If I had a top 10 list of television shows from the past decade, Top Gear would be somewhere near the top. (If you haven't experienced the brilliance of TG, please do yourself a favor and seek it out.) It has essentially become my favorite show over the past 3 years. Even 4 years ago, I laughed at my roommate for downloading it. Now, Sundays in-season, I pace around my room, waiting for the download to become available (a note on this. Top Gear is, by most accounts, the "most illegally downloaded show on the planet." Normally, I tend to frown on illegal downloads. Artists should be paid for their endeavors, be it through the advertising model or through pay-for-play model. Top Gear is, currently, my only exception. [should I download any other show, I typically Netflix the subsequent DVD release to make up for it.] By my calculation, there is no legal way to obtain the original broadcast version in America. The BBC America version is edited for length and content, which is wholly unacceptable. Should the ability to pay for the original broadcast version of Top Gear become available, I will make amends with my conscience. However, considering the demand for the pirated downloads of the show, shouldn't this be an option?).
It has become an obsession, to be honest. The show offers a format that speaks to me. While the cast may "cock-about" and many bits are contrived, there is a base of honesty with the presentation. These guys are plausible allies, doing outrageous things, and sharing their love with the world. To have a show with a world-wide viewer base of 350 million people, about cars no less, and produce this quality without coming off as forced, is a wondrous achievement.
I love the original version so much that I approach the news of an American version (after 2 previous failed attempts) of the show on the History Channel with trepidation. Already, there is much consternation amongst the American TG faithful over what this could mean for the brand. This writer for instance pans the concept, opining that it may lose much of the base audience that the producers are trying to tap. Initially, I agreed with this sentiment. I mean who the hell are these guys:
(That thing on the right, apparently named "Rutledge," looks like a flaming version of my former roommate Jake. From: Warming Glow)
Because of the unique nature of the original cast (read: the towering pile of awesome that is Jeremy Clarkson), I figured it would be hard to replicate the show successfully (Especially considering the way other British TV imports have been bastardized when crossing the Atlantic). Add to that my general disgust at the NASCAR culture, and the American version gave me a case of the facepalms.
I was relieved, however, to read this article. It seems that the producers realize that there is no replacing Clarkson, and that the show is successful around the world without the help of localization. Assuming they're not kidding about the requisite budget and the lack of a corporate master (which I highly doubt; there's always corporate interests in America. Even if the show doesn't have a primary car sponsor, the big 3 do advertise on the History Channel, and would undoubtedly pull ads if the show begins panning their new models with any level of tenacity), the show could avoid sucking. To that end, my jingoistic nature takes over, and I begin agreeing with this guys conclusion. I hope it's good, for the brands sake in this country; just please don't blather about NASCAR constantly. At the very least, I wont have to convert pounds to dollars in my head anymore.