“Top Gear” And The Male Mind

By , November 22, 2010 8:01 pm

I mentally braced myself last night as I began watching the premiere of the U.S. version of “Top Gear.” Not only is the original UK version is one of my favorite shows on television, but it’s one of the most-watched shows on the planet with an estimated 350 million viewers. So, there’s a high bar for the American version to reach.

“Top Gear” is described as “a car show,” but it’s much more than that. It’s about travel, competition, ingenuity, all wrapped in a lot of wit and humor. There’s a lot of crashing and blowing stuff up, too.

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - AUGUST 06: Hosts Tanner Foust, Rutledge Wood and Adam Ferrara speak during the 'Top Gear' panel during the 'Top Gear' panel during the A&E Networks portion of the 2010 Summer TCA pres tour held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on August 6, 2010 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

What most intrigued me about the new show is when I heard “Top Gear” USA co-host Adam Ferrara say it’s “a glimpse into the male mind.” Sure, this could be a good way to brand “Top Gear” in the U.S. It gets framed as a man’s show. A place where “us guys” can be Men. (Cue the grunting and chest-pounding.) But the show in the UK doesn’t try to be hyper-masculine like some other shows geared toward men in the U.S. (“Ice Road Truckers,” “Deadliest Catch”). Women make up 40% of Top Gear’s audience in Britain. Ferrara’s statement could be a nod toward the often self-deprecating sense of humor found on the show. Perhaps not coincidentally, Andy Wilman, the executive producer of “Top Gear” in the UK told “60 Minutes” something similar about the show: “It’s a journey into the male mind, which, I believe, is a really, potentially, very funny place. ‘Cause, let’s face it, nothing happens there.”

“Top Gear” USA wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, but it was great either. There needs to be more personality from and better interaction between hosts Ferrara, Rutledge Wood and Tanner Foust. They didn’t seem comfortable with each other yet. The interview with Buzz Aldrin in the “Big Star, Small Car” segment was as horrible as that segment’s name. They should also have more fun with The Stig, the show’s racing driver, like they do in the UK, and include more basic info on the cars being profiled (0-60, horsepower, engine size, etc.). The Lamborghini segment at the end, though, captured a lot of what makes Top Gear great: cars, competition, good cinematography, story-telling and camaraderie between the hosts.

As far as insight into what goes on in the male mind, I’m going to give the show time. Top Gear in Britain is more than cars or the personalities of its hosts Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May. It’s their knowledge of cars, the world in which they travel and their way of explaining their adventures to the audience in a smart, funny and colorful way. If “Top Gear” USA adds some American-flavored irony and wit to the speed, competition and explosions, they’d have a show worthy of it’s British brother and paint a better picture of what’s going in the American male mind.

Did you see the U.S. version of “Top Gear?” What do you think?

One Response to ““Top Gear” And The Male Mind”

  1. Jazz Guns Apple Pie » “Top Gear” And The Male Mind…

    Here at World Spinner we are debating the same thing……

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