By on August 9, 2010

I ought to start this article off with the reasons as to why I decided to write this article. I got scalded recently for criticizing Jack Baruth’s article on why Top Gear USA will fail. On reflection, the scalding was well earned. It’s a bit unprofessional to criticize a fellow worker’s work no matter how much you disagree with it.

But this set off a light bulb in my head. Why should I post a comment about why I disagree with an article, and get browbeaten, if I can write an article of my own, highlighting my thoughts? Isn’t that the American way? Why give something away for free, when you can sell it?

But before I proceed, I ought to clarify that I’m not going to advocate why Top Gear USA will fail. That’s another topic completely. I’m going to talk about my reasons as to why I think Top Gear is all right.

Top Gear does something which few shows do: capture our imaginations. Say what you want about these awful reality shows (America’s next supermodel, American Idol, America’s got talent, etc), but everyone watches for one reason, to see an underdog story come true. Want proof? Look at the Susan Boyle video.

And this is what Top Gear does. It shows us what deep down we’d all love to do, if we were given a budget of their size. I would love to do a cheap car challenge with my friends which (nearly always) ends up destroying the car in some fashion. Or do a race across Europe. Or build an amphibious vehicle.

Now many criticize Top Gear for not catering to “normal people” and not doing enough “proper reviews”. But wouldn’t that be defeating the object, somewhat? When Top Gear WAS doing reviews of Vauxhall Vectras and Toyota Corollas (A.K.A “Old” Top Gear) did it capture the imaginations of people around the world?

There were probably a thousand other shows on American TV doing exactly the same thing, so what would have made “Old” Top Gear distinguishable from the rest? In fact, I find it strange that it’s normally “petrol heads” who criticize Top Gear for not doing enough reviews on “normal cars”.

You’d have thought, showing Lamborghini Gallardos doughnutting and Bugatti Veyron being maxxed out would get the petrol in their veins flowing? But no, what they actually want to see is a Honda Civic being tested on whether it has the best boot space in its class. Yeah, right(!)

Top Gear  talks more about the car industry as a whole. They criticized the car scrappage scheme in the UK for not being environmentally sound, they moan about speed cameras & various new motoring laws and the price of petrol. These are topics WE’VE talked about on TTAC.

But for some reason, it’s fine for us to talk about it because “we’re The Truth About Cars and we’re committed to telling the truth about the car industry”, but when Top Gear does it, it’s seen as silly and frivolous.

Now as I mentioned earlier, the reason (I believe) for Top Gear’s success is the way it captured people’s imagination. Top Gear started doing stunts which, quite frankly, people hadn’t seen before on any show. Can anyone name a TV show (I won’t even say “car show”, just any show) before Top Gear which did stunts like this:

  • Race an Aston Martin DB9 against the Eurostar/TGV to Monte Carlo, France?
  • Cross the English Channel in an amphibious vehicle?
  • Have a road trip across South America?
  • Race a Ferrari 612 Scaglietti against a plane to Verbier, Switzerland?
  • Try to see if they could go from London to Edinburgh and back again onone tank of fuel?
  • Race a Mercedes-McClaren SLR against a boat to Oslo, Norway?
  • Try to destroy a Toyota Hilux?
  • Race a Bugatti Veyron against a Cessna 182 to London, UK?
  • Try to send a Reliant Robin into space? (I doubt anyone had the budget to do that!)
  • Have a road trip across Africa?
  • Race a Nissan GT-R against the Shinkansen Bullet Train across Japan?
  • Race a Toyota Hilux against a dog sled to the North Pole?
  • Drag-raced a Bugatti Veyron against a Euro Fighter Typhoon Jet?

All of these stunts/races were thing people had rarely seen on TV, let alone on a car show. Now we come to the “Star in the reasonably priced car” segment. I’m going to gloss over the comments who say that it contains a load of British stars who they don’t know, because if you remember it’s a British show with, well, British stars.

My criticism stems from the petrol heads who see this part as the bit which could easily be cut out of the show. But I believe this segment has merit. Now, I’m not a fan of “celebrity culture”. I couldn’t give a toss what Madonna has been doing for her lunch. But a lot of people do care. As TTAC commentator Tricky Dicky eloquently puts it “The whole point of the ‘Star in the Reasonably Priced Car’ is NOT to deliver a benchmarkable assessment of driving skills, it is to get another angle on a celebrity doing something outside of their comfort zone.”

No-one actually cares if Michael Gambon has a perfect driving line. In fact, quite the opposite, we WANT to see how bad celebrities actually drive. And at the very worst, this segment has given us one thing. Andy Garcia, Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz and Jeff Goldblum driving a Kia C’eed. What other show has done that?!

Now is Top Gear perfect as it is? Hardly. Top Gear has thrown some clunkers our way. The bit where they tried to make their own electric car was painful to watch as it didn’t tell us anything and was quite unfunny. The caravanning episode, whilst funny, told us what we already knew; that caravanning is utter misery.

But even “The Sopranos” had some dud episodes, too (“Pine Barrens” springs to mind). To say Top Gear is brilliant all the time, tells us that,

1. There’s no room for improvement (which there clearly is!) and

2. You’re believing the hype.

Top Gear is a great show, but is it without fault? No.

So, there you have it, my case for why Top Gear should be given a great deal of respect for what it has done. It has got people who weren’t that interested in cars, interested in cars. And surely that can’t be a bad thing?

Disclaimer: Cammy Corrigan is fully aware that this article may end her writing career, but still went ahead with it. With a little TOO much encouragement from Bertel Schmitt, who said: “I’m a sucker for career-ending stories.”

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59 Comments on “In Defense (Defence?) Of Top Gear...”


  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    No, I think you’re right on all counts.

    It’s a good show, entertainment wise, and the previous “anti” piece smacked a little of the intellectual snobbery it was supposed to be mocking. You’re right that it’s not perfect, and the American show is probably going to fall flat for the reasons you both share, but it doesn’t diminish the original or it’s appeal.

  • avatar
    segfault

    Pine Barrens was a great episode.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    No rebuttal on the previous author calling The Stig and the Test Track “jokes?” The Stig is the finest driver alive or ever to have lived, if he is indeed alive in the way we consider organic life forms to be. No wetness of blanket nor wealth of real-world racing experience will convince me otherwise. Barrichello beating him in a Liana was a fluke, which should soon be corrected.

    Meanwhile, the Lotus-designed Test Track is a tarmac masterpiece, capable of drawing out a car’s weaknesses and dulling its strengths; a true equalizer. In concert with the Stig’s not-inconsiderable talents, The track reveals a side of the tested car neither we nor its makers ever saw, and the position of said car’s time on the leader board is a matter of such pride and importance, automakers such as Koenigsegg and Bugatti went out of their way to redesign their cars specifically so that they would improve their standing on the board.

    • 0 avatar
      Sinistermisterman

      +1 on the track. I was a bit surprised when Jack slated the track. As you say, it was designed by Lotus and a variety of manufacturers have actually modified their cars after their experience around it.

      FYI, The Stig is and has been a variety of different drivers over the series. Pretty much all of them are pro or semi-pro drivers. Indeed I have even got drunk on one occasion with a fellow who was The Stig for one segment of one show (I have seen the photographic proof!), however I am sworn to secrecy as to who he is.

    • 0 avatar
      niky

      The fact that the infamously tempermental weather around the track plays merry heck with the lap times is reason enough to disregard it as the litmus test of ultimate pace that petrolheads worldwide hold it to be.

      Now if it were in the middle of the Arizona Desert…

  • avatar

    I’d agree – its not meant to be a serious car show. We have those and for the most part they are dull and appeal to a small section of society. Sure a lot of the stunts are scripted and contrived but they are entertaining when done right. The treks across South America and Africa in particular are fantastic – even non-car buff can enjoy those. The same cannot be said of say Fifth Gear for example. Overall more good than bad.

  • avatar
    lawmonkey

    This is a perfect show for the DVR world – I usually sample about 30 seconds of the Star’s interview, and if the banter is good, I’ll watch it. If not, cue the TiVo bloop bloop bloop.

    In any case, the episode set in Africa and the one at the North Pole will both stick in my mind for quite a long time.

  • avatar
    trucosm

    another underappreciated aspect of Top Gear UK is that its production values are unparalleled. Visuals, music, etc. are very well done.

    Compare TG to a stereotypical American car show (eg Motorweek), generic guitar riff v. actual good music.

    I’m not familiar with the UK licensing laws but it obviously must be different than in America as most BBC shows put it music that would cost a fortune to license in America.

    • 0 avatar
      thecavanaughs

      I think the roughly 150 pounds tax per television per year in the UK has a lot to do with that. Three and a half billion per year buys a lot of helicopter fuel, special effects, ugly flowery shirts, and all white fire suits.

    • 0 avatar
      Advance_92

      I wouldn’t think it all goes to Top Gear, but it does provide a nice pool of funds for someone to come up with their own vision without having to curry favor with sponsors. Something like a MacArthur grant, perhaps, though that’s not enough to produce your own TV show.

    • 0 avatar
      gossfan

      When you watch Top Gear, you’re watching SOCIALISM!

  • avatar
    Rada

    I think the real reason is that the car culture is dying/dead. There are just so many alternatives, especially for the young, to spend the time on – computers, gadgets, XBoxes, iPhones, Web 2.0/Facebook/Foursquare.

    Nobody cares about cars that much anymore. In the mind of the young, cars are firmly planted in the past century. In Japan many young people voluntarily give up car ownership.

    • 0 avatar
      mythicalprogrammer

      They mostly live in the urban and have bullet trains. Their gas cost $9+ bucks.

      Making it a generation problem is just taking the cheap way out. There are factors beyond the simple excuse of it’s a generation problem and technology.

  • avatar
    CliffG

    Hear, hear. There are genuinely funny moments to Top Gear, and it is rare for even their clunkiest show not to have at least one inspired moment in it. Their Vietnam and S. America and S. Africa trips were absolutely tremendous and kudos to the stars for being willing to torture themselves for our enjoyment. It is the one car show you can have a non-car person sit through and usually enjoy themselves. The other car shows that you can do that with? Zip, zero, nada. I don’t think you will get fired for this one, Cammy. (Yeah, and Top Gear USA has no chance with those giggling ninnies.)

  • avatar
    rehposolihp

    Cammy, I agree whole-heartedly. When Jack attacked Top Gear I thought about the things he said was wrong with it. Ultimately I concluded that although it isn’t perfect, when I want to watch something on TV, Top Gear will always bring a smile to my face and make me chuckle.

    Top Gear makes me happy. What more can I want from television?

  • avatar
    Amendment X

    Top Gear =

    cars + outlandish stunts + British humor + unbeatable chemistry between May, Clarkson, and Hammond

    I wouldn’t change a thing. The greatest automotive television show ever made.

  • avatar
    Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

    I thought _Top Gear_ minus the stunts and comic relief was _Fifth Gear_?

    I mean, Tiff Nedell is his own Stig..

  • avatar
    skor

    The formula for TV auto show success:

    Monty Python + Road & Track = Top Gear

  • avatar
    fisher72

    One of my favorites was: which is faster to the airport in London? Car, bicycle, public transportation, powerboat.

    It is not meant to be a factual show, it is entertainment with elements of near factual.

    • 0 avatar
      holydonut

      I’m baffled that people need to be reminded that the show is meant to be entertainment and not factual. The races are interesting, but the show does so much low-production-value stupid stunts that it should be plainly obvious they’re just being silly on TV.

      This is the show where they drop a piano on an old Morris, roll Robin Reliants, convert a Hilux into a motorboat, set caravans on fire, play Aygo-Soccer, have a “Cool Wall,” etc etc, etc.

    • 0 avatar
      Daanii2

      “It is not meant to be a factual show, it is entertainment.”

      Agreed. When Tesla complained that its Roadster had been treated unfairly on the Top Gear show, I just shook my head. The last thing Top Gear should do is treat things fairly. Who would want to watch that?

  • avatar
    thesal

    “It has got people who weren’t that interested in cars, interested in cars. And surely that can’t be a bad thing?”

    That was the most important line in this article. Top gear is a show that puts cars in “layman’s” terms. It takes away the intimidating technicalities and highlights the emotions that make cars what they are.

    Top gear is the only show that my entire family religiously sits down and watches together once a week. My dad and I are engineers but both my Mom and brother come from an arts background.

    Us so called “enthusiasts” sometimes forget how much of our car passion is emotion rather than technical. Jezza and the crew bring that back, sometimes saying they prefered driving the car that losts all the tests, but won the big smushy one, the “feel good test”. Opinion, yes. But does it inspire the non-car-enthusiast to think twice the next time he gets behind the wheel? For sure.

    I couldn’t pay my 50 year old mother to watch Car and Driver TV, but she’s normally the one saying “So when are we watching TG this week?”. If it can do that, it’s a great show in my mind.

    • 0 avatar
      doctorsuarez

      Couldn’t be more right. TG made me a car enthusiast, got me into F1, and probably wound up costing me a pretty penny when it finally proved to me that I could and should escape from my Prius-induced misery.

      And here’s the important thing: Being a car person makes you a better, more attentive driver. And that could bloody-well save your life.

  • avatar

    Agreed. When Top Gear is ‘on’, it’s a good show, not just a good car show. Good television period. Some segments fall flat, but many of their segments have me rolling on the floor, while others have me in awe and still others have actually have me thinking. The treks across Africa, South America, & Vietnam were epic (to me) and even the one in the US was entertaining in a meaningless US bashing way.

    On a side note, while the Top Gear test track may not be a serious race track, but it’s inclusion in Gran Turismo 5 does make me want the game more.

    • 0 avatar
      xyzzy

      I loved the so-called US bashing road trip through the south. And any time TG does something about or related to the US I enjoy it more. No I’m not an America-hating Euro-weenie as Jack implied in his stupid rant. Exactly the opposite: I love America so much I enjoy seeing it mentioned, and experienced by non-Americans, even if they are making fun of it. And besides if we Americans can’t laugh at ourselves every once in a while we might as well be Germans or Finns or some other dour people. Some of us are are just too damn thin-skinned. Lighten up! We’re Amercia! Laugh at us and make fun of us if you want, just make sure you spell our name right (to steal and mangle a phrase).

      Besides it’s fun to watch three clueless (about their surroundings) Brits try to go redneck in $1000 cars in Alabama!

  • avatar

    Top Gear UK is great entertainment, as far as I have seen on the Internet.

    Jeremy Clarkson trying to destroy a Porsche might even enjoy Baruth.

    I’ve heard that Top Gear will even start a German version, soon. Language might be a problem in Germany. But English shouldn’t be a problem in the US. So, why is there a need for Top Gear US?

    Both will fail, IMHO. Far too many “normal” people in the prospective audiences.

    Wait, until these philistines find out that “Clarkson has long been noted for his pro-smoking viewpoint, with him even publicly smoking as much as possible on National No Smoking Day.” Imagine!!!

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      “I’ve heard that Top Gear will even start a German version, soon. Language might be a problem in Germany. But English shouldn’t be a problem in the US. So, why is there a need for Top Gear US?”

      IIRC there’s a competitor show starring Sabine, the hot German racer who almost beat Jeremy’s Jaguar time on the Nurburgring in a Transit van?

  • avatar
    xyzzy

    +1 on TG being accessible outside hardcore car enthusiasm. My wife is an example, she thinks it’s silly but there are many segments she has enjoyed, her favorite being foxhunting a small suzuki SUV.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    Top Gear is great. I loved the episode where Jeremy Clarkson had the race against the Corvette with a Fiesta in the mall. Also, last night I saw a bit where they were talking about how much safer cars made during Tony Blair’s term as Prime Minister v. those made while Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister and he quipped that “…they are safer for those riding in them and for those they run over…” Priceless.

  • avatar
    MikeAR

    It’s the best show on tv anywhere. I’ve never seen a bad episode, some aren’t that great but they have fun doing the show and that makes it always watchable. The US version will fail miserably, BBC caught lightening in a bottle with Jeremy, James and Richard and any other hosts will fail when put up against them.

  • avatar
    john.fritz

    I thought the electric car show was one of their best. It illustrated what electric cars at this time: Niche personal transportation at best and , well, what they built as worst.

  • avatar
    sfenders

    Seriously. They drove to the magnetic north pole. That feat alone gets them a pass for the “cool wall” nonsense, their total inability (pretended or not) to do something as simple as building a functional electric car, and whatever other various foolishness didn’t quite work.

    Top Gear needs no excuse for making fun of Americans based on ridiculous stereotypes. Same goes for Germans, French, Swiss, Koreans, environmentalists, advocates of public transportation, bicyclists, gypsies, old people, gay people, and James May. No need to consider yourself “better people” to enjoy that sort of thing. When the target is me rather than some stereotype I can join in on looking down on, I most often enjoy it all the more.

    The SLR to Oslo was my personal favourite. If Top Gear America ever manages to do just one episode with that kind of genius, against all odds, it’ll be made worthwhile. If they want a lesson in how to horribly fail to do that, they can check out Top Gear Australia. Whoever is responsible for the one episode I watched seems to have understood the appeal of Top Gear about as well as Jack Baruth.

  • avatar
    tbp0701

    I had heard about Top Gear quite a bit, had seen some clips and liked them before ever seeing the show, as I rarely watch TV. When I finally caught a full episode, I became a fan. Cammy does a great job listing many of its attributes, but I think one of the defining moments for me was the Africa challenge, which was one of the first shows I’d seen. The particular moment was when Hammond drove his car into the river. It was clear that he had developed a genuine attachment to an old, inexpensive car, and was genuinely hurt that he’d nearly destroyed it. It may have been acting or overdramatic entertainment, but I doubt it.

    The astounding thing was he set to work repairing it, a pretty impressive feat even with a full production crew around. For me, this humanized him, and I saw him as someone who really loves cars, especially an inexpensive, old car that managed to take him through Africa.

    The show is also great for its humor and the hosts’ willingness and ability to bring up criticisms that I seriously doubt will be allowed here. While I suspect the hosts would think someone insane if they bought/didn’t buy a car based solely on their review, the show is one of the very few things I will bother watching on television.

    As for the American Top Gear, I’m not sure. I think that one of its biggest challenges is that it has absurdly high expectations. I doubt that the BBC expected Top Gear to become the global phenomenon it is, and I’ll guess that the show was allowed to develop over a few seasons. The US version doesn’t have that luxury, and–unlike most British ideas recreated for the US market–much of the show’s audience will already be familiar with the original.

  • avatar

    @ Dr. Kenneth Noisewater:
    great hint! Again, I’ve learned something new at TTAC. Waiting for Sabine Schmitz…

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    I thought Jack’s analysis of TG was spot on. Camry’s defense does not persuade me to change my POV.

    It’s telling that TG is mentioned in the context of reality shows. It is a reality show. It’s Survivor meets demolition derby. It has all the “intelligence” and faux drama of a reality show.

    I do have to give TG points for creating the faux drama. Comparing the car-boat episode with the American version that Jack featured yesterday, TG at least has the good sense to create a competition between hosts. Who’s car-boat will be silliest? Who’s will sink first? It isn’t much, but it’s something, rather than nothing. In the American version we watch two dweebs standing around watching the third guy smash up a Caddy. No drama at all.

    IMO, TG does not get people who aren’t interested in cars to watch a show about cars. It gets those people to watch yet another reality show, this one featuring smashing up cars. (as opposed to say, eating gross things) No one’s wife/girlfriend/nerdy brother in law ever watched TG and then became a petrol head. They continue to be uninterested in cars, but will watch them being beat on with a hammer then driven across a desert.

    I do get the piss-taking aspect of the show. The truth is, Brits just love that piss-taking, even when it’s mediocre. We Yanks, not so much. In fairness, I’ll say that as a people we Yanks are perhaps a bit too serious and too earnest. Instead of car-boats that sink in 10 minutes and pretending that’s hilarious, we’d probably try to make car-boats that could actually do an ocean crossing.

    Still, even for Brits, one would think that 50 year old teenager schtick would get old in a hurry. TG doesn’t actually provide witty banter, but it provides a close enough substitute that many people will accept. It’s popular with a certain sub-set of Yanks; those who think everything British is witty.

    TG is by far the best show tangentially about cars, but that says more about car shows than it does about TG.

    • 0 avatar
      LALoser

      Well said D88. Jack, IMO, was spot-on. The only reason I read TTAC is to get as straight of a story as possible. No touchy-feely, no “look at me” needy people, just facts on whether the car delivers in performance at a certain price point.

    • 0 avatar
      sfenders

      Top Gear is like Survivor because they both rely on faux drama. A mouse is like a tiger since they both have teeth. They do both have teeth, the existence of which is very important to the survival of each. One can use them to greater effect than the other when taking down large game, and has sharp claws as well.

      The kind of show Jack has in mind would be good too though, pity we didn’t get that instead of Top Gear USA.

    • 0 avatar
      Les

      *No one’s wife/girlfriend/nerdy brother in law ever watched TG and then became a petrol head. They continue to be uninterested in cars, but will watch them being beat on with a hammer then driven across a desert. *

      No one? Strong words, considering I R one. :P

      Before I started watching Top Gear the amount of automotive knowledge I possessed could be written on the back of my hand, and I’d have to keep checking it to answer any questions I was asked. Did I learn more about cars than I already knew after watching my first episode of Top Gear? No…

      The hours of scouring the internet researching everything car-related I could get my hands on, and eventually leading me to This very website and replying to This very post? Oh yes, I learned so very much, and it was the spark of interest in cars that Top Gear provided me with which started it all.

      Have you ever wondered why so many crap cars get sold? Why? They’re crap! Why would anyone put-up with creaky chassis, wallowy suspension, mushy breaks and sloppy gearboxes? Why haven’t these cars gone the way of the Dodo? Why do people still buy them?

      Because We, the Mainstream Car-Buying Public, just flat don’t Know better.. and for the most part we don’t Want to know better because that brings us into the orbit of you lot, the car ‘Enthusiast’. Nothing can make us love cars, or even Want to love cars when we the perception is that we have to wade through all the stat-quoting, vein-popping, adenoid-flapping Serious Business of a nest of car-geeks who we just know are waiting to pounce on us and laugh when we’re forced to admit that no we don’t know the difference between a manumatic transmission and a dog-clutch sequential gearbox or why that’s important.

      But Top Gear cuts through all that and makes cars.. Fun! I finally give a damn about my next car beyond ‘does it have four wheels and an engine? Oh, and a cool stereo?’ I, and no doubt many more members of the Mainstream are getting drawn into your special little club by Top Gear and it’s irreverent attitude to all things automotive. Maybe that makes your club a little less special, but the truth is.. you need us.

      You need us because the days when the Enthusiast’s club can be maintained solely by it’s own cloistered membership are at an end and if you reject us, if you insist on berating us as not ‘True’ Petrolheads because we had our interest piqued by the likes of Top Gear then we shall just shrug and abandon that interest like a passing fancy; and then one day we’ll all happily trade-in our 4th-generation hybrids for shiny new Autonomobiles and enjoy a fine wine with a nice cheese while you desperately try to push-through the paperwork to get your ‘Relic-and-Curio’ plates for your beloved sports-cars before government comes ’round and replaces their engines with a stack of batteries.

      Sleep tight. :)

  • avatar
    Sanman111

    There is a very simple reason that I like Top Gear. It is very much the TV show for the average auto enthusiast and people who like fun. Look, buff books/shows are nice. But, the truth is that I will not have an amateur racing career outside of some local autocrosses. More likely, I will dream of Ferraris and hop into something disgustingly more reasonable/ cost effective and hoon it the best of my abilities on my local back road. That is Top Gear…three buffoons chatting about cars, cracking jokes at the expense of each other, and getting the chance to indulge in a dream ride. Add in a round of beers and you have what I would call a good time. The things many car “experts” talk about confound me as an average person. Do I care if the M3 has fractionally better skidpad numbers than the Mercedes AMG? No, even if I have the cash, I lack the ability to actually test these limits. They will also admit the real world things that most car buffs will not. That old lamborghinis disappoint, that old supercars/sportscars have charm and also but many problems, that it is okay to want the auto/semi-auto instead of the manual car. Top Gear isn’t about cars, it is about FUN! The problem with the American Top Gear promo is that they seem to lack the most important aspect of the show. Three average guys having fun and cracking on each other.

    You want an example of American Top Gear…watch MythBusters on discovery.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    “Top Gear” is just the latest in a series of TV shows that illustrate “British Humor,” its predecessors being “Fawlty Towers” and “Dr. Who.” That the show involves cars is somewhat secondary. It certainly isn’t network “reality TV,” IMHO, which, among other things, asks its audience to pretend that the “participants” are in some life-threatening situation, all the while in the company of a camera crew and producer. (It is interesting that Discovery’s “Deadliest Catch” about Alaska crabbers recently did a show that took viewers in front of the cameras to the guts of how the show worked and addressed head-on some of the questions about the relationship between the fisherman in front of the camera and the unseen film crew behind it.)

    Clarkson is an insouciant fellow and proud of it. While I have no opinion of the depth of his knowledge of automotive engineering or his skills as a driver (who am I to judge either?), it’s clear that the man is passionate about cars and pretty good about articulating his passion.

    The idea that TG is a “car review” show is risible. Good grief, Charlie Brown, where’d you get that idea?

    And no, I don’t like the because I’m one of the effete Americans who are into self-flagellation and enjoy a dose of USA-bashing from Mr. Clarkson. Whatever . . . I haven’t seen every episode, but if the episodes I have seen were rife with anti-Americanism, it flew under my radar.

    As for the American knock-off . . . well, for obvious reasons, it can’t duplicate the original. So, the question is, with TG as an example of what can be done with some original thinking, let’s hope the producers of the American version can figure out how to duplicate that part of the show — the willingness to take risks and fall on your ass sometimes in an effort to produce something good.

  • avatar
    Jimal

    I’m not so sure that TGUSA will be a failure. I see this as being more like an American Chopper or one of those crabbing shows where the cars or the crabs are the background. This show will succeed or fail based on the personalities of the cast and how they are accepted by an audience that for the most part has no idea who Jezza, Captain Slow and the Hamster are.

    If you want technical stuff watch the Power Block on Spike.

  • avatar
    Hank

    Scalded? One of the things I like (liked?) about TTAC was room for disagreement among its writers.

  • avatar

    I’m with you, Cammy.

    +Honestly, I thought Jack’s article was nothing but flamebait for pageviews.
    The old Conrad Newel “throw a brick at somebody famous”-thing or its variant, “attack something everyone loves”.

    It would be sad if he were serious.

    .
    Not a snob, love British humor, esp. Clarkson-buffoonery; measuring everything in hammer-lengths, etc.

    It’s funny someone would call TG-viewers euro/brit-snobs, as the Saturday before I pull down an episode of TG, I’m usually watching MuscleCar, HorsePower, Extreme 4×4, Overhaulin’ reruns, etc. and sometimes even the execrable MotorWeek just because I like cars that much.

    Definitely a: *<-Over there is the point., You are here.->@, to anyone who would apply any actual Seriousness or metrics to TopGear’s content. Ie: If I have to explain the entire concept of humor…, then you know what, just forget about the joke I was telling…

    .
    Anyhoo, you hit the nail on the head, Cammy.
    There is absolutely NOTHING else as captivating on TV as these guys racing a Veyron against a Typhoon, a GTR against a Bullet-Train, an RS6 down a mountain against 2 yobbo Para-Skiers, or watching those 3 Stooges pull up into Ha Long bay, seeing the mindblowing helo shot of it and hearing the “Evey Reborn” music from ‘V for Vendetta’ when they finally get to the bar in the center.

    ->You could write a novel better than every single travelogue James Michener ever wrote -Combined-, if you did it about the TG Vietnam special.

    .
    *Note: For anyone who would critique TG’s track or SIARPC times, you obviously missed out on both Stats and Scientific Method classes.
    Because there Is a trend/distribution on those track times,
    And an instrument or methodology does not have to be Perfectly Accurate to produce Statistically Significant results.
    All it has to be is +/- the same every time, thus making the shift the same for all experiments, which Does yield Statistically Significant trial results.

  • avatar
    cackalacka

    +1 for Cammy.

    I agree with Jack, in that it should fail. But then I said the exact same things about the Office. Now, I love Steve Carrel, but he’s no Ricky Gervais. Seriously, that character situation commedy has gone on, for what now? Seventy-four years without a coherent and plausible story narrative.

    We’ll see, didn’t that douchebag who hosted the show formerly known as the Tonight Show try ripping off TG?

    • 0 avatar
      marjanmm

      Top Gear is just three middle aged men horsing around being ambitious but rubbish. Where in the testosterone filled, long tanned legs obsessed, incredibly competitive and burdened with complexes world of TV can you find anything similarly light hearted.

      I mean a “very self motivated personality” for a Top Gear (US) presenter, oh for god’s sake, give it a break, it just misses the whole point entirely.

  • avatar
    James2

    +1 Cammy

    While Jack is out driving, hopefully going way too fast in some Porsche Deadly Sin that will self-destruct, I will gladly watch Top Gear. I really think he misses the point about the show, which is to have a good time in a car or (if you’re in Vietnam) scooter.

    Life is too short to have only MotorWeak (sic) on the telly.

    The others who compared TG to a reality show… are you kidding?!?

  • avatar
    niky

    I actually enjoy the “Star” segment, sometimes. It’s interesting to see whether Lionel Ritchie will roll the dinky little thing… aaaaand… he did!

    I used to whinge about the changes in Top Gear, too. But I’ve learned to forget about it and simply enjoy the show. It’s rubbish as automotive journalism (except for the odd witty or insightful observation of society and industry that it throws our way, as you alluded to), but as automotive entertainment, it’s top class.

  • avatar
    Kristjan Ambroz

    While I agree with your analysis of why TG is a success (a major rea draws viewers far more diverse than the miniscule number of car enthusiasts), I also find that they are maneuvring themselves into a position, where they will slowly run out of steam. my thoughts regarding this are as follows. In order to top the stunts of the previous season they need to do sillier and sillier things. Now some are very nice, the photography is astounding, the cars are beautiful, as is the scenery, I enjoy a spot of hooning as much as the next man. But some stunts are getting downright bloody stupid (like the truck crashing episode), and with time (watching several seasons) you can pretty much (without watching) replicate exactly what everyone will say about which car and the jokes that will be cracked. I find I can personally no longer motivate myself to watch and know many other people who feel likewise.

    This is not meant as a criticism of the show – if you constantly have to raise the ante without changing the format or the people, you are bound to stop appealing to some of the viewers – maybe most, maybe not.

  • avatar
    Ronman

    Well Cammie, you forgot to cover the Stig.. but the rest was spot on i believe…

    Although I agree with Jack Baruth on many things, I disagree with his view on top gear. Perhaps he’s blowing smoke in our faces because he’s the Stig’s American Cousin? I say… he sold his lime green Audi S5 to avoid detection on his way to the top secret test track… and.. he writes damning reviews of the TV shows he is a part of to confuse people of his true identity… All we know is that he Might be the STIG’s American cousin his biography will tell…

  • avatar
    Tricky Dicky

    Cammy, thanks for that balanced and correctly positioned rebuttal of JB’s original post. Honest, realistic, insightful, intelligent – as ever. I’m only disturbed that you thought you’d be fired for writing such a thing. Wasn’t the real issue that the original article was so flagrantly unbalanced and yet readily published? Please keep doing what you do.

  • avatar
    cdnsfan27

    TG is outstanding TV. My wife who is not a car girl loves it. What other show has a host falling in love with his car “Oliver” and Jeremy’s ad for the new Scirrocco “Berlin to Warsaw in one tank” was priceless…no other show would get away with that…or showing up for a Brit/German challenge in Belgium flying Spitfires….it doesn’t get any better than that.

  • avatar
    Adam Omelianchuk

    One of the reasons Top Gear is so great is that it understands that Television’s medium is to entertain. Factual shows, in priciple, don’t do well on TV. Watch Motor Trend or Inside Line do a video on the CTSV or the ZRI and you will see some impressive numbers alongside shots of–oh my gosh–drag runs, skid pad turns, and breaking tests. Meh. Compare that with TG having them run across the western United States around curvey roads and the streets of a casino town. They make you want to own the car! Without such entertainment and enthusiasm we would be guilted into driving hybrids. TG allows us to be children dreaming of getting behind the wheel of a Lambo and having a blast.


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