Monday, November 22, 2010

Stuck In Second Gear

Watched the American version of Top Gear last night, and was underwhelmed. So far underwhelmed that I couldn't even see whelmed from where I was seated. I love Top Gear, even though I'm not a gear head, and I think that's part of the success of proper Top Gear, that it appeals to a wide variety of people. You don't have to care that much about cars to enjoy it. In fact, you don't really need to care at all. It's literate and delightfully loopy and often hilarious in an OMG kind of way.

The not-proper Top Gear looks a lot like the proper Top Gear -- the theme song, the dewy, artistic intros of cars displayed across gorgeous landscapes, the Stig -- but it's just not right. It's a facsimile that somehow misses the je ne se quois of the original. It was like frat boys broke into the Top Gear set and did a poor imitation of a show they'd had on in the background while they were busy playing beer pong. They have a glancing familiarity with it, but weren't really paying any attention.  "Put a star in our reasonably-priced car" has been changed to "Big Star, Small Car." Just, no.

It would probably be knee-jerk to say that not-proper Top Gear has been dumbed down for an American audience, but it feels right. I don't think I cracked a smile once. It's like fizzy drink that been left open and gone flat while you were off running errands.

The core of proper Top Gear is the trio of hosts: Clarkson, May, Hammond, and their goofy chemistry  make the show work. In not-proper Top Gear, they've been replace by Adam Ferrara, Rutledge Wood, and Tanner Foust. I will say upfront that I had no idea who any of these people were, and I pride myself on knowing stuff.

I've read on the Interwebs that Adam Ferrara is funny, so I'll take the Interwebs' word for it. Maybe he used up all his funny somewhere else? Rutledge Wood struck me as a perfect counterman for Radio Shack (Radio Shack: Smell the Desperation). He seems like the guy who hovers around the Wal-Mart toy section late at night in his flannel shirt and off-brand engineering boots waiting to be the first one there when they unpack the new stock of Star Wars figures. I then read today that he writes "comic" reports on NASCAR. Well, that explains it. It's my snooty, elitist classism on full display, but there is NO POINT to NASCAR, let alone a "comic" one. Tanner Foust seems to be some kind of stunt driver. I found him the least grating, maybe because he has the personality of a tea cozy.

Gentlemen, I have seen Clarkson, May, and Hammond, and you are no Clarkson, May, and Hammond.  According to the New York Times review of the show "When you hire three stooges, however, you don't always get Larry, Moe and Curly. Sometimes you get three Shemps. Or two Shemps and a Joe Besser." Ahem.

My point is, why does not-proper Top Gear exist at all? Why do people insist on taking something that works rather spectacularly and reimagining it as something that lays there like yesterday's fish?  There is nothing wrong with proper Top Gear, and even my non-anglophile, somewhat-gearhead S/O finds proper Top Gear perfectly delightful. Top Gear USA is not the worst thing I ever saw, but for dog's sake, if you want Top Gear, just watch the original.

No comments:

Post a Comment