After two failed starts, a U.S. version of Top Gear is finally happening.
Top Gear has been a smash hit in the UK, but a U.S. version is has had trouble getting off the line. Since 2007, the BBC has attempted to create an American Top Gear, but has went through two different revisions of hosts. Finally, the cast has been finalized and the History Channel has announced that they have picked up ten episodes of the show.
The current cast is “funnyman” Rutledge Wood, actor Adam Ferrara and professional driver Tanner Foust. The identity of the American Stig is a mystery and likely classified under the Department of Homeland Security. Can the three U.S. hosts match the charisma and humor that Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May have? One celebrity fears that an American Top Gear might not work.
Jay Leno, the late night talk show host and absolutely insane car nut, feels that Top Gear cannot work in the states. Jay Leno said himself in a Times Online article that he has little faith in a U.S version of Top Gear. “Jeremy and the guys are extremely talented, so maybe it would be an idea to do an American show similar to Top Gear but not with the same name, because I think it would be impossible to recreate or live up to the standards of the British show,” he said. Leno went on to say that he would not appear in a U.S version of the show as a host.
What makes Leno’s statements so condemning is that at the time comedian and radio personality Adam Carolla, was tied to the U.S. Top Gear show. Leno and Carolla are at least acquaintances, if not friends outside of showbiz, so if he didn’t think somebody he knew could not capture the Top Gear magic who can? Adam Carolla, Eric Strommer and Tanner Foust shot a pilot, but it was never aired.
If it’s so hard to find a solid cast, why not just air the British version on the History Channel and save a bunch of money in the process? Currently Top Gear is aired on BBC America, but it’s shown rather sporadically and not all the episodes are aired. Taking the show out of deep, deep cable and bringing to a more popular channel could be the way to go.
Part of the charm of the show is the hilarious British hosts and their biting assessments of the cars they test drive. Will the U.S Top Gear be as willing to anger advertisers and openly bash cars like they do on the UK version? Ford is a big advertiser on the History Channel and maybe the cast will be reluctant to shoot a Ford Fiesta with a shotgun.
Hopefully the U.S. version will be every bit as edgy and beautifully shot as the UK version. Top Gear is likely the best automotive show ever made. Foust, Ferrara and Wood have big (driving) shoes to fill. Hey History Channel, can you at least air the UK version while we wait?