Hooniverse Asks – Top Gear USA, How Do You Like Me Now?

Foust, Ferrara and Wood, American heros or the three douchebags of the apocalypse?

There’s no denying the auto enthusiasts’ love for the long-running BBC series devoted to all things petrol and juvenilia, Top Gear, as the show’s longevity and Sunday night bittorrent clogging attest. And this year, for the first time, the show’s recipe for excess has been distilled for an Amercun‘ edition. The first season of Top Gear USA has come to a close, leaving us Yanks to fill the hours with season 16 of the original – however you manage to get them – and reruns of the pretender to the throne on the History Channel. For those of you still trying to adjust your TV’s rabbit ears, just try and play along here.
After the US edition had aired it’s first couple of episodes we asked you for your opinion as to how it was going.  The consensus was that the first show stunk like a week-dead rat in your dash vent, but that both the second and third episodes showed promise. The hosts, Tanner Foust, Rutledge Wood and Adam Ferrara, are three Americans who initially demonstrated about as much complexity as American cheese. As the show has progressed they have settled into roles that – while nowhere near as well defined nor endearing as their British counterparts – at least lets you tell them apart. And I no longer want to punch each of them in the neck anymore for being complete tools, well, all except Ferrara.
So now that one season is under its belt, what’s your take on ‘our’ Top Gear? Do you think it has found its groove and its audience?  Will it join its British progenitor as event TV for petrol heads, or is it headed down a one-way street to obscurity? Now that you gotten to know it, are you looking forward to season two, or do you think it’s #2?
Image source: [bigdamngeeks.com]

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  1. dan Avatar

    i've kinda grown to like rutledge wood. Tanner's driving skill makes him worthy to be there. But i think Ferrera needs to go. replace him with Xzibit plz.

  2. grantlinderman Avatar

    A show for car people, by non car people.
    I had high hopes for this show… especially when they touted that the production quality would be as high as BBC's Top Gear. And, well. The production quality was high. The rest of it sucked. I watched every episode from beginning to end (well. I fell asleep a few times. but that was due mostly to meds, and only partially due to the show.) and each week I hoped more and more that the presenters would finally come into their own and relax a bit in front of the camera.
    But that episode just didn't come this year. The best by FAR was the 'special' episode. Though even then they got all the details wrong. Rutledge proudly proclaims that his lifted dodge sports a powerful 5.7 liter V8. C'mon brah… everyone knows that generation of 4×4 Ram 1500's got the lowly 318. Dodge didn't even make a 5.7 then… their big V8 was a 5.9 that they put in the R/T models. Furthermore… what the heck was up with the big V8 noises that little Toyota made?! That surely didn't sound like any 22R I've ever heard.
    Moving on.
    The writers are easily the worst of any new show that came out this year. Seriously where did they come up with that dialogue? The only moderately decent dialogue from the whole season was when Ferrara asked Wood if he needed someone to hold his hair while he threw up when they were (probably fake) drunk during the moonshine running episode. Apart from that one joke, it was just one groan after another, beginning from that stupid opening line about how 'if you love cars, then you belong HERE.'
    I'm willing to give it another shot if it gets another season… but they desperately need new writers, and the presenters have to get comfortable enough to be themselves and quit playing some ambiguous role they think they're supposed to be acting out. I don't need/want them to be the most car-obsessed guys in the universe. That's what separates them from me and the rest of the crowd on here. I want to be entertained, not put to sleep.

    1. LTDScott Avatar

      I'm pretty sure I saw a V6 badge on the grille of the Toyota, so it'd be a 3.0L, but still wouldn't make that choice.

      1. Scoutdude Avatar

        That generation 3.0 V6 was known for imploding if the timing belt snapped and replacing it with a crate SBC was cheaper than a new engine from Toyota so yeah the V6 badge means it is likely to have a V8 in it now.

        1. LTDScott Avatar

          Actually, they were most prone to head gasket failures.

          1. Scoutdude Avatar

            But an engine that had a head gasket failure could be saved, one where the timing belt snapped couldn't because the pieces of valve and piston destroyed the block.

    2. ptschett Avatar

      The 5.9 was an option for those Rams, my dad's '01 1500 4×4 has it. The Dakota did have a weird structure with the 5.9 though (you could get it without getting an R/T, but only in a Quad Cab.)

  3. OA5599 Avatar

    I'm probably going against the majority of the commenters here, but for me, hooning is a participatory event. There's not much point in watching it on TV. I've never had an interest in watching the American Top Gear, and have only seen a few episodes of the show with those guys who talk with funny accents.
    I'm not much of a TV watcher, but I would choose this show over televised golf.

    1. Mr_Biggles Avatar

      Your choice is an obvious one. I know there are a lot of golfers in the world, but I could be easily convinced to choose a frontal lobotomy over televised golf.

  4. SSurfer321 Avatar

    Ferrara has had some good one liners and I like his cocky attitude. And he seems to like "all-american" cars as evidenced by his purchase of the Cadillac.

    1. Maymar Avatar

      If anything, I think the Cutlass Supreme sold him for me.

    2. jiveturkey Avatar

      Yeah, but Clarkson's witty and articulate. Ferrera, not so much.

  5. P161911 Avatar

    If you had never seen TGUK it would seem like a great show. Compared to TGUK it is only a good show. It seems to be getting better. I like Rutledge, Tanner can drive and is developing a little bit of personality, Ferra does not come across as a car guy only a NY smartass.

    1. LTDScott Avatar

      That sums it up pretty perfectly for me as well.

    2. engineerd Avatar

      That's the problem I think a lot of us are going to have. It's hard not to, but you can't really compare the two.

  6. SSurfer321 Avatar

    Is it TGUK? No. Am I amazed how far it's come in its few episodes? Yes
    Hate me if you want but I love it. It's the best show about cars…in the world United States.

  7. Froggmann_ Avatar

    Yes, I think they have started to come into their own. I'm even starting to warm up to Adam Ferrara. Now if he would only learn how to drive, and fix the vehicle he broke because he was using too much "Happy Pedal".
    All in all, I think as of the Alaskan episode they've started to get used to one another. That is a good thing.

    1. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar

      I'm doing my best to judge them entirely on that episode – if I do so, it's not a bad show at all. As others have said, it's definitely not Top Gear, but it is good TV now that they've had practice. The scriptwriting is lacking, still, but the sense of camaraderie is slowly building.

  8. Maxichamp Avatar

    This is what happens when you don't have Adam Carolla.

    1. Deartháir Avatar

      You're right, it at least does have that going for it. And thank god for that.

      1. dead_elvis Avatar

        Seriously? The dude's grown on me over the years, and he strikes me as both no bullshit, and a true car guy.
        The only place I know Ferrara from is "Rescue Me", and his acting (or the writing for his character) does nothing for me. I had no idea he was any sort of car guy.

  9. Jeff Glucker Avatar
    Jeff Glucker

    I know that Adam is working hard to increase his general car knowledge, which is a very good thing… I hope the writers let him work his own material in because his stand-up is pretty funny.
    I am friends with one of the consultants and that person was working to get Adam attending vehicle launches and events…

    1. LTDScott Avatar

      That's good and all, but it's hard to turn a non-car-guy into a car guy. He just seems like the odd man out since Rutledge and Tanner definitely are true blue gear heads, and it shows.

  10. SSurfer321 Avatar

    and their color commentating of the Star in a Small Car's Lap is about as exciting as watching paint peel. Perhaps this is due to the track being so new.

  11. engineerd Avatar

    One of my biggest fears with TG USA was that they would try to just copy TG UK completely — from format to banter to personalities. Rutledge Wood is, in some ways, James Mayish. Adam Ferrara is, in some ways, Jeremy Clarksonish. Tanner Foust is, in some ways, robotish. However, they have allowed the three hosts to grow their own chemistry, and they've done some uniquely American things with the challenges and whatnot.
    I think it's turning into a fantastic show, and the three hosts are really starting to make it. Tanner Foust is finally showing personality. Rutledge Wood cracks me up ("Can I lick it?"). Adam Ferrara is obnoxious, and that plays a key part of the chemistry and fun of the show.
    I think that now that they seem to have found their groove, the show is turning out to be great. Watch the episode where they drive trucks through Alaska and tell me if you don't laugh out loud a few times.
    Personally, it's the best car show in the US. And James May is afraid.

  12. Tim Odell Avatar
    Tim Odell

    So…uh…I've watched one episode, #8, I believe (Race to Vegas and Brett Michaels) and is was…ok.
    I'll stand by what I said before:
    –I'm rooting for it, even if it's not there yet. I think what it could be is really awesome.
    –Having seen the taping in person, the producers/writers have got to let them loosen up a bit on-camera. The hosts were very much the slaves of the script and the prescripted activities…it needs to be the other way around.
    –Either use the Stig or don't. He feels very tacked on currently.
    –Wood is most entertaining to me, Foust seems like he needs to drink a few beers first, and Ferrara still annoys me with his east coast accent and "I'm not a car guy but I play one on TV" force-fed car knowledge.

    1. jerjozwik Avatar

      its still better than TRUCKS!

      1. JeepyJayhawk Avatar

        Original Stacey David or the new clowns?

  13. muthalovin Avatar

    It's a car show, in 'Murica, so I am obliged to watch, and actually enjoy it on the whole.
    Foust – I enjoy his witticisms and his driving skills
    Ferrara – I simply do not care for this man
    Wood – I also enjoy his witticisms and redneck charms
    Stig – I do not believe that they need a Stig; they should just let Tanner do the laps

  14. Jim Brennan Avatar
    Jim Brennan

    Here is the big problem most people will have when comparing the US and UK versions. In the UK, the show runs a full hour, with little to no commercial interruptions. You just can't do that on American television, as the number of commercials the History Channel runs cuts down the production time to about 52 minutes (if that much).
    Therefore, there is very little time to fluff up any of the features. With that 10 minutes of lost time, you could get more of the Stig, you could squeeze in another car review, you could have an enjoyable banter session, or you could lengthen some of the special features.
    BTW, I hate the features in which they race a couple of bicyclists, or a snow boarder, or a helicopter. I enjoy the crappy car features like the Moonshine Run, or the Pickup Trucks in Alaska. The features with the Aston Martin, or the three Lamborghinis? Not so much.
    Now, I am going to commit sacrilege here, but the UK Episode with the 3 sports cars from Iraq to the Holy Land was just tooooooooooo long, and I thought it was just tripe.

    1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

      Sacriligeous, and I kind of agree. It was the weakest of the "exploring foreign lands" episodes so far, and it demanded a little too much suspension of disbelief.
      Problem is that, in the UK, the Top Gear brand is an extremely broad concern. Firstly there's the magazine, which is fine in a non-specialist kind of way (it used to be fantastic, but has been stealthily relaunched as an entertainment title), then there's also a Top Gear magazine specifically for children, a range of kids books, piles of Stig merchandise (all aimed squarely at the preteen market) and probably more besides.
      Whenever I watch Top Gear I find myself automatically filtering out the bits that I know aren't necessarily intended for my ears. However frivolous it can be, it's still miles better than anything else at eight o'clock on a Sunday evening.

  15. pjstevens77 Avatar

    I tend to overlook all of the nit picky stuff many people seem to focus on. I like the show very much. Could it use some improvements? Sure, maybe a new host or two but I'm just thrilled they managed to make a whole season and I hope to see them come back.
    One thing that needs to change is this unrelenting need of the viewers to compare this to TG U.K…STOP DOING THAT!! It's TG USA so let the show grow for god's sake!
    Take a look at TG U.K season one, they sucked too.

  16. Dutch Avatar

    All this exotic foreign iron but NO CORVETTE?!? I'm no GM guy, but an American car show without a Corvette just doesn't make sense to me.
    I agree about the writing, it was bad. But, I still watched EVERY episode. As long as they don't put Paul Page or Darrell Waltrip on, I'll keep watching.

    1. FЯeeMan Avatar

      They started with the Viper, does that count for something?

      1. Dutch Avatar

        Oh yeah, absolutely. I just thought it could be weighted a little more towards American iron. Although, there ARE only two at that level,,,,

  17. Matt Avatar

    I'll have to admit that I only saw the last episode when they went to Alaska with the toughest truck challenge and I have never laughed so hard at a TV show in my life. If any of the previous shows were even slightly close to that I say keep'em because we don't have enough car shows to choose from

  18. DrJomamachubby Avatar

    I agree that they don't seem to know what to do with the Stig BUT if you watch TGUK you'll see that they didn't really start working their Stig into cameo roles until the later seasons. Even the whole "some say … and if you" bit didn't start until 5 or 6 years in.

  19. Deartháir Avatar

    I like him! He makes me laugh. As does Rutledge Wood.
    Tanner Foust needs to be taken out back and Ole Yellered. He's not funny, he's not likable on screen, he's completely incapable of delivering a punch-line in such a way that it doesn't sound like it's a joke being read from a Readers Digest by an ESL student. He thinks he's Clarkson, not realizing that he's actually the kid in the white lab coat who hands out the assignment card.
    I honestly don't understand why they insist on putting him on TV all the time. He's lacking in everything required to be a television host. Hell, Glucker would have been a better choice, and… well, just LOOK at him!

    1. Maymar Avatar

      I don't like Rutledge as much as I feel I should, but he's got his moments, and might do well as the show is allowed to mature.
      Foust isn't terrible, but he's more wooden than a Morgan's chassis. I'm tempted to suggest he needs time, except he's been on enough Speed TV shows that it shouldn't be an issue.

    2. Jeremy Wilson Avatar
      Jeremy Wilson

      Totally agreed – Foust makes me want to punch him in the face all the time. He’s so smarmy and robotic. They should just make him the Stig and replace him with someone else.

      1. Ryans92L Avatar

        Foust reminds me of a James May character minus any redeeming quality… Captain Slow + Fast – Fun – Captain DULL!

    3. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar

      Seriously, this. I think I'd probably make a better Clarkson than he would. (Damn it, I'd love to try.)
      Adam I can take or leave, but he could be a lot worse. I still wouldn't mind seeing someone else step in, though. Rutledge has grown on me somewhat – he's no James May, but he's also no Jason Dawe; I think, out of the three, he's got the most personality so far.

  20. Tomsk Avatar

    Can't really argue with anything said so far: Wood and Foust are good, Ferrara is meh, and the show's not there yet but if the producers and writers give them a longer leash it would probably be a lot closer to TGUK. I want to see it picked up for Season Two.

  21. Age_of_Aerostar Avatar

    Yes, they are getting better, but I can't help but think they chose perhaps the 3 worst hosts.
    Hell, even when they interviewed Kid Rock, I thought he'd be much MUCH more entertaining to watch doing their jobs.
    I nominate Kid Rock. Any other suggestions???

    1. engineerd Avatar

      See below

  22. fisheater Avatar

    I really like how Rutledge never stops smiling. He is like an excited puppy with one emotion. I think Foust is the funniest host; his humor is really dry and and he seems to self censor his jokes too much and not just let the roll out. But if he just keeps relaxing, not trying to look so suave and just except you can look like an idiot on TV; he would do a lot better.

  23. mad_science Avatar

    I was told The Stig has an accent. One that would dramatically narrow down his potential identity if you heard it. So…probably not Foust.

    1. FЯeeMan Avatar

      So, once Rubens beat the Stig, they decided he should become the Stig?

  24. engineerd Avatar

    If the question was, "Which host would you can and who would you replace them with?" My answer would be to get rid of Foust (make him the Stig) and replace him with Jessi Combs.
    <img src=http://dsc.discovery.com/fansites/mythbusters/meet/gallery/mythbusters-jessi-combs-1-324×205.jpg>

    1. DasBrink Avatar

      She needs to be on something, I loved her on the power block, i loved her when she filled in for kari on mythbusters, and i think she would fit in great on top gear.

    2. Deartháir Avatar

      ABSOLUTELY. I had forgotten about her, she's awesome, and appallingly hot. I actually traded two emails with her back when we started Hooniverse, about possibly doing an article about her (when I was running with the Hooniversal Dream Girls segment), and then she never replied again, and I forgot about it.
      Might have to try that again.

  25. Black Steelies Avatar

    It got better as the season went on. I like that they did an Alaska trek. That was actually one of my suggested themes for an episode. The beater competition was my favorite and should probably be a seasonal theme. It sounds as if the writers have some work ahead of them to keep us entertained but for the level of typical History Channel shows I would say they are quite alright.
    The hosts are kind of shitty, but are certainly adequate. Most of the people that I genuinely respect from the automotive realm are automotive editors and designers. A NASCAR analyst, nerdy drifter and no-name actor aren't among them. I'm thinking Peter Egan, Ezra Dyer, Aaron Robinson, John Phillips, Brock Yates, Ralph Gilles, etc. Hell, Rob Lutz is an avid collector of planes and cars and just retired, prime candidate. As is Jay Leno, I really hate his nighttime show, but think as the host of a car show he might be really enjoyable.

    1. Smells_Homeless Avatar

      Leno might be really enjoyable as the host of a more genteel car show, but can you imagine him scooba-driving a Roadmaster?

      1. Black Steelies Avatar

        Hey if Wood is good enough for a show this 'extreme' so is Leno.

        1. Smells_Homeless Avatar

          Eh. I think my problem may be that I've had waaaaay too much exposure to Leno to believe him in any kind of physical situation, whereas I had never encountered Wood at all before TGUS.

  26. Ryans92L Avatar

    You need to think about TGUSA less as Top Gear and more as Fairly Funny, Remotely Factual, American Motoring Hour which also happens to be called Top Gear and then you got yourself a decent program. But that is just me…

  27. MattC Avatar

    As I have stated before, any TG is better than no TG. That being said, TGUS still has some growing up to do. Tanner is still too stiff, but getting better. Rutledge is fine. I also like Ferrara and do not understand the "haterade" around him. He has great comic sensibilities and a fun addition to TG. However, they still have no idea what to do with "the Stig" and the Big Star/Small Car segment is a snorefest.
    What TGUK does best is when the hosts are fousted on a trek with woefully inadequate gear/vehicles and complete a task (the Southern States adventure actually had my wife(a non gearhead) laughing hysterically. In that it is a car show that non-car people can enjoy. I give credit for History bringing a worldwide sensation to the US. I feel that TGUS will grow into its own and be a good companion to the original.

  28. MattC Avatar

    TGUK is my favorite and the US trio does not hold a candle to May/Clarkson/Hammond. But TGUK has had years to hone their show without commmercial pressure. (occasionally they still have hiccups like the TG stuntman). What TGUS needs to do is continue sending the hosts off on cross country/international treks. There needs to be some chemistry among the hosts and that only happens when the trio is exposed out of their comfort zone.

  29. Foolish Avatar

    Well, it's no TGUK, but then again, it's no MotorWeek either, so we should be thankful.
    I've liked it well enough from the first episode, think it started getting good around episode 3 or 4, and genuinely thought the Alaska adventure was suitably epic for the Top Gear name!
    I'm still not crazy about Adam, and yeah, Tanner needs to start every episode with a shot of whiskey but Rutledge is fantastic. Alaska was the first episode where the other two seemed to be having anywhere NEAR as much fun as he always seems to be.

  30. ZomBee Racer Avatar

    Like most here, I thought it started off awkward and stiff, more of a bunt than a home run. Then it got better and showed real promise. I especially loved the last episode (Let's go save that F-250!) and can even overlook a few basic knowledge flubs (5.7 in the dodge? Come on…). It is worlds more entertaining than the damn cupcake wars and reality shows my remote-nemesis keeps trying to watch.
    Coincidentally, right around new years eve I finally learned how to use a computer and started watching the full early episode torrents, beginning with season 1, episode 1. What struck me was how awkward and stiff the shows also seemed compared to modern TGUK. More surprising is that awkwardness came on the heels of decades of experience with Old Top Gear and Fifth gear.
    That gives me a lot of hope. It's not bad, it's not terrible like most stuff on the boob-tube, and makes me laugh. If it survives I think it could be it's own new world of automotive awesome.
    They should have Clarkson, Hammond and May invade red-coat style, and pit a Marina against a Sprint Maverick.

  31. joshuman Avatar

    Yes, it started slowly. Yes, it got better as the episodes progressed. Yes, I'm looking forward to season two. The best parts of the show are when the guys have a loose understanding of the script or just toss it out the window. They crack natural jokes and poke fun in a nice way. The writers need to allow them to do more of that.

  32. kah Avatar

    As US auto shows go its already better than most and has potential. I feel they are trying to hard to follow the UK Top Gear format and they should only use that as a guideline.
    Loosen up guys forget the lame pre planed jokes be your selves and let the camera catch it.
    I fully agree with those who say with Tanner their is no need for a Stig(US Stig is probably Tanner anyway) just have Tanner do all power laps and openly talk about his feeling for the car at its limits on the track. they have some how sucked the life out of the whole Stig thing anyway.
    More relevant match-ups like a mano-a-mano between a CTS-V Wagon vs. Panamera. or a Camaro vs an M3. I could care less about how a helicopter and Viper match up, that just seems like a bad copy of a TGUK stunt.
    Real reviews of fun regular cars now and then…
    face it we would be lost if we didn't know what to drive if we find ourselves in a mall being chased by baddies in a C5 (please don't copy that just use it as inspiration)
    the Alaska truck segment was one of the best and thanks for not mentioning that hockey mom, seems unfair that the UK team has already taken US cars to Bonneville but lets have more distinctively US stuff maybe take a put Foust, Ferrara and Wood in a Camaro Challenger & Mustang and have them race around the Brick Yard and see which one can turn left the fastest for 20 laps or so some thing like that. some thing with out Tnterstate Hwy System some thing with Rout 66 ect.
    Rip on our States more come on I-80 across Nebraska boring say so to be interesting they could be a bit more controversial Clarkson works because we don't always agree with him. T iont care for Ferrara nut if I acutly disliked him I'd find him more compelling to watch.

  33. JoeyM Avatar

    It's good enough to keep me tuning in….

  34. facelvega Avatar

    Ferrara, Foust, and Wood aren't ugly enough. Though they're about the same age as the UK guys were when the show started, they seem too young. They aren't different enough from one another for us to care much which is which. This is partially because they don't have the sharply-drawn personalities and relationships of the UK cast, the different social class backgrounds, or even just the different heights. The formula was one domineering jackass, one muddle-headed snob, and one chipper chav. Instead we get a sitcom comedian, that drift racer who is always on TV, and a kid with a beard. Why bother watching it?