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. From the unbiased view of a Canadian fan: I think that viewers need to give the show a chance to develop into its own style and flow. Top Gear UK (which I watch religiously as much as the next gearhead), has had years to refine its brilliant style. Jeremy, Richard and James have had many years presenting the show together and have developed a bond that comes across fantastically on camera. I'm sure with time and more experience together, the guys on Top Gear USA will also develop a comfortable, fun bond on camera that will be as appealing (in a different way) as the way the Top Gear UK guys present. Also, if the current producers find that the current writers are not providing them with material that's engaging to the audience, maybe in possible future seasons they'll employ new writers; writers who are wittier and provide better material for the hosts.

      Anyone who is a true fan of Top Gear and adventurous car shows should give this show a chance with an open mind. If you've ever seen really early episodes of Top Gear it honestly wasn't that good. It has grown into a world-class show that holds a special place in all our hearts.

      1. Agreed. I've watched the first three, and while these guys just don't have the chemistry and enthusiasm that the Brits do, I have to remember that you have to start somewhere. The subject matter is good, and they've done some fun things on the show. As Mr. Burdick pointed out, it's nice to see prices in USD for cars that are available here as well. I'll give them the first season to smooth out their delivery and grab my interest, but I'm not giving up my weekly dose of the Brit (when it comes back next season, that is!).

  1. I am really NOT looking forward to this version. Give me the original any day, whether the cars are available here or not.

    Where else do you get to watch three British blokes with decent teeth on one screen? So what if it took me 10 minutes to recognize the Mayor of London, Boris Whatever. The segment was over by then, anyhow.

    If I want to watch three slouchbums drift corners, I can go to the mall and spit on 20 of them. Assuming I have my wheelchair fully charged and ready to go.

  2. I just watched it, and I am impressed. A few issues, though. It was poorly scripted, the interview was short and awkward, and stage looks like the Brit version only smaller and much worse. But, above all, the biggest fault was that it ended. I loved it. If you hate it, watch the 2002 Top Gear UK first episode and compare them.

    One major issue, though; Mercedes Benz is rolling ads on it and even sponsoring it, which means that if the gang reviews an M-B, even the ML 350, it is automatically PERFECT.

    1. Yup, not sure about them being sponsored by MB, that's got to be a conflict of interest. I guess we'll see.

  3. I just watched episode 1. It was horrible. It was shameful to the original. It was so scripted, so diluted, and oozed of true American capitalism. It was just one big, poorly executed advertisement. I'll never lay eyes on it again. Oh, and Tanner can surely drive, but he's a HORRIBLE presenter. They should make him be the stig and keep his mouth shut.

      1. I agree, but the irreverence that seems to be part of the British crew's personae masks that really well. They'll bash anything (well, I can't imagine Jeremy ever completely panning an Astin), whether or not they're a sponsor, or such is the conclusion that our suspension of disbelief will lead us to. I'm still giving these guys a newbie break, but they don't quite have that reputation for independence…not yet, anyway.

        1. The difference between the UK Top Gear and the American Top Gear is that the BBC is a government funded channel. The original plays with no advertisements. The presenters can be as unbiased as they would like. I have read things that say the presenters on American Top Gear will be unbiased as well, but there has to be a slight motivation not to completely bash a car. I do think the show is good at the core and like the previous guys said, the original UK Top Gears were a little akward at first too.

  4. Just saw the first episode as well. And for the most part I agree that it wasn't the best. I will watch it again and again but I most defiantly prefer the english one. The cars were cool. The driving was cool. I like that the prices are in dollars and all the cars are available here. BUT, I feel like the presenters are terribly uncomfortable in front of the camera. I feel like they're still trying too hard to be there english counter parts. If you have never seen top gear before and you like cars. Then you will prolly love this show. But as an avid fan of top gear on BBC I just won't be able to get fully behind this series. But I will still watch it lol.

  5. Just watched the first episode and it sucked! The great dynamic between the hosts in the U.K. version just isn't there in the American counterpart. The insights into how the cars performed were lame and totally scripted by bland writers. I remember Adam Corolla and/or Leno were originally going to be a part of this project–I only wish they were, then it might be entertaining to watch. Instead, it's just a giant disappointment. Give me the U.K. version any day, can't wait for the next one on BBC America!

  6. Ouch, tough crowd.

    Give it a chance – I think the third episode is the best of the three. Keep watching and come back here to let us know what you think.

  7. I think the main thing that the show is lacking is personality. You need someone like Clarkson who has a larger than life personality and a true knowledge of the history of cars. Leno would have been great, but I doubt he would stoop down to the level of a car show on the History Channel. Rutledge Wood had the most personality, but I see him as the goof guy like James May. I just have my doubts whether Tanner Foust and Adam Ferrara have the personality to carry this show. It's a tough slot to fill, but you need a big personalities to make this work, Bam Margera, Rob Dyrdek & Travis Pastrana are all types of guys that come to mind. Maybe even throw a Nascar driver in there just to make it interesting.

    1. Ferrara I actually liked. He's got a bit of gritty New Yorker that comes through and gives him some personality. Foust is flat as a Veyron in a corner, and so far my jury is still out on Wood. He seems a bit forced in his delivery, like he's trying to be the class clown but just can't quite get the timing right. That may come with experience though. If they can replace Foust with someone who has a personality that isn't made of wood, I think the show would take a giant step in the right direction.

  8. well,

    what made top gear in the firset case is the hosts,,

    clarkson is amazing with giving reviews .. also May and Hammond,,,

    top gear UK does have a huge budget,,

    last night's eposide of top gear usa showed some slacking,, i.e the cameras crazy shaking in the lambo race,, top gear uk drove a bugatti and the cameras inside it were so stable even wit 267 mph !!

    it could be worse for top gear usa,, but i would go with top gear uk though.

  9. Well, I watched this episode, or rather in parts as I drifted thru channels and as surmised it didn't capture me. Maybe it has a chance but some aspects it needs are 1) better video editing (hats off to the UK version which is as glossy as high art) 2) chemistry between the 3 faces but perhaps its because they all look like babies (give me some more maturity) 3) less obvious canned audience reactions and 4) Stig don't need his own screen in the background; it's annoying. Unless Stig really IS Michael Schumacher under the helmet, then he could do ANYthing.

  10. What a piece of crap. It was as boring as watching milk curdle. Three completely boring guys, like college geeks with no sense of humor or wit between the three of them. Prediction: Dead show walking.

  11. it was ok. i'm looking foward to seeing if they make any changes to improve it. my first thoughts of the show while watching were the hosts just don't cut it. i feel like they tried to be their british counter parts rather then just be themselves. no one is going to be able to pull it off like hammond,clarkson,and may. the new hosts alos seem very alkward in front of camera and have very little personality.

  12. Ya I can't wait for the next couple episodes. I will def give this show a chance. But I think were all expecting too much from top gear america. We turn to it on the tv and are expecting.. Top gear UK.. But its not. So naturally we are instantly disappointed. But look at the bright side. No more stupid alfa romeo's and dumb "england only" cars that we will never see or have a chance to buy in the episodes. And no more british slang that we don't understand. "Bonnet, boot, anorax, quid" lol

  13. I'm sure it will get better with age but it's not wine man. It is a fast paced car show for guys or at least it was supposed to be. I mean really they compared three Lamborghinis against each other. Heaven forbid they compare cars from different manufacturers. Don't wana piss off Lambo they might never lend us their car again…. I really hope that it gets better by the 3rd episode as you said Chris. And to Gyro231995 I did see the first 2002 Top Gear UK and it was a lot better than The US 1st episode. At least the hosts had chemistry or was it better writers I'm not sure. Even the fat guy who talked about used cars was better than any of the three US Hosts. Even the hosts of the Australian one has chemistry. They complemented each other they had specific roles and they kept up with it. On screen chemistry between the hosts and good writing can forgive a lot of the short comings of a tv show. I really hope that the shows producers wake up and get better writers and maybe change a couple of the hosts. I would keep Tanner because he is a decent driver. I would like to see Adam come back from the NBC Top Gear Pilot. At least he has some interview skills. Maybe its a dumb idea but Top Gear + Man Show. What do you think guys?

    1. It does, I assure you. Especially by the third, you'll see them start to interact with each other more and I think it works out.

      I like Tanner and I like Rutledge, but we haven't really had much time with Adam yet. I don't like Adam Corolla, so I wouldn't be a fan of him on the show.

  14. You've got to be glad to see them try. Unlike the BBC, the History channel has limited funds because it is private. They're taking a HUGE leap of faith especally because the trailers earlier in the deckade sparked little interest. And did anyone see that cheesy moving Stig in the background?

    1. I totally give them an A for effort but I think a show like Top Gear is a great match to the BBC since they are a state run company and does not have to answer to advertisers like the History Channel.

      What if Top Gear US have to give a very bad review of the new E class or something and that show was sponsored by lets say BMW. Is that fare? Can we really trust Top Gear US to give us a honest non bias opinion on anything since they have advertisers to satisfy.

      And yes History channel has very limited resources but their other shows have better camera work especially in car camera footage. Look at the in cab footage on Ice Road Truckers and compare to the in car footage on the Lambos in Top Gear. The truckers are drivng on "ICE" and they shake less than the in car footage in a Lambo. I just feel they should have done more pre and post production work on the show before they aired it.

  15. It is true that TG American version will never compare to the UK one. The UK one almost immediately developed into something truly special, mostly due do the presenters chemistry, which never can be mirrored. So, I tried not to compare the US version to the UK version to judge it on its own merits as best I could. I was very skeptical but pleasantly surprised, there were some weak glimmers of chemistry and wit hiding in the poor scripting. So I'm going to give it a chance through season one and see if it evolves a little bit. I just don't think it's fair to compare it to the UK version because through blind luck, careful planning or both they have achieved perfection. I think public funding has helped Uk version a lot. I think the US version is going to suffer greatly from bias and special interests/sponsors. I don't think you guys should be so quick to dismiss it though, it was only the first episode and even though Tanner may not have facial expressions he can drive like a beast.

  16. I had very low expectations going into the first episode and it pretty much played out how I thought. The hosts will have a hard time living up to the chemistry and comedy that Clarkson, May, and Hammond continue to give us. The segment with the viper felt outdated to me. The lambo segment was a bit better but i thought they could have done a more exciting race than a standing one mile sprint. With the set design, lap time leader boards, and format basically the same it felt a little bit like a cheap knock off you would buy on canal street. I may just be spoiled by the brilliance which is Britain's top Gear but we have a long way to go to fill there shoes.

  17. Wow, amazingly bad. It was hard to watch, mainly the really poor choice of presenters. Three young goofs, talking heads really, do they have any credentials at all? Surely selected out of a casting call in L.A. We turned it off half way through. Will not watch again…

  18. @Franklin. Wood is a racing analyst with speed channel, ferrara is just a comedian/actor with no real automotive background from what I know. Now tanner foust has the best qualifications of the three to be hosting top gear. He has hosted several shows on the SPEED network and has competed in Tons of rally and drift races with a good degree of success as well as been in many movies as a stunt driver. Foust brings the trio from bad to mediocre but like I previously stated, they have a long way to go. Wish them luck as they will need it if they want to get picked up for a second season

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