With winding race-ways, vivid blues and the angry growls of an engine gaining heat, the Americanized adaptation of the BBC’s original “Top Gear” is one bikini-clad model away from debuting as the longest car commercial ever produced. The aerial shots and dramatic graphics are as cool as the Lamborghinis are sleek, but the droning lists and lectures weigh on the action and appeal only to the most dedicated of car enthusiasts.
“Top Gear USA”
Sundays at 10 pm
Hosted like a testosterone-charged talk show, “Top Gear” is punctuated by friendly banter between three bro-types: professional racecar driver Adam Ferrara, actor/stuntman Tanner Foust and car and racing analyst Rutledge Wood. Between clips of impressive and compelling pre-taped action, the men are like eager older brothers, engaging the crowd and touting their favorite cars. But that’s nothing compared to the heart-dropping danger when the real beasts come out to play.
“Top Gear” kicks off the first segment in Griffin, Georgia — but who knows why it permitted the reckless game to follow? A quaint neighborhood transforms into the setting of a high-speed, video game-like battle between “American super car,” the Dodge Viper, and a Bell AH-1 Cobra Attack Helicopter. The 10-mile round trip is unbelievably dangerous as the adrenaline surges through the television screen and clutches the viewer, who is left blindly grasping for a seatbelt. The industrial goose-chase has all the requisite over-the-top action tropes — dwindling survival chances and glistening chrome included. Comparing the spectacle to “Baywatch” star Pamela Anderson, the men joke, “There’s not much real about it, but who cares?”
Therein lies the problem; as exhilarating and fascinating as near-death cruises are, the veracity of the show’s recklessness is questionable. Obviously far more safety measures have been taken than the public is made aware of, including keeping all those Georgian homeowners indoors.
But even though they’re probably safer than they look, the drivers’ whiplash-inducing turns and demonic speeds are definitely cringe-worthy. You can’t look away, though. Speeding through an empty neighborhood in a hot rod is every man’s dream. And that’s what makes “Top Gear” so entertaining: It’s the perfect televised escape from reality because, as much as it can alter your heartbeat, you won’t be the one changing your permanent address to that of the nearest hospital.
But when “Top Gear” does step on the brake and tone down the action, only the unpleasant stench of burning rubber and an onslaught of boring details straight out of a car manual remain. The show attempts to substitute action with big names in a segment titled “Big Star, Small Car.” They introduce the challenge of testing a measly HS4 Suzuki’s full potential in a rigorous race track. Of course, no other dare-devil could possibly do the job like 80-year-old retired astronaut Buzz Aldrin. As if a torturous turn on “Dancing with the Stars” wasn’t enough to scare off the poor man, Aldrin buzzes (ha!) through the track as if on a relentlessly boring suburban-Grandpa rampage.
Taking the suburbs by storm, “Top Gear” brings the action — and, unfortunately, the included information — to even the slowest of towns. “Top Gear” is a shiny new model of the classic British series, deservedly claiming its spot in America’s garage.