Last night was the long-awaited premiere episode of the Stateside take on one of the most revered names in automotive entertainment: Top Gear. Yes, it is a complete and total rip-off of the UK version. It is supposed to be. As a student with internet access, I have blown hours upon hours watching clips from the U.K. version of Top Gear. The big question is, does the American version do a better job than the lackluster Australian version at capturing the thrills and excitement of driving?
Well, I couldn't stand one episode of the Australian version, so right away that comparison goes out the window.
How about this: do we now have a version of Top Gear that we can call our own?
Yes, I think so. Here is why:
Take a look at how they started off the show with the Dodge Viper. Perfect move. Take a name that every American knows, and use fancy cinematography and skilled driving to make the car look as star-spangled bad-ass as possible. While watching, I found myself drooling over a car that any other day I would completely ignore in favor of something Japanese or German. I fell back in love with an old childhood friend.
I don't think Foust's commentary really helped out much with that. He is an excellent contribution to the team of hosts. They need an established professional driver who can actually criticize the car and not just be blown away by straight-line speed. However, in this first episode he doesn't quite add color to the experience in the way that Clarkson normally would. Oh, and of course that Viper vs. Cobra challenge was staged. A bit disappointing really, but also fun to watch when you aren't feeling overly cynical.
I was also extremely happy to see the Viper ACR lap their own version of the test track. That lap time will stand at the top for a decent amount of time. The test track is much different from the U.K. version, but their directing choices left the laps feeling a bit bland.
Speaking of bland, that Buzz Aldrin interview was extremely disappointing. All they did essentially was list off a few cars he had, let him comment a teeny bit, then send him off. I feel like Buzz had many more interesting things to say that hit the cutting room floor to save time.
Now we get to the meat of the program, and one of the films used to promote the series: the Lamborghini running of the bulls. Once again, brilliant cinematography compliments the look and sound of these cars, but the hosts are still teething. At one point Foust tries to make some kind of comment about a sushi chef that just... wasn't funny... It was awkward.
So, we now have our own version of Top Gear. The three hosts appear to have what it takes, but just need to get a bit more comfortable. Hopefully episode two brings a bit more American celebration to the table. We will find out next Sunday.