Friday, August 12, 2011


Car Show panelists, from the left, John Salley, Dan Neil, Matt Farah, and Adam Carolla.

A friend mine, another car reviewer, recently asked me if I had seen “The Car Show” and what did I think about it.

“The Car Show” is a recent addition to the SpeedTV lineup of non-racing shows tucked in amongst its incessant NASCAR coverage, sports car races, and occasional F1 offering. (IndyCar doesn’t exist on SpeedTV. Neither does the World Rally Championship.)

At the time I was asked, I hadn’t seen the show. I have now.


Very disappointing.

It’s not that the show is terrible or anything. It’s not. It’s just that it comes up so far short of what it could be.

This might not be fair criticism because I have seen only two full episodes and parts of others, and maybe it will save itself in the future.

But I kind of doubt that will occur because my disappointment lies not with the show’s content but with its personalities.

There are four co-hosts, and of those four, only one really knows what the hell he is talking about and has much in the way of substance to contribute.

Well, make that two. Unfortunately, neither one of them is the lead host, Adam Carolla, who would seem to have the perfect name for such an endeavor.

I remember Carolla from “The Man Show,” which he hosted with Jimmy Kimmel on Comedy Central a few years back.

This politically incorrect show had some great moments, chief of them featuring a chubby preteen boy (The Man Show Boy) who would go things like dress up like a Boy Scout and approach secretaries in their late 20s on street corners saying he wanted to earn his merit badge for helping old ladies cross the street.

He also went up to them on the beach and asked if he could rub suntan oil on their backs, and by the way, why didn’t they ditch their boyfriends?

Adam and Jimmy also did a hilarious sketch where they set up a table in a booth and asked passers-by to sign a petition to end women’s suffrage. Many actually signed.

And they surveyed women asking them if they would take a pill that would make them smarter by ten times but also make their butts bigger. Few women said they would.

Low humor? The lowest.

But they stuck with it until 2004 when a couple of other guys took over and “The Man Show” faded away.

Kimmel, of course, went on to host his own late-night show on ABC. Carolla I lost track of (not that I was really keeping track, you understand) until he showed up on the “The Car Show.”

As the main host, Carolla does the lead-in for the show. He must feel like since he is a comedian, every other line he says must draw a laugh. The result is he forces many lines, delivering in robotic fashion, and they don’t come off as funny at all. The laughter, if any, seems forced.

But at least he does seem to know a little about cars, which is more than you can say about another regular co-host, John Salley.

Salley, who played on four NBA championship teams, is billed on the show as an “NBA legend,” which is stretching a point. Rubber bands aren’t that elastic.

He wasn’t a stiff, mind you, but I’m thinking that players like Isaiah Thomas, Dennis Rodman, Scottie Pippen and some guy named Michael Jordan had a lot more to do with those titles than Salley did.

Talk about being in the right place at the right time.

Which is kind of like his deal on “The Car Show.” Fox, the parent company of SpeedTV, must have been looking for a place to put Salley to fill a contract obligation or something (Salley earlier was a member of the cast for “The Best Damned Sports Show” on the network) and figured this is where he would do the least harm.

The thing is, Salley really contributes nothing to “The Car Show” other than being the butt of jokes about being too big to fit in in a Beetle or Mini or whatever. He stands seven feet.

In a recent show he did a segment about a trip to Indianapolis for the 500 where he interviewed driver Townsend Bell. It was interesting, but didn’t seem to have a real point.

It did have an unintentionally funny shot. The camera showed race fans congregating around Salley, and one female fan -- who most have been sober since she still had her top on -- screamed out, “We love the Car Show!”

Keep in mind this segment had to be taped in late May. “The Car Show” didn’t debut on Speed until July, which would have been the first time the public actually got the opportunity to see it. Maybe the fan was just psychic and knew she was going to love “The Car Show.” 

That leaves the other two hosts, Dan Neil, an auto columnist for the Wall Street Journal, and Matt Farah of

Neil, who also has written for the Los Angeles Times, AutoWeek and Car and Driver and other outlets, knows his stuff. Hell, he won a Pulitzer Price for his work in L.A.

He also has a quirky sense of humor and is the big reason to stick with “The Car Show.” He probably could carry such a show by himself. (Hey, there’s an idea!)

In fact, at times he has an expression on his face that seems to be  conveying the thought “What the hell am I doing here? These other guys are clowns.”

Farah seems to know cars as well and his segments of the show come off okay -- not as good as Neil’s but passable. As noted, at least he seems to know what he’s talking about. As long as he doesn’t get caught up trying to match Carolla’s often-flat quips, he can be watchable.

So “The Car Show” is not a total loss.

Just how far Dan and Matt can carry it into the future remains to be seen, but I remind you that back a few graphs I ventured the opinion that the show was a disappointment, not a disaster.

Without Salley as a distraction and with Carolla toning it down just a bit, I might even make it a point to stop by every Wednesday night when I’m channel surfing.

As it is now, I may spend that time with “South Park.”

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