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American Top Gear Coming... From the People Who Brought You American Gladiators

By Widge - posted 01.16.08 @ 2:48 am
Top Gear UK hosts Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May.

The good news is that Top Gear is coming. The bad news is that Top Gear is coming.

Rather than do something sensible and import the series as-is with some re-recorded new material (like that nefarious Derren Brown-type person) but the same hosts, they're going to try and do an American version. Which has been a successful ploy for The Office and... um... hmm. Oh well. Just The Office. Oh sure, there were others, but I think you have to go back to Sanford and Son to find another. And yes, I'm excluding game shows from that snide remark.

Anyway, here's what they have to say for themselves:

"Since its revival over five years ago, the UK show has been a phenomenal success. The bar has been set so high, that replicating it will be the challenge -- one we truly relish," said Paul Telegdy, Executive Vice President Content and Production for BBC Worldwide Americas. "Casting is well underway and we are confident that Americans will fall in love with the attitude and irreverent spirit of 'Top Gear.'"

Americans already have. That's why the guys' ill-fated trip through Alabama went viral and everybody over here talks about it. But it's those guys in the picture that really make it work.

When we were hoping the strike would force the networks to import some quality TV from Britain, this isn't exactly what we had in mind. Anyway, full press release after the break. Read it and weep.

Start Your Engines! NBC Orders Pilot for International Hit Series 'Top Gear' From BBC Worldwide America

BURBANK, Calif., Jan. 15 /PRNewswire/ -- NBC has ordered a pilot for the international hit series "Top Gear" from BBC Worldwide America it was announced today by Ben Silverman, Co-Chairman, NBC Entertainment and Universal Media Studios. The world's leading car series franchise features unique celebrity guest participation and high-adrenaline action entertainment.

"'Top Gear' is a proven international hit which fits perfectly into NBC's line-up of programming with male appeal, including 'Sunday Night Football' and 'American Gladiators,'" said Silverman. "We're always looking for innovative ways to partner with our advertisers and this show offers a great platform for the latest in car culture."

"We've had our eye on 'Top Gear' for a while now and think this show can really click with viewers," added Craig Plestis, Executive Vice President, Alternative Programming, Development and Specials, NBC Entertainment. "The concept taps into America's obsession with cars and is unlike anything else on television."

"Since its revival over five years ago, the UK show has been a phenomenal success. The bar has been set so high, that replicating it will be the challenge -- one we truly relish," said Paul Telegdy, Executive Vice President Content and Production for BBC Worldwide Americas. "Casting is well underway and we are confident that Americans will fall in love with the attitude and irreverent spirit of 'Top Gear.'"

One of the UK's most popular all-time television franchises, "Top Gear" will feature super-cars, extreme stunts and challenges, time trials and road tests, and assess the performance of some of the most ordinary and extraordinary cars on the planet.

The series, which premiered in the UK in 1977, is consistently BBC TWO's most-watched program in the UK. "Top Gear" also reaches over 150 million households globally and made its stateside debut on BBC America in 2007.

"Top Gear" has been the recipient of various awards including National Television Awards, BAFTAs, Broadcast Award, Royal Television Society Awards and an International Emmy Award. Top celebrity guests have included Helen Mirren, Hugh Grant, Simon Cowell, Ewan McGregor and Gordon Ramsay.

BBC Worldwide America recently wrapped "Clash of the Choirs," a successful four-night live event for NBC. The company is currently producing the first season of "Dance War: Bruno vs. Carrie Ann" and will begin the sixth season of "Dancing with the Stars" in March.

About BBC Worldwide America:

BBC Worldwide America has headquarters in New York and Los Angeles, and brings together all of BBC Worldwide's businesses in the U.S. BBC Worldwide is the main commercial arm and a wholly-owned subsidiary of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). The company exists to maximize the value of the BBC's assets for the benefit of the UK license payer and invest in public service programming in return for rights. The company has six core businesses: Global Channels, Global TV Sales, Content & Production, Home Entertainment, Digital Media and Magazines.

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Widgett Walls is Need Coffee's Chief Cook and Bottle Washer. He is the author of the novel Mystics on the Road to Vanishing Point, and two collections of short stories, Magnificent Desolation and Something Else: The Complete First Season. He is also co-author of the children's book There's a Zombie in My Treehouse! All of those books are available in paperback or for the Kindle from Amazon. He is also the narrator and publisher of the first unabridged recording of Seneca's letters, available here. He is active on both Twitter and Facebook. (If you befriend him on Facebook, do say you came via Need Coffee.) He lives and works in Atlanta, Georgia. He hardly ever sleeps.

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A Mob Numbering 4
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    1. 

    The thing about Top Gear, aside from the goofiness of the road trips and the stunts, it genuniely *is* a car show- not a comedy show with cars in it.

    Comment by Tuffley — January 16, 2008 @ 12:54 pm

    2. 

    Top Gear without Clarkson, Hammond and May isn't Top Gear. We've got very talented Americans and we have people with a great love of cars, but they'll never even come close to these three, so why bother? There is nearly 100 episodes of TG already in the can, just import them, gut the "star in a reasonably priced car" segment for all but those celebs that are known in America, and you've got your 42 minutes.

    Comment by Dendroica — January 27, 2008 @ 7:46 pm

    3. 

    Dendroica: Makes sense to me...or bring the hosts over here to shoot some new "American" bits, like they've done with Mind Control. Pull 10%, replace 10%, keep the rest...done. But that would be too easy. So...

    Comment by Widge — January 27, 2008 @ 7:54 pm

    4. 

    For Mind Control, Sci Fi / NBC also got the airing rights to the UK Mind Control series. So Sci Fi could actually air the original UK episodes, and I'm a bit disappointed they don't.

    The NBC / BBC Worldwide deal for Top Gear, however, is a production deal only (Worldwide recently cut the same deal with an Austrailian broadcaster to produce a local version of the show). BBC Worldwide co-owns BBC America (which currently airs the UK Top Gear) and-much like what they already do with Dancing with the Stars and the Gordon Ramsey shows- will most likely attempt to use the US Top Gear on NBC to get more exposure for the UK Top Gear on both BBC America and their upcoming HD subchannel platforms.

    As for Hammond, May, and Clarkson- I seem to recall the sticking point of their presenting the American version came down to scheduling- as the prep time in filming segments for the British show is rather large. Now, there is some thought that Hammond, May, and Clarkson would more likely contibute segments to the US show as opposed to presenting it.

    Comment by Tuffley — February 1, 2008 @ 12:50 pm

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