Top Gear America!

I heard that they were taping the studio audience portion of the pilot episode of the American version of Top Gear right down the street at Downey Studios, so I signed up to be in the studio audience because I was very interested to see how the show came out!

There has been a lot of speculation about the American version of Top Gear and whether or not it will be any good compared to the British version. There’s especially a lot of people wondering about the format of the show and if it will remain true to the original, and all of that.

Well, having just come back from the taping I have to say that Top Gear America is basically exactly the same format as Top Gear UK.

So I guess I’ll start out by running down the similarities:

  • The Format: The format of the show is exactly the same. Three hosts plus one Stig. They did a head-to-head test of a couple of cars, had the Stig drive them around the track, and fought over which one was the best. They put a star in a reasonably priced car. They did “the news”, and they had a crazy Top Gear challenge where the hosts each had to buy a cheap used car and survive a series of challenges. It’s exactly the same show.
  • The Studio: The look of the studio is very similar to the UK version. It’s a big warehouse with steel lighting trusses. The logo is the same, the general decor is very similar, and the general lighting scheme is for all intents and purposes, identical. It all looks very similar to the UK version and I think a lot of people wouldn’t notice if they secretly switched the two studios.

So what about the differences?

  • The Hosts: Obviously it’s not the same three guys so it’s going to be different, but overall I think the chemistry between Adam Carolla, Tanner Foust and Eric Stromer was very good and a good fit for this show. But I got to be honest, the American hosts do not seem to be as articulate as their British counterparts. I do say this with some reservation though, as the American hosts are new and inexperienced while the British hosts have had a lot more practice with this format. Also I have read that the American version would involve more improv than the British version which is apparently all prepared ahead of time.
  • The Feel: I guess this is a continuation of the hosts and the improv vs. rehearsed thing, and maybe it’s just because I was there, but the American hosts did seem to be more spontaneous than the British ones seem. I think with some time and as the new hosts become more comfortable they will become more articulate and still be able to maintain the loose, off the cuff style, and that this would sort of define the american-ness of the new version.
  • The Track: The test track is completely different than the British one. I guess that’s not really a surprise though it would have been kind of cool to have an exact replica of the original track so that the times would be somewhat comparable.
  • The Locations: This should go without saying but the American version is produced in Southern California, not England. Consequently, instead of all the shots in the pre-made sections having green hills and gray skies in the background, they all had brown hills and blue skies, haha.
  • The Studio Audience: We’re way better looking and have straighter teeth than the British audience, haha

As far as I can tell, the studio audience portion of this show is being produced in exactly the same manner as the way they do it for the British version. So if you were worried about the format of the show changing, you definitely don’t have to worry about that, it is exactly the same show as the original version.

If you’re wondering about the hosts, well, they won’t be exactly the same, but I think that given a chance they will find their own groove. Although some of the most hardcore Top Gear fans and gearheads may feel the American hosts might be lacking in some technical areas, I think in the end, this show has a good shot of succeeding because it will appeal to a wide audience.

The general public will like the American version for the same reasons that the American computer nerds who have been illegally downloading the British version were drawn to the original. And the general public won’t be comparing the American version to the British one anyway because they are mostly unaware of the British version. So instead they’ll be comparing this show to other American car shows like Motor Week which is basically the kitchen appliance of TV shows.

So yeah, I think this show has a pretty good shot at succeeding. But I don’t know if I’ll take the time out to ever join the studio audience again. Although I was glad I got to satisfy my curiosity and get a good idea of how the show as going to come out, I don’t think I am willing to stand around for 5 hours for a future episode, haha.


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