Where Do You Get an American Version of Jeremy Clarkson?

The rumor that “Top Gear” is currently being adapted for American television persists

By Brendan Moore

04.08.2008

The rumor that the United States broadcasting network NBC is preparing to show an American version of “Top Gear”, the British series about cars, just will not die. The fall schedule of NBC was announced last Wednesday, and there was nothing on there about an adaptation of “Top Gear”, but fans of the BBC series are still wary.

And with good reason.

Jay Leno, host of “The Tonight Show” and well-known car fanatic, says he was approached by NBC to host the show. He stated that he turned them down – as a fan of the British show, he doesn’t think it can be successfully duplicated. He said as much in a recent editorial column in The Sunday Times of London, writing, “I like the show just the way it is. “Jeremy and the guys are extremely talented, so maybe it would be an idea to do a show similar to ‘Top Gear’ but not with the same name, because I think it would be impossible to re-create or live up to the standards of the British show.”

It is also accepted as fact (but not confirmed by anyone) that Jerry Seinfield, comedian and car nut, was also approached by NBC regarding the hosting duties. There is other speculation that NBC wanted Leno and Seinfield to do the show together. The current rumor is that Adam Carolla, a comedian/radio host/auto aficionado and Dan Neil, the Pulitzer Prize-winning auto journalist from the Los Angeles Times have been signed to do the show.

All of this is causing considerable consternation among the “Top Gear” faithful. The possibility that NBC will take their beloved show and churn out some ugly, mutated bastardized version that will have none of the charm, eccentricity, humor and knowledge of the original is alarming to the show’s fans.

To devotees of “Top Gear”, there are two reasons for the show’s cult-like following.

The first reason is the group of men that host the show, starting with the unique, irascible and obstreperous Jeremy Clarkson. The team is rounded out with the steady if unspectacular James May and the irrepressible Richard Hammond. These guys are great, incredibly knowledgeable, and of course, so British in the way they go about things.

The second reason is that the show is broadcast on the BBC, so the hosts feel absolutely no reluctance to savage any car or manufacturer. The BBC is a public television network, doesn’t need advertising, and so the “Top Gear” host are free to say whatever they want about the cars, which is exactly what they do. They’re not always correct (especially Clarkson) but they are entertaining.

How is this going to work on American televison?

Well, I don’t know, but if I were a betting man, I‘d be willing to bet that we’re going to find out soon enough. I just don’t think NBC is going to be able to resist doing a version of “Top Gear”. I just don’t see how an adaptation can work, but I’m willing to give it a chance. But it seems like an awfully long shot.

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Want to see “Top Gear”? If you get BBC America in your cable package, you can watch it. Just check the listings. Or you can find just about every show on YouTube.

Author: Brendan Moore

Brendan Moore is a Principal Consultant with Cedar Point Consulting , a management consulting practice based in the Washington, DC area. He also manages Autosavant Consulting, a separate practice within Cedar Point Consulting. where he advises businesses connected to the auto industry. Cedar Point Consulting can be found at http://www.cedarpointconsulting.com.

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4 Comments

  1. I’m not a fan of Jay Leno, but he did nail it exactly when talking about Top Gear. The prospects of being able to catch the lightning in a bottle that is the British show are very slim.

  2. I can’t think of anyone better than Dan Neil to head the show, and yet I worry that hosting American Top Gear would bring him down a few pegs.

    His charisma is more than abundant on paper, but if you ever see his videos… it’s just not 100% there in person. And for those who haven’t read him, that might be all they see.

    I almost wonder if he’d be better served to write scripts for the show, like Richard Porter (of Sniff Petrol fame) does for Top Gear.

  3. You could in the U.S. if the advertising for the show came from non-automotive companies. That would work. In terms of getting another Clarkson, that’s not going to happen anywhere; the U.S., the U.K., or any other country. I don’t think he’s the jewel that many consider him to be, but that does not alter the fact that he is a unique TV personality.

  4. No automotive advertising? During prime-time TV?

    Good luck with that! 🙂

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