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Thread: Top Gear USA

  1. #1

    Top Gear USA

    I don't know how many here watch the original British Top Gear, but I've loved the show since the first episode I watched. Clarkson, Hammond, and May are entertaining enough that even people who don't care about cars can find enjoyment in the zaniness.

    Now we've got the American version.

    Most of it was just okay. The presenters aren't as effortlessly funny as the originals. Commentary lacked the distinctively colorful style of Clarkson or the subtle humor of May. I'm sure it'll take them a while to figure out a style for these presenters, but I'm glad to see they seem to be aiming for the comically antagonistic relationship of the Brits.

    Big Star in a Small Car was a little meh. I did like that they showed pictures of the cars the star previously owned. Their first star was Buzz Aldrin.

    I really enjoyed their pitting the Dodge Viper SRT-10 against the AH-1 Cobra in a variation of the Lotus Exige versus AH-64 Apache segment from British Top Gear. The original British version involved the Exige attempting to keep an Apache from getting missile lock in the confines of a race track. The American version gave the Viper an entire city to elude the Cobra and allowed the driver three lives to try to make it back to the objective.

    I'll keep watching. It was entertaining enough, and if nothing else, it's something to do between viewings of British Top Gear.
    Member 104 of the SWC forums . . . but it's good to be back.

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  2. #2
    I watched it, and it was PAINFUL. Everything that comes naturally to the original is forced here. Even the camera work feels like cheap cable TV fare rather than what looks so great on the real McCoy. And why is Adam Ferrara here? He's never mentioned being in any way interested in cars before, and he's so grating with his commentary here, it doesn't work for him. Their gushing over the cars is painful, even when they have something less than glowing it comes off as fawning somehow. The bit with Buzz Aldrin was super dry and their track is too convoluted to make it interesting, too many tight turns rather than broader turns of the British tracks used in the original. Oh man, and the boring fake Stig, c'mon!

    The sad part is that I will still watch it because I am hungry for more Top Gear of any kind and the BBC puts out far too few episodes.

    And for god's sake, don't let them say the show is brought to us in part by Mercedes Benz!

    EDIT: Oh, there was 1 piece of information that stuck with me from this show, that Chrysler is being forced to put stability control on the next-gen Viper, that broke my heart to hear that the gov't is forcing stability control on all cars. Stupid nannycars, I like gizmos sometimes, but my car doesn't even have ABS. All these new nannycar gizmos are just going to create drivers who pay even less attention to the road.
    Darth Vader is becoming the Mickey Mouse of Star Wars.

    Kylo Ren - came from Space Brooklyn, although he moved to Space Williamsburg before it was trendy.

    The use of a lightsaber does not make one a Jedi, it is the ability to not use it.

  3. #3
    I fell asleep during the middle part of it, so I need to try to rewatch that at some point. I haven't been a fan of the original Top Gear for too long; a little over a year now, I think? I have watched through all the seasons since Clarkson relaunched the show, though.

    Comparing this Top Gear to previous US car review shows I've tried to watch makes it leagues better than any of'em, even if just for the fact that they actually have the camera on another car moving with it. Comparing it to the original Top Gear, though... it leaves a ton to be desired. Most of all is simply their voices, they lack any sort of attempt at charisma during their reviews. Faust's review during the Dodge Viper review was meager and barely legible among any other noise that was accompanying it, and it lacked any sort of actual passion that these guys supposedly hold for the cars. Sure, they cheer and whatnot when CAR GO FAST, but what about admiring the actual details of the car and the workmanship? Or the history? It's really sad that the superior review for the Viper was done several seasons ago by Clarkson. Maybe they should get the Modern Marvels narrator to read the reviews...?

    The camera work, while it is far better than any of the other US car review shows which generally have a cameraman watch the car go from one side of the screen to the other 50 times, was chaotic and obnoxious at some points. I appreciate they're trying to be as artistic (slightly) as the original Top Gear's, but it's more a lazy mimick than anything else. It's obvious that whoever handles photography, and/or the director, simply can't comprehend what the artistic camerawork brings to the table. It just was just forcibly flashy.

    Other than the meak voiceover work, the only other complaint I have about the hosts is just that Faust's Viper review was so incredibly poor. I don't know if maybe it was, but some noteworthy skill in writing should have been a requisite for the hosts. I didn't expect anything on the level of Clarkson, May or Hammond who actually have backgrounds in journalism, but there should have been some writing background there. I'm going to assume Wood is the only one who may have any actual journalism experience for the Speed channel, but that's probably minimal at best. I don't really have any complaints about Rutledge or Ferrara, but nothing to praise either as nobody stood out with any sort of noteworthy attribute. Only thing to note is that Wood kind of looks like a Kevin Smith bobblehead, like someone took Smith's head and just plopped it on a random body. Very distracting. I was hoping Ferrara would be interesting at least, since I've really enjoyed him on Rescue Me, but it seems that he doesn't have much charisma outside of acting.

    No idea about the Buzz Aldrin bit since I was asleep during that period... It was really sad, I actually fell asleep during the Cobra vs. Viper segment. Nickelodeon game shows were more exciting than that... I miss Wild & Crazy Kids.

    I'll continue watching in hopes that it'll be refined as it goes along and to see more American cars, but not getting my hopes up. Although, I'm hoping to see Hammond be a guest at some point since he's the one most fond of American muscle cars out of the trio.
    "Hokey packaging and ancient gimmicks are no match for good detail on your figure, kid."
    "I am a Klingot from Oklahoma in human boy form."
    "We came, we saw, we conquered... We, woke up!"

  4. #4
    I'll give them a pass on gushing over the cars a bit at least for this episode. They were fairly upfront about the Viper segment being a send off for the car, so I would have been surprised if they were critical at all. And as far as the Lamborghini segment went, they each were arguing the positives of the car they had selected against each other, so I wouldn't expect them to be too hard on the cars there. If they have that excuse to hide behind too often, though, I'd say they need to reformat their challenges.

    I was trying to put my finger on what bothered me about the celebrity drive, and I think you pointed out what was nagging at me. You're right, I don't think the track is very interesting for viewers.

    And on the subject of seeing Hammond appear, yes, my first line of thinking was that it would be cool to see crossovers sometime.

    Edit: I forgot two things:

    I was kind of annoyed they had the engine block under glass table set up from the British show. The Porsche challenge that gave the British show that table is probably my all time favorite Top Gear Challenge, and it seemed counterfeit to see it on this show for no reason. A minor niggle, but it bothered me.

    As for the government forcing extra control on cars, I'm guessing you won't be able to turn it off like in some sports cars. I wonder if they'd be able to get around it if they had a street key and a race key like in the 2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302. You actually have to order the race key separately, but when you star the car with the race key, it's in a performance mode that shuts off all the stuff that drives for you. In fact, given that its the 2012 model, and that's when the new Viper should come out, I figure that might be how Ford will get around it.
    Member 104 of the SWC forums . . . but it's good to be back.

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  5. #5
    Still not wowed by anything here.

    I did like watching how the Evo handled the snow. I also was quite entertained by the results of the drift competition, though I would have liked to see a little more complicated drifting from it. I was in a dark room with nothing to do but watch the television and still managed to zone out during the Aston Martin segment.

    I just watched the first two episodes of the British Top Gear's current format. I managed to start my Top Gear experience some years back with May's audition in his Bentley. I'm not hugely entertained by the American presenters (though Foust certainly can drive), but they're all preferable, in my opinion of course, to the guy James May replaced on the British version (don't care to look up his name).
    Member 104 of the SWC forums . . . but it's good to be back.

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  6. #6
    Jason Dawe. And yeah, he didn't fit very well with Clarkson and Hammond, although Rutledge Wood kind of reminds me of him.

    This episode seemed a little better, at the very least the camera work during the Aston review was far superior than any of the work in the first episode. The actual review was slightly better than the Viper's review, but it's still some pretty meak writing.

    The dog's contribution to the set was pretty funny, probably the best part of the episode. Hopefully it's not an omen for the entire season, though.
    "Hokey packaging and ancient gimmicks are no match for good detail on your figure, kid."
    "I am a Klingot from Oklahoma in human boy form."
    "We came, we saw, we conquered... We, woke up!"

  7. #7
    The camerawork IMO still feels lazy and basic-cable quality, although the editing is a little tighter trying to hide that. That is the second-biggest problem with the show. Watching the cars go around the track even with their Stig is so boring thanks to their crappy camerawork. Also, what the hell is with the ugly track they use? It's so sun-bleached from being a disused tarmac in the Mojave that it's horribly pitted and lumpy and bland, then they shoot it in the boringest of manners.

    The first is that the writing is terrible and a bad fit to its boring hosts. They don't feel like they give 2 squirts about the larger view on cars. You watch Top Gear UK and they love supercars but they have so much experience that they can comfortably comment on any bad spots on a supercar and a second later compare it to a sub-$20k sport "saloon" that they're enthusiastic about. That's a combination of the hosts' natural affinity for ALL things automobile coupled with solid writing. It's totally lacking from TGUSA. There's no color, there's no passion for leisure driving, there's no interest in regular cars, and there's nobody presenting the material that's comfortable with the ideas. It ends up feeling like a car show you'd see on the Speed channel or Spike, this second episode dolls it up with cuter challenges but ultimately it's the same problems as the first episode.

    I also zoned out a bit during the Aston Martin segment, they just went on and on without anything colorful or interesting to say or do. It was just "here's us going fast", and then a race where they proved that $60k extra can buy you a car that BARELY wins a race. "It feels like it's not powerful enough" and then, despite the V8 getting a slightly late start, it kept up with the V12 for 3/4s of the run! That was stupid to say it's not powerful enough and then have a race showing the opposite.

    The blind guy doing the drift challenge (that had no drifting, btw, way to go TGUSA) felt too scripted, too cheap, and yet probably wasn't. They needed a different way to express what was going on I think, and something with less irresponsibility than having camera guys and the dog right next to the action. And Adam Ferrara blowing his burnout was pathetic, who knew he'd be the James May of the group?
    Darth Vader is becoming the Mickey Mouse of Star Wars.

    Kylo Ren - came from Space Brooklyn, although he moved to Space Williamsburg before it was trendy.

    The use of a lightsaber does not make one a Jedi, it is the ability to not use it.

  8. #8
    I'm curious--since ratings are a significant factor--if the reason for so much focus on supercars isn't just based on an attempt to make everything "awesome" right out of the gate. They may be more interested in doing "boring" cars after they get a little more established.

    I'm looking forward to seeing what they do with the moonshine run. That's going to be a very unique, very American challenge that could be a lot of fun and really show an original flare that--done right--should set the tone as a credit to its predecessor. I've also read somewhere the show will focus a little more on modifying cars eventually, though we haven't seen much of that yet.

    I'd really like to see the hosts gel. If the show continues past the first season, I'd not be at all surprised to see at least one of the hosts leave. I think these guys--for one thing--try to be too cool. The UK hosts aren't cool. They're silly, and they don't care if they come off as silly. They let the cars be cool, and they're just there to big kids with cool toys. I also wish US Top Gear would do more with their Stig. UK Stig is a brilliant invention, just pure genious, who despite having no face and no voice, just exudes character. If they're going to do so little with US Stig, they should have just had Foust run the laps.
    Member 104 of the SWC forums . . . but it's good to be back.

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  9. #9
    I really get the impression they're trying to answer some of the problems the show has.

    This most recent episode had parts that seemed pointedly aimed at increasing the interplay between the hosts. The big star in a small car segment seemed a little more interesting. Foust seemed quite unimpressed with the Mustang. I am a little surprised the Stig took nothing around the track.

    The moonshine challenge was somewhat enjoyable, though not as much as I'd hoped. I got a couple of laughs out of the off road course, mostly a jar of shine hurtling into Foust's front seat and the complete destruction of every bottle in Ferrara's trunk. Some very small part of me found a very slight bit of amusement in the notion of Wood trying to dump the moonshine, though I'm not sure why Officer Stig drove a lap around the track (just to milk for time?). I would have preferred Foust had some kind of competition in that part of the challenge.
    Member 104 of the SWC forums . . . but it's good to be back.

    Good traders: DarkJedi5, jediguy, Jedi_Master_Guyute, jedimastergeorge06

  10. #10
    [FONT=Courier New]I am a HUGE fan of the British Top Gear. I discovered it over the summer and my wife is hooked, too. We have seen most of the ones that BBCA has rerun since August and just watch the Bolivia Special last night. AMAZING stuff.[/FONT]
    [FONT=Courier New][/FONT]
    [FONT=Courier New]Having said that, I was excited to see that they (BBC and the Top Gear guys) were going to export the brand to the US and that it would be on History which (IMO) gives it a little bit of credibility as opposed to say... NBC? [/FONT]
    [FONT=Courier New][/FONT]
    [FONT=Courier New]I think the biggest issue for the new show from my perspective is the chemistry. That's the reason we fell in love with the British TG! It's not the cars (for me at least), but the films, the races, and the challenges.[/FONT]
    [FONT=Courier New][/FONT]
    [FONT=Courier New]We're 3 episodes in to new show and it IS getting better. The moonshine challenge was pretty good compared to the previous two episodes.[/FONT]
    [FONT=Courier New][/FONT]
    [FONT=Courier New]I think as the show goes on, the hosts will bond, but if they drop one of them, my money is Ruttlege (sorry buddy, you're funny, but you're not fitting in...). I think a good replacement would be Adam Carolla who was supposed to be on the show in the first place and tested well with people who saw the pilot. I think his crusty demeanor and dry sense of humor would work well for us who are Clarkson fans.[/FONT]
    [FONT=Courier New]"First of all, never bad mouth synergy..."[/FONT]


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