Top Gear, Fifth Gear, and Now: Just Plain Ole’ Gear

Top Gear and Fifth Gear I’ve been drooling all weekend. Drooling over videos of BMW’s new M3 and it’s convertible counterpart. Can I just say: HOT!

The M3 video is a clip from the British show Fifth Gear. That, and the original BBC car show Top Gear, cover all kinds of cool cars. Unfortunately, the shows are only available in the UK, unless you have a satellite TV that’s able to pick up the BBC.

Both shows are popular among car enthusiasts. YouTube may have made them even more popular in this country by introducing them to US audiences (correct me if I’m wrong about that). The shows generally feature cars from BMW, Mercedes Benz, Audi, Jaguar, Porsche, Aston Martin, Lamborghini, Ferrari, Maserati, Bentley, as well as a few from Honda, Volkswagen, Dodge, Ford, and General Motors. There’s been some criticism that the shows don’t feature enough “affordable” cars, however.

After talking to a friend about these shows, my mind started wandering. And wondering. Since these shows are so cool, why aren’t they in the US? Or perhaps: what if there were a US version that included American hot rods, pick-up trucks, and SUVs, since those are generally more popular in the US? What if there was a segment for off-roading, where pick-up trucks and SUVs could battle it out on rocky terrain and hills?

As with all seemingly good ideas, I was not the first to think this. According to Top Gear’s Wikipedia entry:

In April 2007, the BBC reported on a Sun story that Top Gear had been in talks about creating an American version. The current presenters would remain as hosts, but the show would focus on American cars and include American celebrities. The Sun reported in July, however, that plans for an American version had been shelved, partly over [Top Gear host Jeremy] Clarkson’s misgivings about spending several months in the U.S., away from his family.

Ah. And then I found this bit of news from The Hollywood Reporter:

The popular BBC car show “Top Gear” is revving up a U.S. edition.

NBC has ordered a pilot for “Gear,” to be produced by BBC Worldwide Prods. Like the original, it will be a mix of cars, humor and celebrities.

There’s some trepidation of this remake, however. The hosts of Top Gear, Clarkson, Richard Hammond, James May and the anonymous & mysterious Stig, are considered a large part of the show’s success. Without their wit and knowledge of cars, some wonder how NBC’s Gear will succeed.

My prediction – if they can:

  • find funny, witty hosts who actually know what they’re talking about,
  • are as entertaining as Tom and Ray Magliozzi (otherwise known as Click and Clack) of the NPR radio show Car Talk,
  • can test drive these cars well enough to give informed opinions,
  • and are camera-friendly (hey, this is Hollywood, after all),

…then they will have a serious shot at success. There will always be purists who dislike an international translation of a great piece of art. But US audiences are fairly different than UK audiences. Some kind of translation is going to be necessary (like pick-up truck and SUV off-roading, I tell ya!).

I’ll be anxiously awaiting this new show. I hope they don’t screw it up!

UPDATE 4/3/2008: Here’s Jay Leno’s opinion on the US version of Top Gear. Pretty dire. I hope he was kidding when he related this anecdote about Gear being about building cars:

I ask: what’s the plan for the show? “Well, like, one week you build a car that flies and the next week you make a car that goes under water.” So I said: you know you can’t build these things in a week.

Building cars? How did they go from Top Gear to Pimp My Ride? Damn, I hope that’s not what Gear is going to be…

Author: Mike Lee

An idealistic realist, humanistic technologist & constant student.

2 thoughts on “Top Gear, Fifth Gear, and Now: Just Plain Ole’ Gear”

  1. Top Gear is the shit. NBC is going to ruin it. They can’t get anything right. Just look at The Office.

  2. i agree with bj. Top GEar is a wonderful show and there’s no way it can be matched. NBC will have to find some very funny and very talentd people to make it work

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