The “State of Top Gear” Address

Something occurred to me while I was catching up season 25 Top Gear UK season on DVR. The latest iteration of Top Gear is really good! Was it late? Extremely. Was I drunk? Quite. But the episode where Chris, Freddie, and Paddy are confined to a sedan for the entire episode was quite entertaining, with a good mix of humor and information about their cars. Sure, it was more the former than the latter, but that’s how it’s always been. It spurred me to write up a quick “State of Top Gear Address”. Whatever that means, it sounded official.

Top Gear UK

I won’t labor on about the history of Top Gear before sandwich-punching-gate. All good car enthusiasts know the tale of Clarkson, Hammond, and May. I recall watching episode after episode, all downloaded from FinalGear, and thinking “this will go on forever!”. However, like all dynasties and empires, it came to an end. An abrupt, “what what” type of end that I recall hitting me pretty hard at first. However, the boys live on in the afterlife of Amazon, and I’m here to talk about what happened next.

Four years ago I outlandishly claimed that the latest version of the rebooted Chris Evans era Top Gear UK (series 23) was “good“. That was probably counterpoint journalism, in which you say the opposite of what others are saying to get some clicks. At the time, virtually every outlet said it sucked (hard) so I made the claim that it didn’t. I was likely drunk, but if you dig back through the cast, everyone save for Evans, it was quite good. In fact, once they promoted Reid and Harris to side-saddle with LeBlanc for series 24, it got pretty good. And I never agree with Kaluski. But then Joey announced that he was leaving, and when I saw that Harris was staying, I was pleased. I assumed it would be Harris, Reid, and maybe Sabine.

When I saw that two complete unknowns (at least in the U.S. market) were joining him who were not really connected to “motoring”, I was incredibly skeptical.

Image: BB
Image: BBC

Patrick Joseph McGuinness is an English comedian, actor, and TV presenter. Better known as Paddy McGuinness, which sounds like a fake Irish name someone might name a bar in the States, he actually hails from Farnworth, Lancashire in England. In contrast to previous presenters, I’ll admit I need the subtitles they toss up there for him occasionally.

Image: BBC
Image: BBC

Andrew “Freddie” Flintoff is best known as a former international cricketer. The handsome 6’4″ Flintoff is pretty new to TV, having won the Australian version of I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! and acting as co-host for Australian Ninja Warrior. I definitely need subtitles for Freddie, who hails from Preston, Lancashire, England. I can’t tell what the hell he’s saying half the time, it’s like watching the movie Snatch.

Image: BBC
Image: BBC

Chris Harris needs no introduction to the Hooniverse. The well-spoken journalist began with Autocar where he was “cleaning ashtrays” as an entry-level job, which is coincidentally the same job I had when I started here at Hooniverse. While most presenters are good drivers, Harris is next level, having won real racing events in a variety of different cars.

So, all that to say, it’s 2/3 new for the last couple of seasons. And it works. These 3-person car persona series shows are all about chemistry. The level of genuine laughter these three exhibit is fantastic. Combine that with Harris’ exceptional ability to drive while nicely enunciating facts about the car and the usual Top Gear production value, and it’s definitely worth a watch.

Top Gear USA

This one is a bit more complicated, but still important for a few reasons. I have an odd history with Top Gear USA. Randomly, I was in Los Angeles on July 26, 2008 and scored a ticket to the filming of the never-seen NBC pilot with Adam Corolla, Tanner Foust, and Eric Stromer. As I noted in the linked article, Corolla and Foust were known personalities at that time, while Stromer was known as the carpenter on HGTV-type home improvement shows. I won’t retell the story, but it remains one of the coolest car-related things I’ve ever been a part of. I literally stood to Adam’s right, and barely one step back as he introduced the Stig for the first time. I had high hopes for the series, but as it’s been described, NBC execs (I picture the guys from the Seinfeld pitch sessions) canceled it before it aired because the Knight Rider reboot sucked. Seriously?

Quick factoid, in 2005, Discovery Channel made another unseen pilot for an American version of the show featuring actor and IHRA driver Bruno Massel, actor John Jenkinson, and actor John Littlefield as the hosts. I did not know that!

Thankfully, the History Channel picked up the ball and ran with it. A different comedian, also named Adam (Ferrara this time) joined driver-ringer Foust along with Rutledge Wood. Wood was known as a NASCAR announcer (which is why I hadn’t heard of him) and I immediately thought “I really like this guy”. He’s the flannel-wearing everyman who likes weird cars and just seems nice. Turns out, he is. I was at the Toyota Camry launch in Detroit a few years ago and he was standing behind me. Super nice, I have been a bigger fan since.

The History Channel kicked off Top Gear USA on November 21, 2010 and ended up running the series for six seasons ending in 2016. I have spent countless hours (minutes..) posting on social media defending this series. So many enthusiasts never gave it a shot, or they quit after the first season. Once they got out of the studio and focused on the challenge of the week, it was fantastic. The chemistry between Adam, Rut, and Tanner was solid from the beginning and got better as it went. For those who never gave this a shot, go back and take a look. It’s currently airing on the FYI channel.

But wait, there’s more.

Top Gear America

After an occasionally entertaining, but eventually forgettable, 2017 reboot dubbed “Top Gear: America”with hosts Antron Brown, William Fichter, and Tom Ford I’m super excited for the next version! Top Gear America will reboot soon with hosts Jethro Bovingdon, Rob Corddry, and. Dax Shepard.

Bovindgon is a motoring journalist from the U.K., known for contributing to Evo magazine, among others. He is likely the fast/sideways driving ringer. Corddry and Shepard are pretty well known to us in the States as successful comedic actors. Personally, I find both of them quite funny, so this will hopefully be a great addition to the Top Gear world.

So what say you Hooniverse, where do things stand in the world of Top Gear? I think it’s pretty good.

[Disclaimer/Editor’s Note: We didn’t ask Mr. Byrd to write this. And I’ve provided no edits editorially to the article. But I (Jeff Glucker) have to declare that I’ve provided writing/consulting for TG America, both the final season of the Adam, Rut, Tanner show and now again on the Dax, Rob, Jethro show.]

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17 responses to “The “State of Top Gear” Address”

  1. Joel Strickland Avatar

    Will, I know there was reason why I liked you, we both seem to have the same thoughts options on the Top gear series, post the original three moving on.
    When Chris Evans started on the UK version, I was really disappointed with their choice, he had no chemistry with the other hosts. Once he was gone the series was so good, Matt, Chris and Rory had great chemistry on screen and their adventures were so good to watch and Rory own passion pieces were fantastic. The Porsche Lemans car in Japan and the Mustang tribute both great pieces. Matt and Chris were so funny together. When Matt and Rory left I was sad to see them go. When they announced Freddie and Paddy were joining, I was so unsure, but I was proven wrong, that first adventure in India was so good and really cemented their relationship, they have just been getting better and better. The episode with the three Summer holiday convertibles was so good, I could watch the Golf driving range scene again and again. They are on a good thing and I am looking forward to watching the latest series.
    Top gear USA had me hooked from the first episode, i was not a fan of the studio segments but they are easy too fast forward. I think we really knew we were onto something great when they guys went on their first real road trip to Alaska. Once they dropped off the studio part of the show and went into full epiosde adventures, the show really hit its stride. Some of most favourites episodes include the Moonshine run, Retro Mod Muscle cars and the Police car special. I was heartbroken when they stopped the show. It was such a big loss.
    I am very interested to see the new series with Jethro, Dax and Rob. Im a big fan of Rob and Dax so keen to see what they can do… Thanks for writing the piece Will, its something I have wanted to write for a while but you beat me too it.

    1. Zentropy Avatar

      I’m also very interested in the TGA reboot. LOTS of potential, there.

      And yeah, props to Byrd yet again for a solid piece. Dude, you just nail them every time.

      1. William Byrd Avatar

        I’m blushing!

        Seriously though, thanks for commenting so often. It’s always a motivator to see the feedback and comments. One element of Oversteer that I didn’t really like that much, there wasn’t much discussion.

    2. Sjalabais Avatar

      I haven’t really watched TG for 10+ years. Your comment with specific hints at good episodes makes me wander off straight to YouTube…

    3. William Byrd Avatar

      Thank you sir! I actually don’t know, did Rory leave or was he released when LeBlanc left? He was definitely passionate, enjoyed his stuff. Freddie and Paddy are both clearly learning their way, but Harris is so polished in his segments that I don’t really even notice. Especially since the three of them together are legitimately enjoyable to watch.

      And yeah I really miss the original TGUSA crew, I still follow them all on Twitter and they regularly make fun of each other. It would be good to see them back on a show together.

  2. crank_case Avatar

    Jethro Bovington is great. Actually more interested in seeing the Top Gear America reboot than its British counterpart which I haven’t bothered really catching up with since they got rid of LeBlanc and Rory Reid. I think Reid was great and kinda lost faith in the show upticking again when got rid of a seasoned presenter with a tech show presenting background, yet thought hiring some guy who plays Harry Potter Baseball was a good idea.

    1. Maymar Avatar

      While I have no strong feelings on cricket, upvoted for “Harry Potter Baseball.”

    2. dr zero Avatar
      dr zero

      As mentioned in William’s piece, Freddie managed to win an Australian reality TV show voted on by the public, and Australians really hate English (Pommie) cricketers. He does seem to have something as a presenter, above his (grudgingly admitted) decent skills as a cricketer and mediocre skills as a boxer.

      1. crank_case Avatar

        Maybe, and maybe I ought to give him a chances, but Rory is a proper seasoned pro by comparison, in an era when cars are more techy than ever. This is motoring medias top job in many ways, and as a replacement choice seems quite odd and underqualified really. Don’t confuse charisma with actual chops.

      2. William Byrd Avatar

        Yeah, interesting that he’s been in so much Aussie stuff. Can they understand him? haha

    3. William Byrd Avatar

      lol, also upvote for “Harry Potter Baseball”.

      Give it a shot, the new crew is pretty great. I was as skeptical as anyone initially.

    4. Jeff Glucker Avatar
      Jeff Glucker

      Rory Reid in Japan remains one of my favorite Top Gear segments.

  3. Zentropy Avatar

    “…it’s like watching the movie Snatch…”

    I’m now cleaning the keyboard where I spewed drink all over it. That literally made me laugh out loud, because it describes how I felt when I first watched the new guys on Top Gear. I really appreciated the subtitles.

    1. William Byrd Avatar

      Agreed, and I grew up watching Brit TV shows. There is definitely something to that Lancashire accent that befuddles me.

  4. outback_ute Avatar

    I’ve seen some of the new UK Top Gear, and look forward to when they don’t force the humour as much no doubt there will be some improvement with familiarity. I don’t think I’ve seen all of season 24 but the later episodes were better.

    I haven’t seen much of TG USA and possibly one episode from the later seasons.

    I can relate to downloading episodes 20 years ago, there was a time you could even get them on youtube between being posted and US office hours starting when they would be taken down. A different world back then.

    1. William Byrd Avatar

      I’ve still probably got those downloads on an external HD somewhere. I remember figuring out how to get them loaded through iTunes on my first iPad for flights. Good memories.

      During the TGUSA NBC Pilot, Andy Wilman said “and I hear that the Final Gear mafia is here, our lawyers are waiting for you outside”. lol

      1. outback_ute Avatar

        If I’ve got them still it is probably on a dead external hdd….