Last Sunday, BBC America brought us Top Gear America, the fourth version of Top Gear to hit U.S. airwaves.
Top Gear America is a production of BBC Worldwide, which previously produced Top Gear USA for History. But TGUS was cancelled last year, enabling BBC Worldwide to bring the franchise to its own network and in its own mold with TGA. And that shows when you watch Sunday’s premiere episode, “Made in America.”
Top Gear America returns to the original Top Gear recipe. Everything that was eventually taken out of Top Gear USA is back here: the studio introductions, the celebrity hot lap, and the supercar test segments (all filmed at SPEEDVEGAS in Las Vegas).
The test portion was ably handled by former Fifth Gear presenter Tom “Wookie” Ford (whom BBC America viewers will remember from game show Mud, Sweat and Gears).
Joining Ford on Top Gear America are actor William Fichtner (Prison Break) and NHRA champion Antron Brown, and while they’re individually giving their best efforts, as a team they need a lot more laps around the track. Ford even jibes at this in the introduction, quipping about their being put together in part due to “budgetary restrictions.”“Made in America” sees the hosts driving 212 miles back to the U.S. in buggies, and the most amusing part is a show that’s emphasizing being for an American audience starting its first film in Mexico. And perhaps it’s another result of this being the first episode, but the banter that carries these films almost feels scripted at points.
That’s not to say that Top Gear America is a lemon. Audiences were similarly hard on Top Gear USA when it premiered, and the hosts gelled together and the show evolved, and it became a great ride in its own right.
The same thing could happen here, and TGA deserves a chance to find its lane. There may very well be a market for it, too, especially in the slower summer TV season. If you’ve grown tired of the antics of The Grand Tour and want to watch a more “traditional” car show with actual tests and hot laps, TGA might be the show for you.