Sunday, August 21, 2011


"TOP GEAR" hosts Tanner Foust, Rutledge Wood, and Adam Ferrara
I had some harsh words for “The Car Show” in a recent blog, not because it was particularly bad but because it could have been so much better.

I can’t say the same about another auto-related TV offering, “Top Gear USA.”
By the title, you may have guessed that this is the American version of the long-running “Top Gear” show that appears on BBC America. (“Top Gear USA” runs on the History Channel with original episodes on Sunday nights and repeated often throughout the week.)
“Top Gear USA” follows a very similar format to the BBC production with the three hosts getting involved in various car stunts and endeavors, just as Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May do in the British version.
The U.S. version also brings on various show businesses personalities to run hot laps in a vehicle not necessarily designed for them (in his case, a Suzuki SX4), but the accompanying interviews are briefer (thankfully), and on occasion that portion of the show is skipped entirely. (My favorite guest appearances were by comedian Bill Engvall of Blue Collar Comedy fame and Chumley and Rick Harrison from the History Channel show “Pawn Stars.”)
There’s also an American “Stig” -- or mystery driver -- who comes in to give performance vehicles a real test on the track, just like in the British version.
But there’s not the pretentiousness that began to wear on me as I watched the BBC’s “Top Gear” over the years, and there are enough tweaks and twists for “Top Gear USA” to stand on its own.
What makes “Top Gear USA” much more enjoyable to watch than “The Car Show” is the relationship among the three hosts.
Tanner Foust is a race car driver who knows his stuff. I have seen him testing and reviewing performance cars on shows on SpeedTV, which is, interestingly enough, the parent network for “The Car Show.”
Rutledge Wood is an automotive and racing analyst I have seen doing some behind-the-scenes type stuff on NASCAR broadcasts.
Adam Ferrara? Frankly, I don’t know a lot about him, but he is billed as a comedian and actor and, of course, the obligatory car buff. If you want to know more, Google him yourself.
The good thing is, they aren’t always trying to one-up each other with clever lines or putdowns like Adam Carolla, Dan Neil, and Matt Farah are constantly doing on “The Car Show.” The back-and-forth banter on “Top Gear” is natural and unforced and just as clever. And there’s no John Salley to get in the way.
“Top Gear USA” made its debut last November. Fortunately, and despite some rumors to the contrary, it was renewed for a second season.
If you are interested more in seeing how much cow manure a beat-up Mazda Miata can carry than what its coefficient of drag is, I’d highly recommend you give “Top Gear USA” a shot. I think you will be more comfortable with it than “The Car Show.”

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