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Still Not Getting It

September 10, 2011 by Matt

The Car Show Adam Carolla

So I guess I should follow up my preview of Adam Carolla’s The Car Show a couple of months ago with a review of the actual show.

I’ve watched a few episodes. It beats Top Gear US by miles (mostly by virtue of not being smothered by the shadow of the successful British show), but I still have the same primary criticism of both shows: They just look forced. The Car Show, like its counterpart on the History Channel, is stuck in the old post-TGUK predicament: How to grab and entertain an audience without seeming like it’s trying to do so. Top Gear UK had the luxury of always having been perceived as a “factual motoring show,” and when the chemistry between the hosts began to really gel (3 or 4 seasons in), it was icing on an already worthwhile formula, rather than the substance itself. With TGUS and The Car Show, there’s no there there, as they say; they’ve leapfrogged the “factual car reviews” part and tried to establish themselves on inter-host chemistry alone, a far too ephemeral and subjective foundation to build a successful series upon. But by the time a new car program grounds its credentials and allows the inside jokes between the hosts to develop at a natural (read: non-awkward) rate, the show will have been canceled for 2 or 3 seasons… Such is the attention span of the American viewer (and TV executive).

I particularly like The Onion‘s assessment of Top Gear US, and by extension The Car Show:

The worst thing I can say about them is that they’re exactly what a computer would generate if you programmed it to create the hosts of a show like this: three guy’s-guy types who fit together pleasantly but a little awkwardly and who aren’t so macho and aggressive that they’re going to offend anybody. When, during a three-vehicle expedition, one of them cracks jokes about leaving one of the others behind to die of exposure, you can hear someone straining a little hard to make it clear that it’s all in good fun.

Part of it may be the greater leeway given British versus American television, but the British hosts have no such fear of offending; indeed, they quite often (read: Clarkson) “cross the line,” and double down on it besides. But it gives the commentary and interaction an authenticity, a magnetic sincerity completely absent the American programs. I’m sorry to say it, but at this point, I’ve kind of given up on them.

Filed under: Media


  1. Ryan says:

    It isn’t perfect but I still think it’s the best car show on television and I am hopeful it gets to continue on for a few more seasons.

    • Matt says:

      I do hope both shows get better. I just don’t know if the audience is there, you know? For example, TGUS lifts the Power Lap segment whole-hog from TGUK, complete with the Stig and a test around a track with, like, left- and right-hand corners (i.e. not NASCAR). I just don’t know if many Americans can relate to that.

  2. Shawn says:

    I agree with your points and decided after the very first episode of The Car Show that it’s not for me. The ex-NBA player guy admitted and defended his ownership of a Toyota Camry in the pilot episode. I’m sorry but I want my car show hosts to only own weird and/or exotic automobiles.

    • Matt says:

      Totally agree that Salley is the weak link on the panel. I can’t really see him singing the praises of owning an older Alfa Romeo or Aston Martin…

    • Ryan says:

      I also agree that Salley has always seemed like the one the most out of place in the group. I actually think they could do away with him all together and the show would be just fine. The other three guys approach each topic from a different perspective and personality, one that can be respected by different types of car-guys.

  3. Mike B says:

    The main problem with Top Gear US is the fact that it is made by Americans. Most Americans don’t get nor can they create irony or sarcasm, which is integral and the big reason for the mass appeal to Top Gear UK, especially for people that are not ‘into cars’, but still watch the show.

    I have loved cars ever since I was very young (Hot Wheels were the business), but even for me most car shows on TV have been very dry (hello Motor Week) and in result are very boring, unless you are into the car they are reviewing.

    Jeremy Clarkson’s genius is that when he reviews a car he uses very entertaining critiques and analogies to review cars. I especially enjoy his reviews in the London Times. Even if the car is a boring Citroen, I still want to read his article on it. Most of the general US population would not understand or ‘get’ his sarcasm. In all honesty, if Clarkson left Top Gear UK, I honestly believe the show would severely suffer. His personality makes the show what it is.

    My solution for Top Gear US; let the guys form their own personality and create their own challenges. Stop copying Top Gear UK, it just isn’t working. Top Gear UK was created over time in an organic way, that is another reason why it is so wonderful. Also, get Jay Leno.

    • Matt says:

      Good points about the humor inherent in the program. Leno would be a great addition too. Not sure he’d consider “stooping” to something that wasn’t a sure bet, though.

      He has commented that he fears part of the reason the US version won’t take off is that the reviewers won’t be as critical of the cars for fear of offending the advertisers, but I don’t know if I buy it. When I watch TGUK, I’m not sitting there consciously making sure they say some negative things about a particular car; I’m just being entertained by the script, delivery and cinematography.

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