The first trailer for BBC America’s rebooted American Top Gear has finally been released. It’s short, but we do get a glimpse at the new crew driving the Acura NSX, a Lamborghini Huracán Spyder, and a few other wild rides. The series premieres on July 30th at 8PM ET.
Top Gear America’s first season will consist of eight hour-long episodes. It stars eternal “that guy” William Fichtner (The Dark Knight, Contact, Armageddon), professional drag racer Antron Brown, and British automotive journalist Tom Ford. From the trailer, it looks just like other versions of Top Gear, meaning this show’s not going to reinvent the format of “three dudes + fast cars + antics = TV show.”
That means it will probably be a decent show — if it ain’t broke, why wrench it? — but I’d be surprised if Top Gear America surprises me, because all the different permutations of Top Gear never seem to stray from that equation.
The Top Gear that most people think about — which itself is a reboot of a show from the 1970s — is still airing new episodes in the UK on BBC. It’s currently hosted by Friends star Matt LeBlanc, car enthusiast and reviewer Chris Harris, and automotive journalist Rory Reid. They took over hosting duties from the most well-known Top Gear trio of Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May.
The LeBlanc-led version of the show spent one season in transition rotating hosts from a cast of about eight, but that really, truly didn’t work out. The current hosts emerged from that wreckage and have developed a pretty good chemistry, which is a minor miracle, but the show’s format is still airtight. There’s a few serious segments about specific cars, a celebrity guest, and typically one goofier segment. BBC essentially pulled the idol-for-bag-of-sand switch from Indiana Jones here — it just happened to spill a lot more sand than the fictional archeologist.
The trio of Clarkson, Hammond, and May now have their own show on Amazon called The Grand Tour, which is headed into a second season, and follows a similar (but slightly remixed) format. They split off from the BBC show after Clarkson was fired for attacking a producer. The show leans even harder into the personalities of its hosts, which is a bold move considering Clarkson’s brutish behavior kept the hosts’ Top Gear tenure in the crosshairs for years.
Top Gear America isn’t the first attempt to bring Top Gear to the US. A&E Networks recently aired five seasons of a show called Top Gear USA on the History Channel, but that was canceled last summer. Its hosts — median Adam Ferrara, Rallycross driver Tanner Foust, and NASCAR personality Rutledge Wood — had developed a pretty good rapport by the end of the run, but it seemed to survive so long almost because of, not in spite of, its obscurity. It was as inoffensive as Top Gear gets.
The point is, we’ve seen Top Gear with all sorts of different (male) hosts, but it’s always still just Top Gear. I don’t know what Top Gear could or even should evolve into (how about more women hosting!), but it is exhausting that the BBC keeps trying to arrive at a different answer by running the same equation. Of course, looking at how well reboots and sequels do for Hollywood, the video game industry, and even modern television, I understand why the BBC keeps trying.