buff Jay Leno publicly demurred from the position back in April, writing in an op-ed piece in Britain's Sunday Times that 'it would be impossible to re-create or live up to the standards of the British show.'"  Carolla will be joined by Tanner Foust, a veteran rally race driver who has worked as a stunt driver on films like The Bourne Ultimatum, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift and The Dukes of Hazzard.   Eric Stromer, best known for his work on several TV construction shows on HGTV, will fill the third slot. 

Die-hard fans of the original aren't sure what to expect.  Jalopnik writes, "we have high hopes for the show, given that the current BBC version is pretty much the best broadcast anywhere in the world. We also have grave concerns, given American networks' history of eviscerating imported program ideas in an effort to tweak them for 'our unique tastes.'" 

The hosts' British counterparts aren't sure either.  Jeremy Clarkson, perhaps the dominant personality on the show due to his acid tongue, writes on the Top Gear website, "This is fantastic news - but how on earth you lot are going to do it on the wrong side of the road I've no idea."

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