Top Gear America Season 1 review

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Good first season debut, episodes were miles better than the competition - Pinks and Pimp My Ride anyone? But still not as good as the UK version and only half as entertaining.

For the hosts, it's hard to top Jeremy, Richard, and James. So it's surprising that they had to find three people with the same sort of personalities. Tanner and Rutledge seemed to be enjoying themselves throughout the series. Their on-screen presence improved with each episode. Adam, on the other hand, stood out like a dent on the hood - in the right conditions you don't notice it, but otherwise it will piss you off. He seemed like he was completely reading the script, and the humor came off as rather annoying.

For the stunts and stories, you might have thought they were quite good had you not seen any of Top Gear UK. It was far different than the usual driving in circles and straight lines, or excessive modifications. There was the stylish cinematography and the interesting sounding races and challenges. There was the highlight trip through the Alaskan wilderness in American trucks, and the race to beautiful Key West in a car, a seaplane, and a speedboat. They were entertaining to watch.

But if you already had, then right away you'll notice they were mostly derived from the original, such as the race between a Mitsubishi Evolution and skiers down the mountain. Or the bikes vs a Honda CR-Z to the other side of town. Or a Dodge Viper outrunning an attack helicopter. I suppose it's not a bad thing, but it does take away some of the magic if you're a Top Gear fan. The ones that were original downright sucked: the best military car is a Honda Del Sol? Drifting with a blind person?

The Stig wasn't utilized very much other than as the test driver, which is too bad because he/she/it/thing was part of the gags that make UK so entertaining.

I wish they would actually show them 'improving' the cars more. The used car salesmen episode didn't modify them enough. The Alaskan special had them build makeshift campers with their trucks, which was a good start. Except they didn't show them 'surviving' with their idea, so you already forget about it afterward.

Top Gear America also had 15 less minutes of programming, due to commercial breaks. That made the news rather short and pointless, and the interviews with the celebrities forced instead of natural banter. Almost like running through a to-do checklist: check, next. And that's too bad because there have been well-known celebrities on the show who everyone wants to know more about as a regular person.

So there you have it, the Top Gear America debut wasn't very good. I just wished they didn't copy EVERYTHING exactly as is from the Top Gear UK formula - from the number of hosts along with their personalities, down to the show format, and even the races themselves. Cutting out some segments or half-assed reviews or races would have improved the rest - less is more as they say.

This show would be so much better if it embraced the American culture and history. Going across the country to find the American Autobahn. Segments involving classic cars or muscle cars. Making the ugliest American cars better, and then destroying them. Comparisons between SUVs and minivans. Driving on the go with fast food spillage. Tanner Foust vs Ken Block in makeshift rally cars.

This show started off to thrill Top Gear fans from America with their own version, but it ended up being a watered-down copycat. It didn't offend anyone, but didn't do anything particularly well either. The honest criticism, banter, pranks, and antics are part of what makes Top Gear UK not just a typical car show with journalism. It's like choosing between two cars with equal specifications in horsepower, options, and trunk space, but one is fun to drive and the other isn't.

I'm all for good car shows, and I certainly want Top Gear America to succeed. They announced a second season in the making, so here's to hoping it'll be better than the first season!