Thursday, July 21, 2011

Where The Image Breaks Down

I've been a fan of the BBC show Top Gear for a while, and, of course, the question is "Do I like this show because it's British, or because it's funny, or because it has cars?" And the answer clearly isn't the third, because I have the Speed Channel and don't watch it that often. I suppose the dream of getting a junkyard special and building it up to hot-rod status with welding and cutting and all sorts of chrome-plated parts is different than getting a factory-perfect supercar and driving the wheels off it.

BBC America shows this show, and clearly this is one of the top shows on the network, so someone noticed that America has an appetite for fast cars that Britain (!) was there to feed. This was clearly a problem, and the History Channel came out with Top Gear US. I saw the episodes as they broadcast last year, and it was fun, but clearly this was a show that was feeling itself out.

The Speed Channel, appropriately enough, has come up with the Car Show, which I am watching right now. I think they take more from The Best Damn Sports Show Period (although more in the set design, which is more standard talk show and less folks hanging around a warehouse somewhere, which you might think of as a bit of a win. Plus, of course, John Salley. But I'm thinking that the mix is closer to the Top Gear UK formula, which is, of course, 1) stereotypical middle age blowhard who likes guy stuff and sarcasm who is the main focus of the show [Jeremy Clarkson (UK), Adam Carolla (US)], 2) car pedant who can give the boring details for those who like them, but can be ridiculed for doing so for those who don't like them [James May (UK), Dan Neil (US)], a very enthusiastic car fan [Richard Hammond (UK), Dan Farah (US)], 4) who don't necessarily like each other. I don't think The Car Show doesn't really have #4, but I've shown that they have folks that clearly fit slots 1-3. I think that Adam is clearly joking, while Jeremy is able to pretend to be earnest about his opinions and bits. But looking at Top Gear US, you have Adam Ferrara as the crank, but he's one among equals and not the leader, and Tanner Foust and Rutledge Wood have mis-matched chunks of Richard Hammond and James May and the Stig mixed between them. The points where Hammond gets into a race car and doesn't really know what to do with them are some of the more interesting parts.

And there's still the part of me that remembers The Man Show and thinks that Adam Carolla needs to get more imagination with show names, but between that and Best Damn, I think they were more prepared to hit the ground running than Top Gear US.

So, I like Car Show so far, but I'm waiting for the other one to show up on the History Channel again.


Furtheron said...

that latest series currently airing here in the UK is back to being better - I thought it had become too much a non-car show but this year some good reviews etc. so it is back on Top Form

BTW you don't get British sarcasm - they are the best of pals - honestly that level of abuse is common amongst mates :-)

Dave Jacoby said...

It can't be too much of a car show. "Take a car and [do something horrible nobody should do to a car] and run it through these real-world-but-still-preposterous tests" is not a real car thing. "Let's race [a not-a-car] and [a supercar]" is closer, but really, that's to push the three until they're stressed into doing something funny. If it was just cars, well, how many times can you watch Stig wrestle an engine on wheels around a figure-eight until you're bored silly?

And I have three boys. The concept of three people who love each other saying the nastiest things they can to each other is not foreign to me. But if they showed any remorse or even lack of cheer over leaving the other in Mosul or hitting their favored things with a miscustomized lorry or insulting each other to their face ("Captain Slow"?) -- which are thing Americans would certainly do to each other but I don't think American television would show that.