Don’t Call It a Remake! Why Top Gear America Stands on Its Own
Only we have what it takes to create a show that lives up to the Top Gear name.
MotorTrend is the number one automotive media destination in the world for a reason: We know what we're doing. You already know that, though. You've trusted us and other brands in the MotorTrend family—such as HOT ROD, Four Wheeler, and Roadkill—for more than 70 years. You've also trusted Dax Shepard, Rob Corddry, and Jethro Bovingdon to thoroughly entertain you in some way for many years. Even during the horrible year that was 2020 (we shudder at our keyboard), did we let you down? Then it's time to trust us one more time. If you like cars (even if you don't), you must watch Top Gear America.
We'll address all the naysaying right away: "It's just another American remake of a British classic." "The formula is exactly the same as other shows." "It's not the Big Three." Ouch, that hurts. But we were expecting that, and we got you covered.
Getting the Top Gear America Hosts Just Right
What the BBC did right with the Jeremy Clarkson/Andy Wilman-produced Top Gear reboot was allow the show's hosts to be themselves and trust the car people to know what they were doing. Top Gear has existed in some form or another on BBC airwaves since April 22, 1977, when it was only aired on BBC Midlands (regional programming), and host Angela Rippon reported on local driving conditions.
Where did the magic come from? The Big Three: Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May. It was the buckets of rapport and comedy coming from true dedication to the craft and honest friendship that allowed BBC's Top Gear to transcend mere automotive media. Let's face it, we live and die by this stuff at MotorTrend, but we know cars aren't everyone's thing.
The trio made cars accessible and enjoyable to everyone. And look what happened when those three left the British car show. Since the end of the Clarkson/Wilman era, the BBC's Top Gear has reverted to more of a rotating cast of characters, similar to the older British version, instead of three dedicated hosts.
That's where MotorTrend is doing it right. Dax Shepard, Rob Corddry, and Jethro Bovingdon are all dyed-in-the-wool car people, and they're not afraid to give their honest opinions about the automotive world. And it just so happens they're well-known and respected in their various forms of entertainment media.
Jethro Bovingdon is an automotive journalist in Great Britain and the United States. He's also a competent driver—competent enough to set a track record at possibly the most demanding racetrack in the world: the Nürburgring. He doesn't mess around.
Dax Shepard is Detroit born and bred. If it burns a hydrocarbon and has wheels, he wants to drive it as fast as it'll go. Then he'll make it faster.
Rob Corddry just plain loves all cars and thinks you should, too. He doesn't drive as well or know as much technical jargon as the other two, but this Emmy-winning actor and writer is more than willing to try and keep up.
We've seen Dax, Rob, and Jethro together. They aren't Jeremy, Richard, and James. But that's a very good thing. There wasn't an intention to duplicate what was already done—it's one of those all-fingerprints-are-different situations. And the print that Dax, Rob, and Jethro make together is fun to watch. There is plenty of eccentricity and gobs of macho-tough-guy-all-in-good-fun posturing, not to mention just the right amount of automotive fashion sense.
Following the Formula—or Not
We've seen it in all forms of media: A sure-fire formula to adequately create a product people will consume in droves that no one really cares about or remembers when it's gone. In automotive media, it usually comes in the form of artificial drama. The shop manager forgot to order the part, now it won't get there on time and the client is a—choose your own vocab—and if we don't finish the car on time they won't pay and then we'll lose the shop! Stuff like that is why you like to come to MotorTrend to watch our shows.
Roadkill was created specifically with the intention of doing none of that. Mike Brewer doesn't always come out on top in Wheeler Dealers. Even the BBC's Top Gear didn't follow a formula, but they did create one that many copycats have tried to duplicate.
The trouble with automotive media is there are only so many things to do with a car. So, yes, Top Gear America will follow some formulaic guidelines in that respect. But why do you watch car-themed programming if not to see the shiniest new hypercars pushed to their limits? Or to hear a loving personal anecdote and learn the history of a certain model or type of racing? Or even just to see gratuitous vehicular hooning and carnage? Would Top Gear America be committing the sin of "sticking to the formula" if it did that? And did it with the level of quality and dedication you've come to expect from MotorTrend?
Top Gear America is going to do stuff with cars. It's a car show. You might see other similar stuff on other car shows, maybe even with the same cars—TV shows don't buy the million-dollar hypercars it tests. But we'll make you a promise here and now: Dax, Rob, and Jethro will never do anything on Top Gear America just because another car show did it first—unless it puts the hosts in a dangerous or uncomfortable situation that is hilarious and entertaining to watch. And we can promise on behalf of the hosts that they will only be who they are and nothing they aren't. Really, though, try to keep Dax below 80 decibels and Rob from telling jokes or Jethro from racing everything, everywhere.
Don't Call Top Gear America a Remake!
It's rude and we don't appreciate it. To paraphrase Shakespeare: Roses are roses, no matter what you call them, and they'll always be pretty and smell nice. And if you want to get down to it, the BBC's "original" 2002 Top Gear was a remake. Jeremy Clarkson and Andy Wilman (producers and creators) were both hosts on the original format of the show. And we can think of a few American remakes—more like tributes inspired by the original—that are ubiquitous and beloved in American culture today. Michael Scott, anyone?
What we have here with Top Gear America is a brand-new rose. You've seen roses before, sure, and they always smell nice. But you haven't seen this rose yet, and from your side of the fence, you can't see just how pretty it is or smell the wonderful perfume. These are some blue-ribbon-at-the-fair, home-gardening-magazine-cover roses. So hop on over to our side of the fence, log in to the MotorTrend App—the only place to watch Top Gear America—and smell these proverbial roses we grew, just for you, during a global pandemic.
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Photos courtesy of Discovery.