Top Gear America hosts

Top Gear America Review – I Watch the First Three Episodes

Every car buff I know watches Top Gear almost religiously. When rumor of an American version of the show was first brought to light, everybody I talked to assumed that it’s going to be terrible. Phrases such as “poorly-executed ripoff,” “sacrilege,” and “shameless capitalism” were often used to describe what the American version would be.

Those are some pretty harsh assumptions, and I can’t say I wasn’t in the same boat. But after months of back-and-forth with details, the American version of Top Gear was official. Hosts Tanner Foust, Adam Ferrara, and Rutledge Wood took on the spotlight roles, and the show will first premiere on the History Channel on November 21, 2010.

History Channel was kind enough to send me the rough cuts for the first three episodes of Top Gear America. After watching them with an open mind, I’m happy to say it’s pretty damn good. Initially, I was afraid that the show would attempt to be just like the British Top Gear, copying the host’s styles and mannerisms.

That’s what Top Gear Australia did, and it turned out to be awful. Fortunately, Tanner, Adam, and Rutledge have their own personalities and provide a unique atmosphere. They’re a different kind of funny and charming, and a bit more in-your-face, as Americans tend to be.

In fact, the show overall is more aggressive and brash, and I like that. It’s also very proudly American. The first episode features a Dodge Viper, with which Tanner tears up the pavement. Then, in typical Top Gear fashion, the car is chased by a Cobra attack helicopter through a small town in Georgia. I won’t ruin it for you though, be sure to check out the premier on November 21.

The format is nearly identical to the British show, as expected. They have the car reviews, the challenges, our own Stig, a Power Lap board, and even the “Star in a Reasonably Priced Car” segment, but we call it “Big Star, Small Car.” It’s important to keep in mind that the show isn’t copying the other Top Gear…it is Top Gear. It’s just the American version.

One reason it’s particularly nice to have a version based here in the States is that the theme will be more relevant to us. Prices are given in dollars instead of pounds, all the cars shown are available here, and all the places they travel will be more recognizable. In fact one of the segments in the third episode was shot about an hour from where I live.

After the first show airs, be sure to come back here and let us know what you thought. And even if you don’t like the first episode, don’t give up. I think it gets better with each episode.

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  1. I'm giving it a chance, but the first episode was BLAND! I agree, the scripting was pretty poor, and I'm sure Dodge just loved it every time Foust said hte Viper was "Dangerous". Tanner foust just doesn't have much of a personality, nor does his dossier impress me even though he is clearly impressed with himself. He just doesn't seem like he's the joking around type. Tanner, Lighten up!!! I guess a drift background IS good for the standard Top Gear smoking tires bit. Rutledge Wood is generally a goofball on Speed. He can be funny once he loosens up, which I'm sure he will. I just really really really hope they avoid totally Rednecking it up. I'm not sure about Ferrara. They just clearly look like three guys thrown together that don't know each other very well. The banter looked forced, however I'm sure that will come. I remind myself that the three Brits are journalists and well established broadcast personalities. Our crew, well Experienced, but I wouldn't call them "established" just yet.

    Personally my choice for host would have been Tommy Kendall instead of Ferrara. He'd be perfect for Top Gear IMHO. Hilariously funny, knowledgeable and a far more accomplished both as a driver and car show host than Foust, but Tommy doesn't work cheap and he still does a good bit of race commentary. What will take some getting used to is the Sunshine! It's ALWAYS gloomy on the original unless they are out of Britain. I just can't see thee three replicating episodes like The Vietnam or Trans Africa episodes. Oh, and the shaky camera footage in the lambo was from the wasted tires on Tanner's car. He was complaining about the vibration.

  2. The problem that I see is that everyone is judging TG-American as if it's in direct competition with its European father. It's ludicrous to expect it to be that good in it's first episode–or even its first season.

    It takes time for these things to mature. And if it continues past this season, there will probably be host changes, and it will get better. It won't be what the British version is, and aside from the set and some of the camera work, I don't know that they should want to be.

  3. I would say it is impossible not to compare the two. The america version forces you to right off the bat with the opening theme song taken from its british counterpart and like everybody mentioned above, set design, segments, and the overall presentation. Thats where I believe the biggest mistake has come. They need to do somthing different to break the mold otherwise they will continue to get theese negative comparisons.

  4. I'm still out on this version.. The helicopter idea was boring and they had to go the speed limit in town.. of course the chopper will win. The Lambo part was more interesting, but Tanner is just not entertaining.

  5. I saw the first episode of the US version and sadly felt the same disappointment as many have commented on already. The script was more than a little wooden, the hosts were bland and seemed to try too hard. And the things they did were second rate attempts to recreate the UK version with American attitude. It really shouldn't be compared to the UK version but when the show starts with the same sound track, has the same set and a similar format, it is hard not to. I grew up with Top Gear and remember the days when the show was not particularly entertaining and definitely not as popular. The UK version now has the stigma of a pure entertainment show that just so happens to include cars. And it took a very long time to get there. The 3 hosts do compliment each other now though it wasn't always like that. Starting life as a car consumer show, it is nothing like that today.

    When the Australians attempted to recreate Top Gear down-under, it's blandness might have had other channels rethinking any attempt to produce their own contextualised Top Gear. So when I saw that the US had made one, I was intreged as to why. But the thing that really baffles me is how the american tv channels feel they need to buy into franchises rather than do some creative thought and make it original. It is a testament to how good british tv production is when you think that Pop Idol, The Office and now Top Gear are all original british shows that travelled across the pond. What I don't understand is how a country that boasts hollywood and every tv channel creating every kind of show possible does not have a set of producers and writers who can create something original to compete with the UK's version or not. It doesn't have to be a contest. It might not work, but at least it could never be accused of not being original. I guess that takes time and effort and does not realise the quick buck which I assume is the intention of all franchised tv shows.

  6. I just watched the first episode.

    The new American Top Gear SUCK!!!!

    They need a Host for Christs sake, someone who knows cars, can drive AND interview a guest.

    THIS CAST SUCKS !!!

    Tanner Foust can drive, but THIS CAST SUCKS !!!

    I dont care how much they had to pay him Jay Leno should have been hired.

    But I read that He turned them down because he was afraid they wouldnt let him give honest reviews of the cars tested, because they wouldnt want him to offend possible American car companies which would hurt advertising.

    Maybe they could put a clause in his contract, GUARANTYING that he can give ANY review he wants to ANY car ???

  7. Wow there's some harsh comments here. I'm quite suprised given that this was the first episode. As some others have said, I think if you watch this expecting it to be like the current UK version you are guaranteed to be disapointed. I'll admit I didn't really enjoy the first episode but given time it could become good.

    If you really want to draw a comparison between the UK and US shows try watching the first episode of the revived Top Gear from 2002. Or if you really want to see the first ever episode you could try and find the original which dates back to the 1970's!!

  8. It was TERRIBLE! Tanner is a douchebag and all three hosts are hopelessly mis- cast. Why do we need an American version of top gear anyway? The BBC version is perfection and I get BBC USA.

  9. I just finished watching the second episode and other than great cars I'm unmoved. If a twelve year old had NEVER seen the BBC version he might like this one.

    My biggest issues:

    1) Tanner…ugh! I tried to watch other shows featuring Tanner and he just can't host. He's dry, and not in that funny British way, and comedic timing is far beyond his reach. The only show in which he comes across as a human, and not an automaton, is Battle of the Supercars and even there he has occasional moments of complete disconnection. He can drift, he can drive, but he can't host and Supercars Exposed should have been a warning sign to Top Gear producers as should his 'joke' in this episode about Mitsubishi, a great plane they built and method of war (kamikaze) that Mitsubishi had nothing to do with but cost many soldiers very dear lives. That he even said it shows a lack of historical literacy and a disconnected understanding of what he was inferring about the men who died and Mitsubishi as a whole.

    2) Adam Ferrara, while having a colorful accent, fails to produce that regional dialectical affectation typical of New Yorkers and Jerseyboys. Put him in a NYC taxi and let him scream at other drivers and maybe he'll remember what it means to emote.

    3) Rutledge Rutledge Rutledge…seems to have a grasp of the fact that the audience wants to be entertained but, again, delivery is canned and flat with no feeling. He was doing 160 on loose dirt in a 180k Aston and his excitement absolutely failed to come across in any palatable way.

    Sadly for these three hosts and the writer/producers of TG USA the presenters on TG UK can impart more meaning in one sentence and import more inflection in one word than these three can convey in an entire show.

    I have one suggestion besides History Channel running BBC TG instead: Since TG UK loved smashing caravans I think TG USA should smash a Prius every time a guest driver (Dominic Monahan) says they own one. This is a car show for car guys/girls not the Greenie channel.

    Luckily I have a DVR and a volume knob and I can skip them and just watch…the cars.

    1. Watched the third episode last night. Better, not much better, but seeing improvement with some truly funny moments.

      I really do want this show and the BBC version to continue succeeding! Ferrara was funny except during the interview. Maybe they should get Mike Rowe to just do the interviews…or the Stig.

      Tanner came out of his shell a bit…or allowed himself some opinion despite his racing sponsors from his other job. God forbid he piss them off to show he's having fun doing something else.

      All in all…enjoyable and a small glimmer of hope.

    2. Hey buddy… first off, don't try to use vocabulary that you can neither handle nor employ properly. You just come across as nothing more than an idiot with a thesaurus. And give 'em a break eh? It's embarrassing. Secondly, these things take time. Wait out the entire season before you dismiss it completely. Yes our friends across the pond made a masterpiece, but they have had ample time to hone their craft and develop the chemistry that makes the UK version what it is today. Of course it isn't perfect after the two episodes you've seen. Lighten up.

      1. A personal attack was necessary balto? I am terribly sorry you found my post difficult to comprehend. I mentioned nothing about chemistry so you must not have read it and dismissed it at the first Palinite 'big fancy word' problem.

        I, instead, spoke to items that can't easily be rectified by a full season. Having just finished the most recent episode I will say (in simple words for some): Tanner did make me laugh during the Raptor drive and the video really made me want one but the Automobile magazine article (on the Raptor) had more life. The other segments were better but felt cut short/edited of full potential. Rutledge looked scared to death during the interview but at least they had a car guy driving this week.

  10. I too loved the original but I have to say, you guys are off the rails.

    I've watched every Top Gear episode since 2002 and I have to say, this is no worse than the earlier years and in some ways better. It took years for Top Gear UK to find the right mix of talent too. Anyone remember the chubby guy from first season of "The New Top Gear". James May was brought in because he was terrible.

    The show needs work but comparing it to other shows on cable, it has to rank near the top. And the chemistry will come as these guys get more comfortable with one another. The only question is weather these 3 can get it together or if one or more need replacing…

  11. i have watched parts of the first 3 episodes and i got to say it is sh-t. un like the UK TG amazing

    Its just America trying to say they know some thing about cars and want to make money of it, with putting ass little in as posiable greedey americans at there best

    second look were a merica is with there auto industry no were. you have Goverment Moters now. they have done the some with there cars make them as cheep as posiable and sell the for alot

    US cars = sh-ty old design and as much litters with no power and no handeling and all plastic interiors

    its just one giant joke Just like the US and please dont take up hours on History chanel

  12. As a long-time expatriate Brit who has only seen TG on BBC America and who loves the show as both entertainment and as a source of nostalgia for the old country, I was excited at the prospect of an american version. I have to say that I am disappointed. I don't come with any pre-judgements about the hosts as I have never heard of any of them. Tanner and Adam seem to have no personality at all although Rutledge seems to at least want to say something unscripted. I don't know if I could ever really enjoy this version but that may be more to do with the idea that I would much rather watch F1 racing that Nascar and that I think it is more exciting to coax HP from a small engine than to just make bigger blocks.

    But I won't give up. I'll keep watching and feeling very European and superior and hope that some chemistry and/or humor develops between these three bland personalities.

  13. I’m a Yank.

    Top Gear BBC is my fav car show.

    Top Gear USA is the most insufferable car show ever to be pick up and broadcast. Tanner Foust is barely acceptable and the other two put together appear to have the intellectual capacity of a Buick Roadmaster. “Huhhuhhh. This carr is faaast. A V12 that can peel out in the dirt? No waaaay! And it has got buttons that I can push.”

    I’m embarrassed that my country produces such filth (but not surprised).

    Carry on Top Gear BBC.

  14. As an Englishman i would just like to point out that our version is popular due to CHEMISTRY between the presenters. Like James May "they bereft of the eight-year inheritance during which we have carefully cultivated our mutual loathing of each other". They all knew each other years before the show.

  15. As an Englishman i would just like to point out that our version is popular due to CHEMISTRY between the presenters. Like James May “they bereft of the eight-year inheritance during which we have carefully cultivated our mutual loathing of each other”. They all knew each other years before the show.

  16. I agree with what most are saying and just give it some time.

    One this is for sure is that the 3 hosts needs acting lessons. Then you need better writers and more comedy.

    Cussing all the time is not the way to be funny. These guys and the writers needs to sit down and watch every episode of the UK version and really work on the acting chemistry between the hosts.

    The UK version is very polished, it is hilariously funny, and the hosts have great, believable acting. And yes, in the UK version, they are acting. If you've see some of the out takes, you immediately know they are 'reading' lines from a script. I suggest spending more on the budget for some good, funny writers.

    Other then that, the technical aspect and look of the show (technically) is nearly identical to the UK one.

  17. As much as i wanted to enjoy TG US, I am sad to say, that it was crap. The show lacks any originality and looks like a cheap ripoff the original TG UK. The hosts are not as memorable (not to mention suck at acting), the scripts are lame (the whole show feels scripted). The challange where the hosts tried to outrun a helicopter was just ridiculous. The hosts, acting like total ass-clowns, don’t care of the outcome.

    Have you ever watched YouTube parodies of TopGear (UK)? That’s exactly how TG US feels like. 3 hosts (only worse), same stig (only fatter), same cars (not as nicely shot), same studio (but not as pretty), same challanges (only more biased)… etc.

    Also, the last few episodes were all about trucks (no super cars, no sports cars, no luxury cars). Just trucks. And ofcourse they are: Ford, Chevy, Dodge. Somehow Chevy always wins (even when the challange is obviously unfinished).

    Overall – VERY disapointing. I’d rather watch other people create parodies on YouTube, at least those are funny most of the time.

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