Top Gear (American TV series)

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Top Gear
Top Gear title card from season 2
Based onTop Gear
by Jeremy Clarkson
Andy Wilman
Directed byBenjamin Fitzgerald McBryderson
Vage Dickinson
Presented byAdam Ferrara
Tanner Foust
Rutledge Wood
The Stig
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons6
No. of episodes72 (list of episodes)
Production locationsFormer MCAS El Toro, Irvine, California, USA
Running timeapprox. 40–45 minutes
Production companiesBBC Worldwide
Reveille Productions (2011–12)
Original release
ReleaseNovember 21, 2010 (2010-11-21) –
June 28, 2016 (2016-06-28)
Top Gear worldwide

Top Gear was an American motoring television series, based on the BBC series of the same name.[1][2] The show's presenters were professional racing driver Tanner Foust, actor and comedian Adam Ferrara, and automotive and racing analyst Rutledge Wood. As with the original British version, the show had its own version of The Stig, an anonymous racing driver, and a celebrity guest was featured each week for the first two seasons. The show premiered on November 21, 2010, on History.[3]


The show's first two seasons followed a similar format of the BBC version: three main hosts present, The Stig (an anonymous race driver) tests vehicles, and celebrities are invited for interviews and to drive vehicles around a test track.[4] In addition, challenges similar in nature to the ones presented in the original show are replicated in Top Gear. The "Star in a Reasonably Priced Car" (retitled "Big Star, Small Car") segment uses a Suzuki SX4 Sportback.[5] Filming of this segment, along with in-studio segments take place at the former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro,[6] now known as the Orange County Great Park, in Irvine, California.

Beginning in season 3, the show changed its emphasis to the hosts' stunts involving car customization, with all studio-based segments, as well as car reviews and Power Laps, discarded from the series.[citation needed]


Power Laps[edit]

During the first two seasons, Power Laps was a segment of the program in which The Stig completes a lap around the track in a reviewed car to compare its performance to previous contenders.

All laps are timed with the car's manufacturer-provided adjustable settings configured for maximum performance — all adjustable suspensions are set at their most efficient, all gear shift maps are at their most aggressive, and driving aids such as traction control are deactivated.[citation needed]

Power Lap Times[edit]

  1. 1:18.6 - Ariel Atom
  2. 1:19.5 - Tanner Foust's Ford Fiesta Rallycross
  3. 1:22.0 - Dodge Viper SRT 10 ACR
  4. 1:22.4 - Chevrolet Corvette C6 ZR1
  5. 1:22.6 - Lexus LFA
  6. 1:22.8 - Lamborghini Gallardo LP 570-4 Superleggera
  7. 1:23.3 - Ferrari 458 Italia
  8. 1:23.4 - Lamborghini Murciélago LP 670-4 SuperVeloce
  9. 1:25.3 - Porsche Panamera Turbo
  10. 1:26.9 - Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Balboni
  11. 1:27.2 - Cadillac CTS-V Sport Wagon
  12. 1:27.4 - Cadillac CTS-V Coupe
  13. 1:27.6 - Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG
  14. 1:28.2 - Aston Martin V12 Vantage
  15. 1:28.2 - Ford Mustang 302 Boss
  16. 1:28.4 - Lotus Evora
  17. 1:28.5 - Ferrari California
  18. 1:28.8 - Audi RS6
  19. 1:28.9 - Ford Mustang Roush
  20. 1:29.2 - Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X GSR
  21. 1:30.0 - Subaru Impreza WRX STI
  22. 1:30.0 - BMW X6 M
  23. 1:39.0 - Hennessey F-150 VelociRaptor 600
  24. 5:22.0 - Lamborghini R 485

Big Star, Small Car[edit]

During the first two seasons, Big Star, Small Car was a recurring segment on Top Gear, inspired by the "Star in reasonably priced car" on the original Top Gear. During each episode, a celebrity is interviewed by one of the three presenters. Discussion is normally amusing, and focuses on car-related matters, such as the celebrity's car history. Then the presenter and the studio audience watch the guest's fastest lap on the Top Gear test track.

The car used for this segment is a Suzuki SX4 Sportback.[5] Each guest practices with The Stig before making several attempts to complete the test track in the fastest time. The guest does not learn their time until the interview. Practice laps, crashes and the drivers' facial expressions are also shown during the segment.

Star Lap Times[edit]

Note: (wet) means the track was wet when the lap was taken.

  1. 1:39.3 – Stephen Moyer
  2. 1:41.8 – Patrick Warburton
  3. 1:42.4 – Arlene Tur
  4. 1:43.2 – Tony Hawk
  5. 1:43.9 – Kid Rock (wet)
  6. 1:44.0 – Tim Allen
  7. 1:44.3 – Jon Huertas
  8. 1:44.3 – Bill Engvall
  9. 1:44.4 – Bret Michaels
  10. 1:45.3 – Dominic Monaghan
  11. 1:46.6 – Ty Burrell (wet)
  12. 1:46.7 – Edward Burns
  13. 1:48.1 – Rick Harrison
  14. 1:49.2 – Adam Levine
  15. 1:49.9 – Kal Penn
  16. 1:51.1 – Joe Mantegna
  17. 1:51.5 – Austin "Chumlee" Russell
  18. 1:55.2 – Steve Schirripa
  19. 1:55.2 – Michelle Rodriguez (wet)
  20. 1:55.4 – Lake Bell
  21. 1:55.6 – Buzz Aldrin
  22. 2:06.9 – Bridget Marquardt


SeasonEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast aired
110November 21, 2010 (2010-11-21)January 23, 2011 (2011-01-23)
216July 24, 2011 (2011-07-24)April 3, 2012 (2012-04-03)
316August 14, 2012 (2012-08-14)April 2, 2013 (2013-04-02)
410September 3, 2013 (2013-09-03)November 26, 2013 (2013-11-26)
510June 3, 2014 (2014-06-03)October 21, 2014 (2014-10-21)
610April 26, 2016 (2016-04-26)June 28, 2016 (2016-06-28)


Top Gear on Discovery Channel[edit]

In 2005, Discovery Channel made a pilot for an American version of the show featuring actor and IHRA driver Bruno Massel, actor John Jenkinson, and actor John Littlefield as the hosts. The attempt was not picked up by the Discovery Channel. The pilot featured Iron Man director Jon Favreau as the Star in a Reasonably Priced Car, a race between Littlefield's 2005 Ford Mustang and Jenkinson's 2005 Dodge Charger R/T, and a review of the Lexus RX 400h. After the pilot proved to be unsuccessful, the Discovery Channel later began airing a slightly "Americanized" version of the British Top Gear show with presenters Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May. This show featured clips of features and challenges from Series 1–5 from the BBC Two show with introduction segments recorded by Clarkson, Hammond and May at the Dunsfold Aerodrome studio especially for the US audience. Regular features like "The News" and "Star in a Reasonably Priced Car" were not shown on the Discovery Channel version.

Top Gear on NBC[edit]

In April 2007, the BBC was still looking to launch a locally produced version of Top Gear in the United States.[7] NBC announced, in January 2008, that it had ordered a pilot for an American version of the show, retitled Gear.[4] BBC Worldwide had been contracted to produce the pilot for NBC.[8] According to NBC reality chief Craig Plestis, many automakers had shown interest in America's version of Top Gear.[9]

On June 16, 2008, NBC and the BBC officially announced an American version of Top Gear, to be hosted by Adam Carolla, Tanner Foust and Eric Stromer.[10][11] The studio segments for the pilot were taped on July 26, 2008 to generally favorable reviews citing close following of the UK version's format.[12] NBC was expected to have Top Gear premiere as a midseason replacement in 2009.[13]

Jay Leno, who originally turned down offers to host the show, expressed concern in 2008 over whether or not a show like Top Gear could be successful in America.[14][15] In a column published by The Sunday Times in 2008, Leno expressed concern that an American version could lack the critical reviews for which the British version is known.[16] The British show is produced for the BBC with public funds while the American show airs on commercial television. Leno believes that the show may have to worry about offending current and potential sponsors by giving their products poor reviews, leading to a compromise in the journalistic integrity and freedom of the original show.

On December 11, 2008, NBC reversed its decision to place the show as a midseason replacement, citing concerns about the potential success of a car-themed show in light of the failure of Knight Rider. NBC allowed the BBC to shop it around to cable networks to possibly pick it up.[17] In February 2009, Jeremy Clarkson stated that the American version had been "canned", claiming that focus groups "... just don't understand a single word we're on about. They just don't get it really."[18]

Top Gear on History[edit]

On August 6, 2010, the first Top Gear trailer was published on the web, giving fans a preview on what to expect on the upcoming episodes to be broadcast on the History Channel. In this trailer, new hosts Adam Ferrara, Tanner Foust, and Rutledge Wood were seen participating in a Moonshine Challenge and Tanner Foust also takes a Dodge Viper for a test drive.[19] The first season premiered on November 21, 2010, and as of 2014, the series has been renewed for its fifth season. Commenting on the second season renewal, UK host Jeremy Clarkson noted, "Top Gear is our baby so you can understand why Hammond, May and I were anxious about passing it on to the presenters of the US show. We needn’t have worried because Top Gear is clearly in safe hands, even if they do insist on speaking in those stupid accents. Watching an episode from series 1 with Richard and James, we found ourselves in a genuinely heated debate about which of the presenters’ cars was best. We were just three ordinary chaps watching a car show and loving it, which is exactly what Top Gear should be. Bring on series 2."[20]

In a Facebook post on June 26, 2016, Wood stated his belief that the episode set to air the same week would be the last for the series on History.[21]


Top Gear premiered in the US on History on November 21, 2010. On February 10, 2011, the show was renewed for a second season to premiere on November the same year.[22] On May 11, 2012, History renewed Top Gear for a 16 episode third season,[23] which premiered August 14, 2012.[24] The second half of the season premiered January 29, 2013.[25] It was renewed for a fourth season, which started filming April 30, 2013,[26] and premiered on September 3, 2013.[27] The fifth season premiered on June 3, 2014.[28] Its most recent season, Season 6, began airing on April 26, 2016.[28][29] On June 28, 2016, the BBC confirmed that the series had completed its contractual run on the History channel."[30]

In the United Kingdom, the first and second seasons are broadcast on BBC Three. The first season premiered on October 14, 2011, and the second season premiered on January 13, 2012. The second season halted broadcasting on January 27, but continued its run on June 29, 2012. It is broadcast under the name Top Gear USA to avoid confusion with the original UK version.

The first season premiered on GO! in Australia on November 26, 2011 whilst season two onward aired on BBC Knowledge, a channel on Australian Pay TV service Foxtel. In Canada, it airs on BBC Canada.

In Mexico and Latin America the show broadcasts on History Channel Latino.[31]


Before the show started, there was a mixed response to Top Gear being remade for a US audience. Stuart Heritage of The Guardian noted the brutal response to the first trailer of the History Channel version of the show on the Internet, with YouTube users noting History's version to be an "'insult to the actual Top Gear" among other less favorable comments. Agreeing with the commenters, Heritage notes that US television doesn't have "Jeremy Clarkson, Captain Slow and The Hamster," but noting the original BBC version isn't exactly "British" per se, and figured the show could possibly translate easily if done right.[32]

Top Gear premiered at 1.9 million viewers in its first episode, which dropped to 1.3 million viewers after the first episode. The second-season premiere had a viewership of 2 million viewers.[33] Metacritic collected an aggregated score of 72 for season one.[34]

The show has received mixed reviews from numerous critics. Tim Goodman of The Hollywood Reporter judged the show as a whole, noting, "It's a promising beginning for a show most thought would end up in a ditch." Goodman noted the shaky history of the show being brought over to the US (including Jay Leno's take on the Star in a Reasonably Priced Car segment for his short-lived show) and the venom of online comments, to which Goodman replies: "Everyone gets it."[35] Mike Hale of the New York Times had mixed reactions to the show, going from how History's version almost slavishly follows the formula the BBC version uses ("that any subject or concept can appeal to a wide audience if you find the right balance of competition and destruction (the childlike smashing of large objects) with humor, sentiment and pretty locations.") to how the show has gaps between the BBC and History Channel version. Hale had concerns the show was not translating well, as the History version lacks the "going out of the lines" aspect of the original, and the host lineup for History's version being younger and more callow than the BBC version's hosts.[36]

John Krewson of Gawker Media, writing for Jalopnik, encouraged readers to watch the show. Watching the first three episodes of season one, he noted the first episode would be "little strange for most viewers." but towards the third episode, viewers should "have the snack tray full and an hour free," and praising the show despite its initial roughness.[37] Chris Shunk, writing for Autoblog, was impressed with the first show, but warned readers to not compare History's version of Top Gear to the BBC version of Top Gear so easily. Also, the show would encourage Autoblog to "keep watching... at least for nine more weeks."[38] Lee Pray of Edmunds Inside Line noted the show seems worthwhile, but while it won't match up the original BBC version, it was worth to have two versions of Top Gear around.[39] The A.V. Club gave the show an overall rating of C, lamenting that Season One of the series ended with a clip show, and not liking host Adam Ferrara. The review compared both the BBC and History Channel versions, and claimed that History's version borrowed "the graphics, music, and editing...." of the original, but that the show felt like it was "imported from a 1980s beer commercial."[40]

DVD release[edit]

Season Release Date
Season 1 July 19, 2011[41]
Season 2 February 19, 2013
Season 3 August 6, 2013[42]
Season 4 December 9, 2014
Season 5 August 30, 2016
Season 6 Never released to DVD


  1. ^ "Top Gear to have spin-off in US". BBC News. April 21, 2010.
  2. ^ "An American version of Top Gear: it's official!". BBC. April 21, 2010. Retrieved April 21, 2010.
  3. ^ "Top Gear USA Premieres November 21, Debuts New Trailers".
  4. ^ a b "US version of 'Top Gear' planned". The New Zealand Herald. Reuters. January 16, 2008. Retrieved September 28, 2008.
  5. ^ a b "Top Gear Confirms Suzuki SX4". Jalopnik. October 19, 2010.
  6. ^ "San Juan racer dishes on new 'Top Gear' show". November 18, 2010. Retrieved November 29, 2010.
  7. ^ Akbar, Arifa (April 10, 2007). "BBC hopes for an export hit as 'Top Gear' takes on America". The Independent. Archived from the original on December 12, 2010. Retrieved September 28, 2008.
  8. ^ Esposito, Maria (January 15, 2008). "NBC gives Top Gear US test drive". The Guardian. London. Retrieved June 18, 2008.
  9. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (January 15, 2008). "NBC has pedal to the metal with "Top Gear" remake". Reuters. Retrieved June 18, 2008.
  10. ^ Neff, John (June 16, 2008). "Top Gear USA hosts announced!". Autoblog. Weblogs, Inc. Retrieved June 16, 2008.
  11. ^ Wert, Ray (June 16, 2008). "Top Gear Officially Coming To NBC!". Jalopnik. Gawker Media. Retrieved June 16, 2008.
  12. ^ "Top Gear pilot: That's a wrap!". AutoBlog. July 27, 2008. Retrieved July 27, 2008.
  13. ^ "NBC details new beers series, midseason options". Futon Critic. May 14, 2008. Retrieved September 20, 2008.
  14. ^ Neff, John (March 31, 2008). "Leno fears Top Gear USA may suck". Autoblog. Weblogs, Inc. Retrieved June 16, 2008.
  15. ^ Hardigree, Matt (April 1, 2008). "Jay Leno On Top Gear America: I Hope We Don't Ruin It". Jalopnik. Gawker Media. Retrieved June 16, 2008.
  16. ^ Leno, Jay (March 30, 2008). "I hope we don't ruin Top Gear". London: The Sunday Times. Retrieved June 16, 2008.
  17. ^ Didorosi, Andrew (December 11, 2008). "NBC Cuts Top Gear USA Due to Knight Rider Failure". Jalopnik. Gawker Media. Retrieved December 11, 2008.
  18. ^ "Clarkson: Top Gear USA 'canned,' viewers 'just don't get it.'". Autoblog. February 6, 2009. Retrieved May 14, 2009.
  19. ^ "First Top Gear USA Trailer". Motorthusiast. August 9, 2010. Archived from the original on August 15, 2010. Retrieved August 9, 2010.
  20. ^ "U.S. 'Top Gear' Renewed by History for a Second Season - Ratings | TVbytheNumbers". February 10, 2011. Archived from the original on February 13, 2011. Retrieved August 17, 2012.
  21. ^ "Top Gear USA Has Been Cancelled [UPDATE: Adam Ferrara Speaks]". June 27, 2016.
  22. ^ Philiana Ng (February 10, 2011). "History Channel Renews 'Top Gear'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 5, 2015.
  23. ^ "'Top Gear' (US) Renewed For Third Season by History - Ratings | TVbytheNumbers". Archived from the original on May 15, 2012. Retrieved August 17, 2012.
  24. ^ Ireson, Nelson (August 13, 2012). "Top Gear USA Returns Tomorrow, Sixteen Episodes Planned". Retrieved August 17, 2012.
  25. ^ TV News Desk. "History Channel Revs Up for TOP GEAR's Return, 1/29". Retrieved February 5, 2015.
  26. ^ "Adam Ferrara on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved February 5, 2015.
  27. ^ Top Gear - BBC Worldwide. "Transmission – BBC Top Gear Americans! Top Gear USA is back! « - BBC Top Gear". Retrieved February 5, 2015.
  28. ^ a b "Top Gear". Retrieved February 5, 2015.
  29. ^ Wood, Rutledge. "Top Gear". Twitter. Retrieved April 5, 2016.
  30. ^ "Top Gear USA cancelled, BBC confirms". BBC News. June 28, 2016.
  31. ^ "History". Retrieved February 5, 2015.
  32. ^ Heritage, Stuart (August 11, 2010). "Top Gear USA: has it stalled already?". The Guardian.
  33. ^ Hardigree, Matt (July 26, 2011). "Top Gear USA audience eight times larger than The Car Show". Jalopnik.
  34. ^ "Metacritic: Top Gear (US): Season 1". Metacritic. Retrieved September 16, 2011.
  35. ^ Goodman, Tim (November 17, 2010). "TopGear – TV Review". The Hollywood Reporter.
  36. ^ Hale, Mike (November 19, 2010). "Toys for Boys, With an American Accent". New York Times.
  37. ^ Krewson, John (November 20, 2010). "TopGear USA: First Drive". Jalopnik.
  38. ^ Shunk, Chris (November 22, 2010). "Review: Top Gear USA – the first episode [w/poll]". Autoblog.
  39. ^ Pray, Lee (November 10, 2010). "Review:Top Gear USA". Edmunds Inside Line.
  40. ^ Nugent, Phil (January 24, 2011). "Top Gear U.S." A.V. Club.
  41. ^ "Top Gear USA DVD news: Announcement for Top Gear USA - Season 1 -". Archived from the original on February 5, 2015. Retrieved February 5, 2015.
  42. ^ "History Channel". Archived from the original on August 29, 2014. Retrieved February 5, 2015.

External links[edit]