In Britain, the fame funnel of any rising star tends to lead them on a path like this – small provincial town with unpronounceable name, London, and then Stateside.. Now, it seems, that inexorable pull is no longer limited to people, with the announcement that Top Gear is moving to America – along with the streaming rights to its ponderous archive of past shows, or, as they’ll now be known, ‘Top Gear UK’.
This is the result of a multi-year deal between the BBC and MotorTrend Studios, who, sight unseen, sound like the very chaps for this project based on their name alone. Indeed, the MotorTrend Group – formerly TEN: The Enthusiast Network, itself formerly Source Interlink Media, suggesting they’ve finally found their niche – seem all too aware of this, using the studio’s name as much as possible in the press release. Their president and GM Alex Wellen promised that they will be ‘adding some uniquely MotorTrend touches to the franchise’, though it’s hard to see what there is to change in a show which is already all about cars.
Top Gear UK (a specification which still sounds weird) will continue, with the upcoming 26th season seeing Matt LeBlanc being replaced as host – after a brief two-year tenure – by Paddy McGuinness and Freddie Flintoff. They, like LeBlanc before them, face the unenviable challenge of trying to fill the hole left by the classic Top Gear combo of Jeremy Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond – and it is likely this combo that MotorTrend will be introducing to American audiences this coming June, though it’s possible they’ll begin with the LeBlanc years to ease people in gently.
There have already been two goes at creating a Top Gear America, with the most recent beginning and ending in 2017 – MotorTrend’s upcoming series is to be a reboot of this. Neither of the previous versions received the strongest reviews, with most of the criticism stemming from comparisons to the UK original, which perhaps reveals why the streaming rights were such a deal-breaker this time around.