BBC announces Top Gear America, ruins it instantly

Good news: The BBC series “Top Gear,” a cult-fave here in the US through the magic of YouTube and torrents, but a sensation in Europe, is at last coming to America.

Good news: The current “presenters” (or hosts, as we call them stateside) of Top Gear will remain on the current show and will not be hosting the new show.

Good news: Adam Carolla is the first host chosen for the series.

Bad news: The show will be aired through NBC.

The only choice that would be worse than that would be Fox, which would somehow turn it into a wretched NASCAR infomercial. The problem isn’t NBC so much as it is all the commercial networks and their financial model, though lately NBC can ruin just about any good idea. Commercial television networks only create content that’s worth watching to keep us glued through the commercials. The BBC, on the other hand, is funded independently by the British government. They have no commercial breaks. They have no allegiance to a manufacturer or brand based on who pays them, because the British taxpayers do. It is untainted by capitalist bias.

The closest equivalent we have to the BBC in America is PBS. Everything on PBS is so low-key that a crazy powersliding supercar show like Top Gear wouldn’t fit in at all amongst the piano concertos, wildlife documentaries and children’s programming. And nobody but hardcore enthusiasts would even watch it if it were on PBS.

So that leaves only one other niche where it should go: premium cable networks. I’m not currently a subscriber to the HBO/Showtime/Cinemax lot, but I’d certainly consider it for something like this if it could be uncensored and not beholden to big-buck advertisers who will simply turn it into another Horsepower TV, where all the shows are just half-hour-long infomercials for the automotive aftermarket.

The decision to put Top Gear America on NBC is a huge mistake, but since the original Top Gear will continue unchanged, I’ll just keep watching that one instead. It’s too bad though.

UPDATE, June 2010: NBC requested and paid for the filming of the pilot episode, then upon witnessing it they abandoned it altogether in the fall of 2008. It has since been picked up by The History Channel and filming has resumed with a new selection of hosts.

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