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Top Gear Australia

October 2, 2008

I am a fan of Top Gear. I don’t know why. The closest we have to a car in this household is an empty space in the garage where we put our bikes. I don’t even have my driver’s licence. Every now and again – usually when it’s coming up to tax time and people start talking about salary sacrificing, or when something as bizarre as the Citroen C3 Pluriel comes out – we think about getting a car. Then we add up insurance and registration and petrol and subtract the odd City Saver ticket and multiply by the number of overseas trips we could have for the same carbon emission… and book a holiday. There is, then, obviously something about Top Gear for me that is not car-appeal. It’s the interaction between the hosts, the British humour, the guests in the Liana, the challenges and the travelogue aspect: Britain one minute, Spain the next… and, oh, how about a race to Norway? Given that I don’t watch the show because of a desire to research a potential vehicular purchase, alternative versions seem, well, pointless.

The scepticism I felt when I heard that SBS was making an Australian Top Gear was not laid to rest when I read the Green Guide preview. Whilst I was slightly reassured by one of the host’s denials that SBS had appointed an Aussie Clarkson, an Ocker Hammond and a dinki-di May, I was immediately pulled up short by this description of an item in the first episode: “Cox chose a Nissan Navaro, Pizzati a Falcon XR6, while Brown – whose nickname on the show is Mr Slow and is described by Cox as a terrible driver – chose a Proton Jumbuck, a Malaysian-manufactured ute that Brown likens to a Lancer cut in half with the appendage of a rear tray.” Any viewer of Britain’s Top Gear would, upon reading this sentence, be able to identify Clarkson, Hammond and May, even without the “Captain… I’m sorry, Mr Slow” nickname.

It was, therefore, with some trepidation that I watched the first episode of Top Gear Australia. I didn’t think I’d like it and I put a bit of effort into picking on it in the first half hour. The set, theme, Stig, camera techniques, filters all just seemed too copied. I realise that the owners of what is now a franchise might have mandated this, but it felt too paint-by-numbers. The inability to let personalities evolve was frustrating. Sure, Warren Brown might emerge as “Mr Slow”, but the attempts to label him as such right from the gun seemed laboured, particularly since the only time we’d seen him drive was when he came second in the first challenge. Some of the repartee seemed over-scripted in that “this is just a casual conversation and we are all such knockabout mates that we finish each others’ sentences…” “…and now it’s my turn to take up the end part of the sentence” way. Still, the casting was good. The presenters are confident and, even without labelling them with the badges of their British counterparts, each brings a different tone to the show. The casting of Warren Brown did mean that I had some reservoir of goodwill – as reluctant as I was to wholeheartedly embrace the idea, he’s earned some slack for such good work on Peking to Paris. In some ways, it’s the Steve Carell factor. His presence in the US Office bought that show enough of my time for it to settle into its own identity, which it’s done brilliantly. As I said – I was putting some effort into picking on it and my desire to continue putting that level of effort in wore off. Pretty quickly. Putting a shark cage around a Moke and trying to attract sharks was utterly pointless, but also lots of fun.

Once the camaraderie builds up to a point where it really is “three guys, probably enjoying each other’s company and having a great time doing it” it will earn its spot in the viewing schedule. As long as it’s not up against the original.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. October 6, 2008 1:17 pm

    I have linked this blog on Top Gear to my blog. If that is not cool I will delete it.

    RR

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