These days, I have cut my subscriptions just to Car and Driver, though I would still recommend any of these to the auto enthusiast. But, I am happy that we now have three television shows dedicated to the car.
If you're a motor head, you know that the British Top Gear is the sine qua non of automobile related TV shows. The hosts, Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May are funny, interesting, love cars, and all have those British accents that make anything sound more erudite than it actually is. If you're not watching it, it is shown here in the states on BBC America, Monday at 9pm. You should watch.
Top Gear has spawned versions in countries all over the world. Many times, the hosts have competed against their counterparts in other countries. Famously, the UK trio has competed against their Australian and German counterparts. While Top Gear has been around for years, it was 2010 before the show had an American version.
Airing on the History Channel (Sundays at 10pm), Top Gear US is hosted by Rutledge Wood (an automotive writer), Tanner Foust (a champion drifter), and Adam Ferrara (who I believe was probably an out-of-work actor). Season one was, honestly, painful to watch. I found the show derivative of its British counterpart (well, in fact, often a downright copy), and the hosts had little chemistry, usually reading straight from the teleprompter, and it showed. Mercifully, season 1 was a 6 episode run.
In the interim between the end of season 1 of Top Gear US and season 2, the Speed Channel introduced The Car Show, hosted by Adam Carolla. If you're about my age, you'll remember Adam Carolla from Loveline, which aired on MTV in the '90's and featured the now famous for Celebrity Rehab, Dr. Drew Pinsky. Carolla and Pinksy hsoted a radio version of Loveline before MTV took it up, and Carolla was a stand-up comedian who eventually made his way into radio. Besides The Car Show, Carolla hosts a popular podcast, The Adam Carolla show (which you can get at the link, or via iTunes). If you're looking for essentially an R-rated radio show for your commute, it's usually 1.5-2 hours of pretty decent comedy, and it also features Alison Rosen, who you may know from her frequent Red Eye appearances, or her own webcast, "Alison Rosen is Your New Best Friend."
But, I digress.
Suddenly, since watching DVR'd programs has replaced reading as my hobby, I am thrilled to now have three car shows to watch every week. But, how do they stack up?
- Top Gear UK is clearly number one, as I mentioned already. It's the gold standard by which the others are measured. Plus, Clarkson can't help but make his hatred for the Prius obvious, and, sharing that desire to bash them all off the road, I feel a kinship to him. Plus, last week's ode to the Jaguar E-type was magnificent. Truly is the greatest supercar ever. Check this slideshow out.
- The Car Show - I have to give this show the number two slot. Carolla is joined by John Salley, who was the center on some pretty good Georgia Tech basketball teams, and had a decent NBA career (winning 4 championships with 3 teams, though Salley was usually a bit player); Matt Farah, who is a writer for the webzine, thesmokingtire.com, and Dan Neill, who's allegedly a Pulitzer Prize winning automotive reporter for The Wall Street Journal (I'm sure you need a subscription to read all Dan's work). Adam is actually funny, because the show's on Speed (perhaps literally), there's a certain je ne sais quoi quality about it, and the challenges and segments are original.
- Top Gear US - ok, if I had to evaluate this show based on season 1, I would have said "can it." However, even with the same hosts back, the show is vastly improved in its second iteration. The hosts have developed some chemistry, and it seems much less a rip-off of it's cousin. You'll know this show has some legs, though, when stars you've actually heard of are driving their "reasonably priced car" around the track for times.