Top Gear USA – The Verdict – It Could Have Been Worse

It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be – but then again I doubt I’ll watch future episodes.

Top Gear USA is not Top Gear. I searched for the best way to describe the differences between the two – and this is what I came up with.

Top Gear UK is a comedy show that happens to be about cars.

Top Gear USA is a car show with a complete lack of comedy.

There are many ways to compare and contrast the differences between the two. They’ve borrowed the visual style of the show – but being shot in American NTSC in HD gives the show a very unrealistic look and feel.

The hosts are adequate – but I’m not going to bother to learn their names. They did a decent job at it – but they don’t have much personality and very little chemistry, but that doesn’t mean they won’t one day.

I kept trying to figure out who the ‘Clarkson’ was – but I gave up. What’s the point? This is NOT Top Gear as Anglophiles know it.

I was surprised by the complete lack of comedy. There weren’t many jokes until the end – and even then they weren’t funny.

Instead of Star in a Reasonably Priced car, they called it “Big Star, Little Car,” which just sounds stupid. Buzz Aldrin was their first guest and his interview was disappointingly shorter than his lap.

It was fun to watch the Dodge Viper get chased through a small southern town by a Cobra helicopter – but that’s about as much fun as the episode got.

They of course have their own Stig, but he doesn’t have the mystique and badassedness that we’re used to.

If you look at it as a car show outside the frame of Top Gear – it’s pretty good. They linger longingly on many hot supercars – but honestly, I never cared about the cars in Top Gear that much and care even less now as this show, in the end, is just about cars.

But it’s not Top Gear unless Clarkson and Company are there.

Did you watch Top Gear USA on the History Channel? What did you think? Let us know in the comments.

Comments

  1. avatarpreston says

    I agree. I thought the show was boring and doesn’t live up to the top gear name. The announcers are horrible and the show is just boring,

  2. avatar says

    This is an opposite for me, because I generally don’t like UK Top Gear. And it’s weird that I don’t, because I generally like UK reality TV and grew up with a daddy who restores classic cars (he loves the BBC version.) I’m not warm to Clarkson or May.

    That said, I watched tonight and yes, it was uneven and it’s lacking chemistry. But I do think that it probably took years of the UK hosts knowing each other to gel into what we know now, and Clarkson’s been doing this since the 70’s. But the production values were good, and I think they’ll work out what segments need to be pared and which don’t. So I hope they give it a little time.

    My fave of the hosts was the one meant to be Richard Hammond, who looked like Mark Owen. But it did occur to me that the perfect hosts for this show would’ve been the guys who do Car Talk for NPR.

  3. avatarjim says

    I didn’t expect much to begin with so I wasn’t that disappointed . It felt way to scripted, and the hosts had no chemistry. I can’t wait to hear what Jeremy Clarkson has to say about it.

  4. avatarJamesey says

    It’s not “American NTSC” that makes the show look bad. These days, stuff is shot in 1080p on either side of the Atlantic. The difference is that the BBC series is brilliantly shot, expertly colour graded and edited to give it a cutting-edge look. The American stuff… isn’t.

    • avatarKevin says

      I don’t know if I would call throwing a gradient filter on every bit of skyline the show comes across, expert. Though the editing is good and the camera work is astounding on the BBC, I thought the show was a fresh start and trying to compare British and US television is like going to the track to watch dogs and horses in the same race. One will ultimately do it better but taken at face value and compared to its US competitors, I think the new show has great potential. May need better writers. Kevin Smith and Christopher Nolan-esque.

  5. avatarKoobie says

    From what I’ve gathered (I work in the video production field, know lots of people), basically it does get marginally better as the season goes.

    My main issue with this episode is 1. They try to give an explanation for not explaining the show by showing a montage. Big fail, IMO. Most people who are gonna turn into this first episode will definitely know abotu the UK version it’s awesomeness in both the hosts it has and the cinetography. They should have referred to it and just explain what their mission is. Without doing that, there’s only one thing people can and will do up front. And that’s compare. Then for those who know nothing about the show,t hat montage didn’t cut it. Sorry.

    Whoever let them actually show the in-car segments with the horribly shakey camera should be fired, though. It just shows laziness in that they allowed that to broadcast. After the first time it happened, they should have completely done the mount and reshot it and moved on from there. It’s horrible production quality.

    Also, anyone knows the video isn’t smooth or anything? Just the motion seemed choppy at points where it shouldn’t have. And it wasn’t an effect. Makes me wonder what they are shooting on and what they are doing post-production.

  6. avatarDavid says

    It has potential, but there were several decisions that highlighted the problems a “new Top Gear” is bound to have.

    Obviously the chemistry between the host is something that can’t happen over night, but on the first episode they had two segments that tried to rely on the hosts interacting, most notably the Lambo part. I know that is is a big part of the UK version is the delight the presenters take in defeating each other in challenges, but the gloating seemed forced. The only part I found authentic was when Adam Ferrara was shaking after his run.

    There were other small gripes; no news segment, the interview was too short (and boring), the voice overs were lacking excitement and the track is too complex with too many slow corners.

    If I had been in charge I would have featured more affordable cars. I’m aware this is a common gripe about the UK version, and one I don’t have about the original, but until the hosts begin to develop a relationship having cars on that I might actually be able to afford would help me stay interested. A very minor tweak in this episode would have the Mustang, Camaro and Challenger instead of the Lambos. That would have had me more interested in the competition and been a statement about being distinctly American.

  7. avatarjeff says

    It sounded like the show was scripted by the writers from ‘American Pickers’, and like that show, I won’t be watching Top Gear USA either. Fail.

  8. avatarJoseph says

    Yes, they are in the trial stage here, so they’re not going to magically be at the peak that Top Gear UK is at.

    Having said that, Rutledge, (the fat guy) needs to go. He has no confidence, and looks like a deer caught in the headlights. He’s the one that said classy things like ‘I just crapped my pants’. Oh boy, do we really have to prove how crass Americans are? Can’t we at least pretend?!

    Maybe the dark haired guy needs to go too. The only guy worth anything so far is the guy that drove the Viper.

  9. avatarJohn says

    I don’t like how people keep comparing Top Gear USA to Top Gear, we all know this will never be the same as Top Gear. We are trying and I believe this show can be successful if people stop going about saying oh It’s not like TG UK, it’s not funny as TG Uk… Top Gear UK was not successful as first either, they replaced one their guys, and that created comedy and chemistry between them. Top Gear USA was just released, of course there might not be as much chemistry as TG UK, it’s only SEASON 1!

    Top Gear UK has 15 seasons and each season they grew and grew, TG USA could do the same thing!

    Stop comparing the two, okay we used the name Top Gear from UK but seriously UK and USA are different! We are different people, cultures and society. Do you expect USA to be like UK?

    TG USA and TG UK will never be the same! So stop comparing

  10. avatarGus says

    This was a HUGE disappointment! The Boys already did the helicopter car chase, this totally lacked soul for the most part. Great potential with the right hosts, but this was not it! I am a huge TG fan, and I was really hoping this would be good. I know it would never be equal, but at least try! I think they really should have played more homage to the original, do a shout out to the guys across the pond and play on the link between the two. Nope, it feels just as cheap and cheesy as most of our cars do! I’ll DVR it just to fast forward to the crazy stunt segments (which already seem like i’ve seen them before . . .), but that’s it. Real shame. :(

  11. avatarg.stone says

    top gear usa doesn’t even compare to the original. i don’t understand why they bothered to make this show, they should just air top gear on the history channel. i am not fan.

  12. avatarWayne.C says

    Jonathan I completely agree with you 110%. I honestly tried to give it a chance but kept hoping Jeremy would pop out of the crowd. The show is completely missing the off beat comedy aspect along with the chemistry of the three English host who come across as 3 teenage boys who are out to just have as much fun as possible. Even with the Stig, They ruined it by saying “you will never see his face or hear his voice” it completely trashed the Stigs mystic. With the Top Gear UK its a given, but you always kind of think well maybe they will reveal this week. Plus they screwed up the Stig’s intro what happened to the usual “Some Say……” …OH Well ….thank God for BBC America.. There is a reason why Top Gear UK has been around for so long and has been so successful… Often imitated…. NEVER duplicated!!! I give it less then a full season… Any Takers???

  13. avatarJulien says

    This is a really bad show. I loved the UK version of Top Gear and this new show is not funny and the guys should not be allowed to be on television. And what is Big Car small Star thats just a stupid name for what use to be reasonably priced car. I hope it gets cancled

  14. avatarAnthony says

    I’m watching it now and frankly I wasn’t interested in the US version because somehow I knew it would be bad. How does NTSC-HD make it look unrealistic? I don’t understand that notion at all. Top Gear was finally in HD at the end of 2008 if I remember with the Polar Special. It maybe because PAL-HD is slower, who knows but its likely the cameras they are using that give it the look it does. UK shows have a certain “warm” glow to its shows, again its likely the speed of the format or the cameras being used.

    The US version is too early to judge. Some shows take until mid-season to find its footing. I knew some Brits or fans of the UK show would be harder on the American version over the Russian or Aussie version.

    To each his own I guess.

  15. avatarDee says

    I am a huge fan of the UK version. Gave this one a fair shot, but will not be watching again. My entire family thought it was quite lame and boring.

  16. avatarKeith says

    Being an American, I thought the Top Gear USA was a horrid excuse of a knockoff. Furthermore I found it mediocre and disappointing. I’m an avid watcher of TG UK and there isn’t much to compare to. I hate Tanner Foust. There is no Capt, Slow. And the hairy fat guy was frustratingly boring. From what I can tell this top gear won’t even be original. The previews seem to be no more than American versions of all the good shows. Top gear uk covered the viper and that was more interesting than this. Im not sure about the rest of the top gear lovers around but I don’t want to hear about dodge and chevy, etc. That’s why I’ll stick to top gear on the BBC.

  17. avatarMike says

    Probably not fair to compare the US and UK hosts – the chemistry will always be different. Having said that, I was still quite disappointed.

    With TG UK, I exercise the rewind button on my DVR frequently, usually to review some particularly enjoyable bit. Didn’t touch it once tonight. Didn’t laugh out loud once, either.

    I’ll give it a couple more episodes, but if they aren’t a whole lot better than this one, I doubt I’ll be a regular viewer.

  18. avatarmayu says

    Ill be honest the show was a complete disaster. They were not critical about cars at all. all i herd was its a great car like a five year old kid who likes evey sports car that he looks at and thinks its the best in the world………… I mean not a single time you hear details about cars dodge or the lambo’s no insight the things that are unique different thingts that we don’t know at all and they take us by surprise. The thing is, and its very simple the standard Top gear UK has set and with the experience Jeremy have which he gained from years and years of driving every kind of cars is absolutely unmatched. And these guys have no chemistry together. The original was, is and will remain the best so far………

  19. avatar says

    Just like the name they give the session of congress after an election.

    US Top Gear is a Lame Duck

    3rd rate host actors who can’t even get work in B spoof movies anymore, pretending to try and out run a copter while they drive like Miss Daisy.

    The Euro version was 1000times better, just show it.

    Plus I just don’t get why they feel the need to waste money remaking everything.

    Rather snobish at times.

    Though why its on at 10pm at night, they know its crap.

  20. avatarRon says

    Gawd, what a dud. Couldn’t get thru 10 minutes. Didn’t give a damn about the cars. Cared even less for the stilted and untalented hosts. Having 20 Somethings talk about cars “back in the day” (ie 20 years before they were born) is really pathetic.

    Makes me appreciate the genius of the “real” Top Gear…

    History Channel execs – get a grip. Hire Adam Carolla and get Jimmy as the first “celebrity” driver in a reasonably priced car. And while you’re at it, hire the Juggies too…

  21. avatarbob says

    usa version sucked , the thing with the lambos was a joke the vyper being the bench mark is stupid these guys know nothing about cars, if they did they would not say the slow, can’t turn, piece of shit Vyper is the bench mark they would have ran the shelby as a bench mark or maybe even an atom, or at least a veyron,

  22. avatarDeborah T says

    Well I watched the History Channel’s Top Gear clone. I thought it was an annoying parade of advertising interupted occasionaly by an insipid motor show. I am sure the presenters are very nice men and clever, but they did not entertain me. And face it, that is the purpose of the show isn’t it? The bit about the helicopter and the Viper was amusing. Buzz Aldren in the Suzuki wasn’t. Then there were more adverts. And then there were yet more. They came back for a bit more show at :30 past the hour. At :35 past there was more advertising. I switched off and went to bed.

  23. avatarKurt says

    As a German living amongst Americans in the States,I have very different tastes from both the Yanks and Brits.Of coarse there is no replacing the “Original” TG.
    With all that said,the new show is horrible!No charisma at all with the hosts.No tit for tat squabble,no condescending remarks,no glossy editing for visual effects.So what’s left?Not much.
    Foust may be some great driver(in his mind)but shows no substantial on air personality to speak of.The other two blokes might as well been cardboard cut outs.
    With the PC police here in America ready to spring out of their lazy-boy and sue anyone whom dares crack a joke about them,this show will not be around much longer.Unoriginal,boring,stupid…..need I go on?

  24. avatarDan says

    You seem to be a guy that is just stuck in your ways. It’s like talking sports with an old guy that thinks the guys he grew up watching could play today, when in reality, very few of them could. You’ve been on Top Gear UK for so long, that’s all you know. The show was amazing, the Viper is one of the sickest cars out there if you’re looking for just raw nasty speed, and turns out Americans like that. You complain about the Stig. Why? The guy is there in a helmet, and he’s supposed to have personality? I think you’re just complaining to complain. I wasn’t a fan of the Buzz Aldrin thing, he just not for me, kinda like how I was over Betty White when the Golden Girls went off the air. Why don’t you try to be positive and realize that this was the first show of hopefully many, and quit being so arrogant. You act like you created Top Gear.

    PS, I’m sure you could and should write any joke or comedy for the show, British humor is hysterical, like Hugh Grant.

  25. avatarJared Whalen says

    It seemed forced and unfunny. I laughed once as that one guy belted expletives through each change of gear in the standing mile. The camera work wasn’t as polished and the chemistry is lacking. Some say he wasn’t the Stig at all but and Americanized sucky version who hates morse code and books on tape. I’ll give them some time to get it together but not much.

  26. avatarDoug says

    They should just cancel the show now and avoid further embarrassment. The helicopter chasing the Viper was just boring, I have an imagination but of course the helicopter was gonna win. I see in a future episode they take a Evo down a snow covered road racing a couple of guys on ski’s, the UK version already did that with a off road racing truck chased by snowmobiles. So if the new show is just UK versions done by the US there’s no reason to watch anymore ’cause I’ve already seen it.

  27. avatarRobert says

    Why is the US obsessed with remaking shows and movies that do not need a remake. I agree with most of the comments above: no chemistry between the presenters and an insipid “challenge.” In addition, the lack of creative dialogue (Like Clarkson’s: “The motor sound like Barry White…chewing wasps…”). which makes the REAL Top Gear a joy to watch. I only lasted a mind numbing 15 minutes watching this dog of a show. Quoth the raven: “Nevermore…”

  28. avatarRuss says

    The fog of war has cleared, I can see what Clarkson was doing.
    Sell the Americans the rights, and when they produce a real stinker,
    people will flock to the original.

    Sneeky Brits!!!

  29. avatarShelby says

    I wish everyone would stop complaining. It’s not top gear uk it’s top gear USA and it’s just the first show. It is your own stupidity if you expect the best show ever on the first episode, I have seen some older top gear uk and it is not as funny as it is now so give top gear usa some time. I would like to see a hot girl as one of the hosts and I can’t remember the host that has the mole but it needs to be removed it was distracting.

  30. avatarMazvis says

    In my opinion this is not a Top Gear at all. It’s more like fifth gear. Just instead of a girls here is a fatso.

    The first mistake they made is that they tried it to look like Top Gear UK. And that fatso tried too much to be lake James May. It was the worst 44 minutes of my life, that I couldn’t get back ever again.

  31. avatarDrew says

    Quoted from post: “Top Gear USA is a car show with a complete lack of comedy.”

    This is exactly why it will fail. Unless you’re presenting an comparative ‘shopping’ news magazine, like Motorweek, you better have humor-infused content. The American radio show ‘Click and Clack’ works because the hosts are not only knowledgeable, they’re also absolutely hilarious.

    R.I.P. Top Gear USA. May the producer who hired the hosts be buried beside the show.

  32. avatarBill says

    DVR’d the show as I was not going to stay up till 11 pm watching a show that might not (DID NOT) come near the original and thankfully I did! Let me just say that it was not horrible like some of the european knock-offs, but if I didnt have the ability to record it so I could fast forward through the crappy stuff I don’t believe I would be watching it again. I would rather watch a UK Top Gear episode that I taped and had watched around five times previously than sit through that drudgery! Granted it takes time for any type of chemistry to take shap between mulitiple hosts on a new show, but unless they start drinking on the show I don’t see it happening. Rutledge and Foust have potential but Ferrara is just not cut out for it. No humor, no charisma, nothing from him. I hope the producers take a look at all these comments and do some serious tweeking to the show or they can call episod e 10 “another one bites the dust” and review some pontiacs, Hummers, and what not!@

  33. avatarKris says

    Overall I’d say the show was better than I had expected. While the presenters were awkward and the challenges felt very scripted, the camerawork and music was great. I feel like it could become a great secondary show to the original if only they could get rid of the laugh-track for the studio segments.

    Come read my full review at: http://luminositymarketing.com/blog/?p=2589

    -Kris

  34. avatarRobert says

    Ok, so its not TG bcc, BUT, GIVE IT A CHANCE…everyone is so negative..this show CAN develop into a good series..the guys did a pretty good job, and they got looser by the Lambo segment….I can like these guys..problem is, everyone is trying to compare these 3 to the bbc infamous 3 TG guys…you cant! They arent them. I watched it, twice. The 1st time comparing it to the original, then as simply a car guy show, and I will watch it again.

    There are so many “bad” car shows, just look at what SPEED has turned into..and I for 1 do not watch endless hours of football every Sunday..I do however tune into TG every Monday, and I will tune into the new TG every Sunday.

    Give it a chance, stop comparing it to the original, as it will never be that, but given time to develop, we may have another decent carguy show to watch.

  35. avatarRobyn says

    I have said here before that I want this to succeed. I want a Top Gear that offered an American take on cars driven on American roads, and I wasn’t completely disappointed. It was a bit like having a substitute teacher, but all in all, I don’t think it was the unadulterated trainwreck some people are making it out to be. My only critiques are that Adam definitely needs to work on his interview skills, I don’t think the Top Gear logo needs to be in 4-foot-high letters on every section of the set, and the editors need to lay off the filter buttons. Those Lamborghini review sections got a little muddled.

    I freely admit I don’t watch for the cars. I don’t care about handling, or brake horsepower, and I can’t tell the difference between over- and understeer. Supercars don’t really impress me. I watch for the interplay between the hosts and the goofing around. I saw flashes of it in the Viper/Cobra challenge, and in the Lamborghini race. Of course it’s going to take these hosts a while to click, and I’m content to wait. (Oh, and Adam Ferrara is totally “the Jeremy.” That “aroused at gunpoint” comment is something Jezza would say.)

    I don’t think that it can replace Top Gear UK, but I also don’t think it is meant to. I’m pretty sure the two can happily coexist side by side.

  36. avatarFernando says

    The worst thing is that I wanted to like the show. I thought we had our own sense of comedy, this side of the Atlantic, but there was no evidence of it in this show. What makes the UK version so much fun to watch is the perfect chemistry between Jeremy Clarkson, The Hamster and Captain Slow, but it seems that these three guys in the US show would never been seen together in public, except for their contractual obligations. The other, terribly sad, part of the story, is that the US has not made an interesting car in quite a while, and the only thing we could show was that teenager-designed Viper.

  37. avatarcraig says

    To everybody saying it sucks lets give it a shot it the first show I happen to like it and will watch it again. I love the UK version for its funny challenges and humor n will still keep watching that one to. Also in case everybody has forgot its about the cars not if as good as the UK version n when is any show movie exc as good as the original hardly never n u no y cuz they r not the same they r different. So go top gear America can’t wait for the next one n I will still enjoy the UK version. Both r good in their own way can wait till they do a show together . Go both top gears

  38. avatardavid says

    the 4 words of fail…………………history channel top gear

    why is it so bad….. you ask?

    NO CHEMISTRY between the presenters and an over inflated sence of how funny they ( think) they are

    granted the uk rebook when it started didnt have captain slow so lets hope teh US makers swap out the presenters

    they picked kids people wierd names I think thats the only thing that got them the job retarded names

    lack of motoring knowledge presenters need to be 40 ish and have something to draw from motoringwise rather than what appears to be college students not that age is what the main problem is its just the presenters are soooooooooooooooooo bad its unwatchable

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