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Back in ’06 we were glued to shows like Monster Garage, American Chopper, and Biker Build-Off with guys like like Jesse James and (shudder) Billy Lane — until we realized they were all complete jack-holes.* We languished in automotive purgatory until we found Top Gear, the proper British version. In what seems like a reversal of the laws of physics, we Americans loved the show so much that History brought it over here for our own colonial-style version.

I would totally agree the Brit version is more polished, better funded, and staffed with some of the best writers on our gravity sphere at the moment. They have style, a long list of famous euro-personalities waiting to grace the show with their eminent star power, and, let’s not forget: awesome British accents. What have we Americans got? Well, a drifter, a redneck, and a short Italian guy with a v8 fetish.

Sure, the first episode or two sucked ass. However, let’s give props where they’re due. After moments like the hillbilly fire spitting, jumping an El Dorado, and the station wagon full of water, the stateside goodness won me over. I look forward to it every week. This was a show just like the Brits did but largely with American cars. I’d always wanted to see a Detroit slant to Top Gear and after this first season I can’t say that was a foolish thing to wish for.

Though I’ve heard nothing but general bitching about how our version isn’t as good as the one across the pond, I’m still curious: Do you enjoy the U.S. version even given that fact? Let us know in comments.

Top Gear [History]

*Note: They were all Jack-Holes except for Indian Larry, who was, and still is, the very embodiment of American bike-building spirit and is sorely missed by all who ride.


29 Responses to Top Gear: Colonial Style

  1. John says:

    I will save my long winded rant here and leave it to brevity to say – it still sucks. I was hoping for good stuff when the Alaska episode came along. When he described the Chevy as a C/K 1500 (for non Chevy guys, a C is the designator for 2WD and K is 4WD) it can’t be both from the factory. And then came the ridiculous modifications they made. channel changed.
    Black Ops Brothers from Howe and Howe Tech was the best show on this season.

  2. Jerry says:

    Haven’t watched the US version yet – no, really! The Brit version was awesome but this seems true of a lot of TV we try to copy from the Brits. The Office, in my opinion, is a great example. I tried to always watch the Brit version but watched 3 or 4 episodes of the US version and was disappointed. Probably a good show but I was spoiled by the same thing that was a couple notches better.
    Born and fed in the US but must have gotten a Brit sense of humor.

  3. Tim S. says:

    I can’t stand Top Gear jr. They seem to try way to hard to be funny. The hosts are the ones that make the show in my opinion.

    In regards to The Office, I can’t get enough of it! British or US version.

  4. Dave says:

    Love the Brit version. Gave (and still giving) the US version a shot.

    My gripes:
    1.) Over explaining the Stig. US: “Our test driver, who wears all white, and is an anonymous test driver who tests our cars, while driving them”. Brit: “Some say, he has no back fat, but we just call him ‘The Stig'”.

    2.) It’s a star in a reasonably priced car. Not “Big Star, Small Car”. WTF. IT’S AWKWARD TO SAY FOR A REASON!

    3.) General dumbing down for the US. Instead of embracing the fact that most of the people who care about it have been watching the UK version for years, they are trying to suck in the people who have never seen the UK version. Shame on them. You could of had two of your shows being pirated like crazy, not just one.

    I have never seen the first season of TG:UK, but hope that it is as awkward as this season of TG:US. TG:US had its moments, but the hosts need to get some real chemistry. Right now they seem more like college roommates during the first week, not “the odd couple” which is TG:US.

    PS: Harder challanges. The Alaska show was a joke. TG:UK Vietnam, or Arctic specials? Wowa!

  5. hmbemis says:

    That’s not an Eldorado… that looks like a 75/76 Coupe DeVille.

  6. Rembret says:

    Jeremy Clarkson is the lynchpin of the UK version and the US version has no one with his caliber of wit. He should pull a Simon Cowell and come get the US version off the ground while finding a suitable replacement.

    fwiw: The howe brothers remind me of some bad “seagull” bosses I’ve had. The gang on “Sons of Guns” are much more likeable and entertaining.

  7. brian says:

    You can’t really nitpick on the errors in the details of the show. Top Gear UK makes them just as often, but since none of us were raised on EDM cars, we’re none the wiser. The UK hosts are not car experts (I recall Clarkson’s flamboyant celebration of ‘mending’ his car simply by stealing a wheel weight from another…and you’ll notice that on their missions when their beater cars fail they’re never shown actually fixing them). They’re only comically opinionated TV personalities who have the means by which to form a legitimate opinion about the cars they drive. Their only true credential, as with the US hosts, is an intense love for the automobile.

    Top Gear US will never live up to the UK version because as James May said “they haven’t had nearly a decade to develop a mutual loathing of one another”. I hated the first few episodes simply because it was awkward, but the Alaska episode hooked me in because I love rugged, old trucks and I realize that due to cultural differences you would never see such a segment on the UK version…. although there antics involving the Hilux are always fun.

    If you want a true perspective, go back and watch series one of the UK version. I, for one, hope very much that they renew for a second season.

  8. Mike47 says:

    The Brits just make better TV than Hollywierd these days. Examples: Masterpiece Theater (pick any series), MI5, As Time Goes By, Foyles War, Vicar of Dibbley, Keeping Up Appearances, Waiting For God, Inspector Lewis, Miss Marple, Poirot, the list goes on and on. It’s no wonder the public television channels are full of these shows. Sure, some of them are 10+ years old, but they’re popular. In one word: Quality.

  9. Jake says:

    Brian, regarding “you’ll notice that on their missions when their beater cars fail they’re never shown actually fixing them”, I remember a recent episode where James May had the heads pulled from his vehicle on the side of the road and mended it. I think its well established in the show that James and Richard are both fairly adept mechanics(though I don’t doubt they have help from the chase cars.) Also look at the episode where they entered the Britcar 24 hour endurance race, it seems like they did a bit of work.

  10. Fong says:

    I’ve been following Top Gear on BBC since season 1. At its dawn, it too lacked the polish, wit and cinematography of more recent seasons. However, it was it’s own thing and they continued to stay true to their style until it stands a beacon for car fanatics worldwide. Most have already mentioned the most common gripes with the History Channel version. The channel in of itself is a gripe. It would’ve been more suited on Speed TV, Spike TV, TLC or even the Discovery Channel.

    My largest criticism is their endeavor to port something by substituting all its pieces with inferior parts and trying to sell it to the same audience. It’s like selling a Hackintosh or iFone and expecting you to eat it up with the same zeal as if it were the original. Be it Americans or Brits, as a consumer and car fanatic, I’m insulted at the notion that they think they could pass this off as even remotely palatable.

    I do believe Hollywierd or some facsimile can easily muster up the talented hosts, the witty writers, and cinematographers to put on a compelling, entertaining car show with originality and style. It just hasn’t been done on this particular show; at least not yet. I, for one, will not be watching it in hopes it’ll get better. Redemption will be well conveyed in this blog and many others I’m sure.

  11. BJN says:

    I gave up on the US version after watching the first episode. I dislike the three host dweebs intensely and saw only derivative content that was a poor second to the original. The best series franchises break with the original formula so they don’t come off as parodies.

    Glad to hear the show’s gotten better. They wouldn’t have to try too hard to do that. I haven’t been interested in Detroit cars since the ’70’s, so the idea of more focus on US autos has zero appeal. I’m much more interested on how the UK team reacts when they drive Detroit iron.

  12. Edub says:

    I did enjoy the US one, mostly because I could relate to the cars more on a cultural basis. When TG-UK talks about Jensen Interceptors, it has no reference for me. Jumping a big caddy, I get that.

    TG-UK can be like going to your spouse’s office party. The stories can be humorous, but all of my wife’s co-worker find them much funnier than I do, they know the inside story.

    That being said, I never looked at TG-US as a replacement. If I want some auto-centric eye-candy and silly stories while TG-UK is out of season, where else can you go? An let’s be honest, it’s an entertainment show that happens to be about cars. And I’m okay with that.

    Not mentioned yet is the always xenophobic undertones for TG-UK. Part of that show’s make-up, but perhaps part of the appeal? There were no such inkling in the TG-US show.

  13. Scott R says:

    The American Top Gear brought back the wonder-eyed teenager in myself. The show can be funny, deals with cars more common to Americans and mashes the ridiculous with the serious. The three hosts remind me of a trio of unlikely high school friends that would do anything for each other. Some of the episodes were misses for me but some of them were huge hits. I especially enjoyed watching them with my 14 year old son. It was fantastic bonding time. I only wish there would have been a show like this 20 years ago that I could have watched with my father. My son and I are eagerly awaiting the next season in this series.

  14. ttamnoswad says:

    yep. the first couple episodes were pretty slow. But thats because we are all comparing it too the the Uk version, which is on its 16th season. Have you ever seen the first year of Top Gear UK? They have come along way since then. Its also important to know that the US version is produced by BBC personnel.

    The Alaska special of Top Gear America (should be the proper name btw) was a masterpiece. It was perfect Top Gear in every way.

    I will watch Top Gear America. and enjoy it for hopefully many seasons. Even Rutledge is growing on me.

  15. A.Crush says:

    The first year of the original Top Gear wasn’t that great. In fact, the show got canned. When it was brought back, it started evolving into the format we know today, which has obviously been more successful.

    I doubt the US version will ever get the same traction unless it gets some independent backing, and there is quick a lack of domestic supercars to use.

    But hey, there used to be Motorweek on PBS, and that lasted for a good bit. I would love to see the show wind up on public television and be a minor hit, like Antique Roadshow for car nuts. Sadly, I think it will have to be pretty lowball to have broad appeal…on the level of guys who like cars but know almost nothing about them, aside from what most people know about how to drive one.

    S’ok tho, we have the internet for watching Top Gear…the real one.

  16. Brau says:

    I’m getting so tired of not being able to watch out of country shows. Spin-offs like Top Gear U.S. is about as good as watching a Chinese remake of Star Wars. Instead of just licensing the original show for rebroadcast and tagging in local ads, they insist on making half-assed insipid copies.

  17. 99octane says:

    Living in Italy, I get the UK version, which I love. May, the Hamster and Clarkson are indeed and exceptional team.
    My wife’s competence and general interest in cars goes as far as the car’s color.
    And even she enjoys watching Top Gear, which I believe is as much compliment as a show can get: somebody totally not interested that finds it amusing all the same.
    I knew there was an US spin-off, and that it got some bad reviews, but this happens most of the times when something new has to measure up against a well-known “brother”. Just look at what happened with Episode 1 in the Star Wars series.
    I’d love all the same to be able to watch the american version, with american cars. Who knows? May be well’ get at least the re-runs…

  18. 99octane says:

    @ Brau: there must be some unknown connection between Top Gear and Star Wars… we bot had the same idea for a comparison… O__O

  19. zoomzoomjeff says:

    I’m a minority that really enjoyed the US version. I don’t get cable access to the UK version and haven’t seen it in years, so for me, I was giddy just to get anything.

    Sure, there could be things I could pick apart with it, but in large, I found myself cracking up on the couch, feeling like those guys could have been my buddies in college. (actually my wife said that). And my wife also got sucked into the show too.

    Give it time to get better. For me it’s at least better than no Top Gear of any kind. I’m completely sick of all chopper build shows, ghost hunting shows, and cooking and home improvement shows that effing saturate the TV. Having at least ONE car show kicks ass!

  20. Mike says:

    Not a whole lot to add but give it a chance. The first episodes you could tell the writers and hosts were feeling each other out and as time went on it got better and better. The Alaska trip was every bit as good as some of the UK ones I though. I hope that it gets at least one more year to see if it can get better because I saw a lot of potential the last couple episodes. There is also an Aussie version that’ been on the air quite a few years so why not an American version?

  21. Matt says:

    But if you look at it from the perspective of Americans that have never seen TG:UK, they think it’s the best show on TV. I have various friends and co-workers that were so excited to tell me about this great new show they found on the History Channel, TG:US. . . .

  22. Drew D. says:

    First off, the History Channel has dwindled down into a complete joke. I can remember when the programming was actual HISTORY related, not just rehashed pseudo-reality shows. Discovery has also suffered the same fate, I believe it started with Jon & Kate Plus Eight.

    Secondly, Top Gear:US is an utter waste of time. They lack the originality and spontaneity that the UK version has. Plus the dry British humor is what makes all the jokes, its in the delivery. These three little dweebs on the US version are trying so hard to be funny I think one of them might pop a blood vessel. They should focus less on replicating the UK version and allow the show to take a life of its own and define itself.

    I have to say that I do enjoy The Office:US and everyone should check out Law & Order:UK. Its a really good show and it interesting to see a UK take on a US show, first time in history.

  23. Lee says:

    The US version started to grow on my by the end of the first season. Sure, the guys haven’t gotten into their stride yet, but I think it’ll come if they’re given the time. Have you ever seen the original seasons of Top Gear (UK)? Talk about hard to watch…

  24. Joshua says:

    I am still not sold on the US version, but there are some things that the US guys can do that was really done well on the Brit side. Pickup trucks being one of those things. Jeremy Clarkson did a review of the Ford Lightning, but he stated that it just wasn’t a vehicle that the UK could understand. I was really hoping to see some better reviews on cars from the US crew, but the best car review from the US season was when they flew Foust to England.

    I do still like the style of cinematography that both shows use. While I don’t like the extremes that some of the challenges go or there incessant need to destroy their budget vehicles I have liked the basic concept a few times.

    The 4X4 Challenge made me want to drive a truck to Alaska except for the whole building a log cabin on the truck thing.

  25. Kurt says:

    My biggest complaint about the US version is that we have seen just about everything they did done before, and done better. Filling the car with water, the helicopter race, even the silly camping are all directly lifted from TG:UK. I did like the guy from Rescue Me.

    And I agree with everyone who pointed out that the History Channel is an unlikely home for this show.

    I will probably give the second season a try, to see if they can come up with something original. The DVR makes for easy watching by skipping over the lame part, so what the heck. I’d like to see some of the snarkiness of the original though.

  26. Clint says:

    It took a very long time for TopGear UK to be good. They are on season 16 BTW have you watched the early stuff? Some gems for sure but not all that great until closer to season 5 or 6. Their best is really the Hilux episode.

  27. MattC says:

    First and foremost, TGUS is worlds better than half of the insomnia inducing US based car shows (hello Motorweek). To me any TG is better than no TG. I do see the US version picking up stride and I am glad that History has re-upped it for a second season. TGUK is fantastic and the Clarkson/May/Hammond has had many seasons to really find their chemistry. Even so, TGUK has had several failed segments (TG stuntman for one), but they have the luxury of being popular on state sponsored television.

    I really give History credit for bringing the show stateside and trying to craft it to appeal to the diehards as well as completely new viewers. Not an easy task to say the least!

    So points of contention:
    1) The US version has no idea what to dso to do with The Stig. While ithe Stig has been an ongoing inside joke on the UK version, the US version is clueless. The joke is lost on the US version.
    2) Foust is a fantastic driver, but he needs to loosen up. He seems wooden in his commentary.
    3) The show is at its best when the hosts are out of their element. More road trips are necessary. (the Alaska trip was a good step in that direction)

  28. LarryL says:

    Truth is, I’m about done with TGUK. I’ve been watching for several seasons but all the dry British “humor” is getting a bit old. I was as big a fan as anyone for a while but it just seems to be the same thing every week. Instead of a US version someone should have just done a new original show.

    Instead of Monty Python on wheels, how about something like Motorweek with better writing, locations and talent? Entertaining but more informative than TG. Seriously, how can they do an entire segment about a Ferrari and never lift the freakin hood!!!?? (sorry bonnet). Fewer pithy remarks and more stats, maybe. I guess Clarkson ( who is a bit of a **** just can’t help himself. I wonder if Mike Rowe knows anything about cars?

  29. JLB4NC says:

    I’ve been watching TG-UK on BBCAmerica for years now and love it. The US version started out lame and fake but has grown over the first season. The chemistry between the 3 guys has gotten much better. It should continue to improve, if the first season is any indicator.I’m so glad to see guys like my friends and I talking and messing with cars.

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