Review: Top Gear America

Before my review of Top Gear America even begins, I should say that I am a fan of the British version.  (If you are not, just watch episode 14-6 of the UK version, the trip through South America.  It’s probably one of the best things ever put on TV.)  I have done my best to have this review be not a comparison, but a review only of Top Gear America. The first season is complete and I will say that it got off to a rocky start.  In fact the first episode was by far the worst episode.  The piece with the car trying to avoid a helicopter was beyond stupid.  They are running / hiding from a helicopter and they stopped on a bridge.  Doesn’t it seem like the first rule of hiding from a helicopter would be; do not stop on a bridge?  After that though, the show began to find a groove, so here is my review.

The good

  • As the season went on, the show improved greatly.  The episode where they bought cars to run moonshine was brilliant and great fun.  Early in the season the banter between the hosts didn’t work because we didn’t know them, but by mid season it was enjoyable.  There was a segment early on that established the hosts much better where Tanner had to teach a blind man to drift.  It improved from that point on
  • When they do the “star in a reasonably priced car,” I know who all the stars are. (I definitely can’t say that for the British version)

The Meh

  • The reviews of super cars should probably be the heart of the show but they often feel half-baked.  It is almost as if they are an afterthought.  A great example of a half-done review is the one for the Porsche Panamera.  The whole reason for reviewing the car was that it is a 4 door supercar.  So what is the first thought a person would have when reviewing it?  Put some people, or a car seat, or a dog, or something in the back seat.  Maybe try getting some golf clubs in the trunk.  (I know I said I wasn’t comparing, but the UK version used it to transport a wedding party)  They barely even showed the back seat.  Certainly they never used it for any actual purpose.
  • Why copy the Stig?  It’s not the British version after all.  So why not just use Jeff Gordon or Jimmy Johnson, or Danica Patrick? They are famous enough to have credit as a driver and would add some star power to the show.  As it is, I feel no mystery whatsoever about the stig.  In fact I don't even care who he is.

The bad

  • Whenever the show is back at the studio/hangar it feels like an infomercial.  The editing is choppy and the laughter and applause seems forced or fake.
  • That first taped piece (the helicopter) was so terrible I almost didn’t watch the second episode
  • On a show called Top Gear America it is unforgivable to use a foreign car for the star in a reasonably priced car segments.  Unforgivable.  Has a Ford Fiesta just got too much power for the stars?

My final verdict

I actually really enjoy the show, I just want it to improve on its shortcomings.  I’d give it a B