Top Gear USA Review

TopGear USA Buick Roadmaster Wagon 2011 Redesign Cool ModernSince the holiday hullabaloo has passed I am sloooowwlly catching up with the programming on our DVR. One in particular that I was both excited about and dreading at the same time is Top Gear USA. Here is my review of the first 4 episodes of the show.

We were curious to see if it was going to become Top Gear Lame Edition, and it has its lame parts but seems to be more good than bad thus far. (or like my Brother calls the Aussie version Bad Top Gear) To be clear, it is worth watching!

If you have all the Top Gear USA episodes on your DVR/TIVO or eventually on DVD, my recommendation is to skip the first episode. Start watching at Episode 2. We showed the first one to my brother-in-law when he was visiting from Norway and he fell asleep while watching it. All it does is establish the three character types in the show of which I will share with you now and save the hour of time in your calendar:

1. Tanner Faust is the geek. He lists facts and figures the whole time thinking he can estimate how every matchup will turn out and tries some lame smack talk to try and be superior because of his history winning races. It is lame and he establishes himself as the nerdy-geek from here on out. He is the best driver but the one with the least personality and is most annoying trying to be superior instead of relating to his Top Gear USA cast mates, of which he doesn’t seem to really like. I guess its hard to become friends when you’ve been competing against people for so long. (this gets better later in the season, but it takes a while)

2. The Italian Guy – (Adam Ferarra) is an interesting choice for the show. I like that he isn’t a pro driver and is new to this space and I like his Italian character as an element in the series since it is one you run across a lot in car circles. That spot on the side of his face worries me, is it skin cancer? (I just had some removed so I may be paranoid) I do like his genuine emotion and feelings about the cars and the experiences. You can tell this is very real to him when it is being filmed. I think he should loosen up a lot though in the studio, he seems very nervous on camera in the first few episodes. Best quote yet: “That has the turning radius of Pennsylvania” about the Buick Roadmaster. (sometimes he seems a bit too harsh in his car put-downs in the studio but he has loosened up a lot)

3. Rutledge Wood is the underdog that becomes the most entertaining and likeable character in the series. If you’ve seen his NASCAR game show, just watch this instead. Rutledge is a little more southern than most of us, but he is informed of things that happen in the northerly areas and with non-us cars. Above all, he seems to be most adept at making fun of the situation, revealing the emotions linked to a car or situation and willing to tease his castmates without seeming mean. I think he is the new Jeremy Clarkson because of his timing and ability to understand the improvised comedy with these situations messing around in cars. He also gets big bonus points for choosing a Buick to run through the Save GM testing and defending Buick a few weeks later in the studio. And because he also has a beard. Best quote yet: “Anyone seen Tom Cruise in a Girly Ferrari?” in Las Vegas. (everyone looooooves Rutledge except James May)

Some Top Gear USA show segment suggestions from the peanut gallery:

1. Car sledding – pull someone on a sled with the car, extra points for jumping the car and the person. This suggestion is from my brother who used to do this with his late 90’s purple cavalier.

2. NPR recently had an article about Caterpillar, Volvo and Case construction and earth moving equipment being stolen all over the US and Canada because of the universal key system where one universal key will start any vehicle and you can buy them at a dealer for $10. This is too weird to not use in some segment somewhere.

3. I recently saw a car carrier on Ogden Avenue in Naperville unloading cars in the center turn lane inbetween lanes of traffic going both directions because it couldn’t make the turning radius into the dealerships. This was a dicey process in the middle of rush hour. A challenge where the guys have to unload cars from train cars, load them on car carrier truck trailers and deliver them somewhere would be interesting/exciting/scary. Also the old American Revolution car carrier commercial where they get the Chevy band back together comes to mind if you would like to integrate some stunt driving with a car carrier. (the commercial still gives me goosebumps! And its amazingly from an era before TG UK influenced car commercials)

4. A challenge involving a grocery store parking lot covered in a sheet of ice and a lot of shopping carts.

And you can follow my tweets about the show @chicagogirl1 on Twitter.

Another afterthought about the new show: It is nice to have feelings/remembrances of the cars that they pull up in for challenges on TG USA. In the UK version it is always kind of unknown/weird/quizzical at that point but in the US version we start voicing our opinions at the TV at that moment we see the cars and sometimes have driven them.

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Top 10 Questions we have for TopGear, Season 12

I just wanted to post these since I have not written about TopGear UK in a while and I didn’t want them to think they weren’t still producing top content or keeping my attention. The season 12 shows (1-4) that I have seen so far have been excellent and had many laugh out loud moments in each one. I always find it funny that my brother, fiancee, my dad and I laugh at different parts of the shows too.

The US trip to the Bonneville Salt Flats for Speed Week was my favorite so far (maybe because of a post I made last year suggesting it for TG USA) but there is always another great TopGear show around the corner. Anyway, here are my top 10 questions for TopGear UK, since I do not live in the UK and can’t go ask them directly. (if they would like to come to Chicago, I would be happy to answer their questions about my city) 

If you have the answers to any of these questions feel free to leave me a comment.

10. When is the TopGear USA (Gear on NBC?) going to start? They have been filming/talking/speculation for over 6 months already. (This has been answered…it has been dropped by NBC, no plans as of yet to sign another network)
9. When are they going to start showing current shows on BBC America? (ahem, without 33% of the show cut out)
8. When are we going to get the Top Gear track times on the board for the Corvette ZR-1, Challenger SRT-8 and CTS-V? (its only fair)
7. Why does Richard Hammond change hairstyles each episode? Why does he still wear the man-jewelry he aquired during that Africa trip episode? Why is James May’s hair always falling in his face in the studio segments even though there should be a stylist around to help him avoid that? Why does James always wear the Cheshire Cat rugby shirt on new car test days?
6. Where can I go to learn to drive like that in my car? (seriously, TopGear sport driving schools sound good to me)
5. What is that 747 doing there out on the runway near the track? Is it flyable? I thought it looked like they might be taking it apart in one of the recent episodes.
4. Why is one of the turns in the TopGear track called “Chicago” if they have never actually filmed a show in Chicago? (hint, hint…)
3. What are all these bets that end with weird clothing about?
2.Who is the stig? What are the morse code messages saying in the car when the Stig tests out the new cars on the track? 


1. How can I integrate TopGear somehow into my wedding ?

New Quarterlife TV Show on NBC ROCKS!

I have been reading for months about this new show Quarterlife and how because of the writer’s strike, it got a shot at airing on network TV when it had only been an online show before that point. I ran into the Quarterlife show the other night on TV by accident and thought I would check it out. I was surprised that despite being 32, and not the target of the show, I really liked it. I specifically remember being 25 and having a quarterlife crisis (term coined by John Mayer in a song) and going through some things with being on my own for the first time, with my first job, dating woes and dealing with being a full on adult for the first time. Plus leaving all childhood frivolousness behind is a somewhat scary thing. No more silly stuff? No more hip clothes? Will I just be a boring blah worker that never gets anywhere? All my friends too had these thoughts.

I found that the show Quarterlife represented these feelings pretty accurately. The content of the show was very genuine and right on for that age group and I watched earnestly remembering that time in my life. I thought it was funny and clever and very dramatic and true all at the same time.

they were open and honest about everything from sex to work to relationships and I found it refreshing, although the show moves at a very fast pace. I had to speed up my brain just to keep up with all the cuts to different angles and fast dialogue. Quarterlife does seem very real though and the actors are pretty good. (although one girl that blogs is reeeeaaallllyyy overacting)

Then I saw online that people were calling it a failure because it only had 3.9 million viewers. I don’t know if that is really bad since I saw no online or offline campaign promoting it and I am online all over the place. How would that 20-30 yr crowd that doesn’t watch TV know it was going to be on? Did they do any WOM marketing? Duh? if you don’t invite them and tell them it’s coming no one will show up.

I think this show has all the elements of a West Wing for the Millenials but about personal politics rather than national politics. I think it should stay on the air and they should give it some marketing boost, and maybe a tripod to anchor the camera better in some situations. Anyway, I just thought it was important to say that I watched the show and I liked it a lot and it should stay on air at NBC and online.

I know that the commerical spots were sold with X amount of audience guaranteed and if they miss that point the network has to refund or give away more free ads to compensate for it. But maybe this show was not positioned right, promoted right or sold right by the network. I thing the writers, actors and developers of the show did a great job and the show may get shuffled around, but should certainly stay on the air.

Top Popular TV Shows by Ratings November 2007

television, TV, showsEvery once in a while I like to check in on TV ratings and see what the most people are watching these days. My tastes don’t seem to be the same as the general public, but it’s interesting to see what they’re into even if it’s shows I would rather get a root canal than watch. This is how the list looks for the top 30 TV shows on network free TV in the past week (from the media week daily programming insider email)

What I think is surprising is that this list doesn’t look all that different than it did a year ago, or even 2 years ago. Last year Heroes was doing better but that is about it. Statistically we are still pretty much watching the same shows in 2007 that we were in 2005.  (yes, football got shifted around a bit in the mix, and “Samantha Who?” is new but that’s not a lot of change in 2 years)

Is it also just a little amazing that something like Charlie Brown still holds the attention of viewers after all these years? It’s nice to see something traditional on TV actually get some viewers.

Only 1 freshman series on the list. I guess there really weren’t many winners from this year’s new shows, so the writer’s strike could have started a whole lot earlier.

And how does 60 minutes keep drawing in an audience? I watch that and think it’s a show for old people, by old people. (and really bushy eyebrows) But then again only about 25% of our country is high school age or younger, (although it’s 1/3 of our lifespan) so maybe that isn’t such a bad demographic to pursue.

8 shows are Crime Dramas and 8 are reality shows. Except for Dancing with the Stars (which is almost a variety show) I could see all of them dropped and not miss them.

The rest: 5 dramas, 3 comedy and 3 sports. I am really surprised that Football is doing so well on Saturday and Sunday nights. Traditionally people are out of the house on Saturday night and TV ratings (much like internet traffic) is at it’s lowest point of the week so for any Saturday Night show to be on this list is amazing.

Top 30 Network Shows – Ranking by Total Viewers:

1. Dancing With the Stars – Monday (ABC: 22.85 million)
2. Sunday Night Football (NBC Philadelphia at New England: 21.81)
3. Dancing With the Stars – Tuesday (ABC: 20.96)
4. Desperate Housewives (ABC: 18.64)
5. NCIS (CBS: 17.34)
6. House (Fox: 16.89)
7. 60 Minutes (CBS: 16.13)
8. Criminal Minds (CBS: 15.88)
9. CSI: Miami (CBS: 15.83)
10. Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (ABC: 15.03)
11. CSI (CBS: 14.75)
12. CSI: NY (CBS: 14.56)
13. Samantha Who? (ABC: 14.38)
14. Grey’s Anatomy (ABC: 14.11)
15. Two and a Half Men (CBS: 13.91)
16. Cold Case (CBS: 12.98)
17. Sunday Night Football (NBC : 12.91)
18. The Bachelor: After the Final Rose (ABC: 12.30)
19. Brothers & Sisters (ABC: 12.25)
20. Without a Trace (CBS: 12.21)
21. The Amazing Race 12 (CBS: 11.80)
22. Law & Order: SVU (NBC: 11.69)
23. Survivor: China (CBS, clips show: 11.58)
24. Rules of Engagement (CBS: 11.48)
25. The Bachelor (ABC: 11.22)
26. Saturday Night Football (ABC: 10.96)
27. Heroes (NBC: 10.80)
28. The Unit (CBS: 10.76)
29. He’s a Bully Charlie, Brown (ABC: 10.42)
30. Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (ABC, Sun. 7 p.m: 10.37)

Jeremy Clarkson Chews pipe and burns mouth Season 10 Ep 2

Ok, so this week’s TopGear was funnier than last week’s season premier show. The Audi R8 was nice, but alas I won’t be in the market for a super-car for at least several lifetimes, so it was just car porn. This week the funniest moments in no particular order were:

1. James Smoking the pipe as if he was at home.

2. Jeremy burning his mouth on his Porsche pipe.

3. Jeremy scraping the underside of a viaduct with the fishing poles sticking out of his truck.

4. The foam on fire in all 3 amphibious vehicles on their way to Dover.

5. Jeremy trying to push James’ Triumph Herald off the dock when they arrive.

We were cackling so loud at this show that the relatives and guests visiting my parent’s house had to come in and watch the end with us. We had 11 people in front of the TV watching these 3 guys mucking about in the English Channel. Most of them had never seen it before, and are going to go look it up on BBC America now.  You just can’t deny the lovability of this show.  All my brother’s friends are obsessed and their girlfriends are obsessed and my dad’s coworkers are obsessed too. I have one or two coworkers that are into it, but not in this office. Chicagoans are somewhat hard to impress. TG would only show up here if they would be doin g some tour of America’s fattiest food or something.

Anyway, I leave you with the best comment from last week’s show while driving through the Swiss Alps: ” The Hills are Alive with the sound of Horsepower” Sing along with us…

DVR Playbacks of TV Season Premier Week

From the programming insider email today:

DVR Playback – Week of Sept. 17:
Based on ratings for the week of Sept. 17 (one week prior to the official start of the 2007-08 season), the season-premiere of CBS’ Survivor: China was the most recorded program of the week. According to the final Nielsen live plus 7-day ratings, Survivor: China was recorded and played back by 2.12 million viewers. Second was the season-premiere of Fox’s Family Guy.

Here is a listing of the top 10 most recorded and played back programs for the week of Sept. 17:

DVR Total Playback Audience
1. Survivor: China (CBS, season premiere): 2.12 million
2. Family Guy (Fox, season premiere): 1.84
3. Prison Break (Fox, season premiere): 1.55
4. Back To You Fox, premiere): 1.46
5. Come Rain/Come Shine (ABC): 1.26
6. Big Brother – Tuesday (CBS, season finale): 1.25
7. The Simpsons (Fox, season premiere): 1.09
8. Kid Nation (CBS, premiere): 1.01 million
9. K-Ville (Fox, premiere): 993,000
10. Shark (CBS, season premiere); 982,000

I was suprised to see some of those shows in the top of the list because they were not watched with a very high rating. What this might mean is that they were not important enough to watch live but they were curious enough to record them and play them back to see if they were good or bad. What will be telling is if they drop off the radar in the next few weeks if people decide they didn’t like them and don’t record them in the future.

I am always suprised to see so many CBS shows, when as a singly yuppie female I don’t like anything CBS produces. It’s all reality crap or crime cop shows, and I am not in to either. There is noticeably no NBC shows on this list, even though heroes has a huge  following and NBC shows aren’t available on iTunes anymore either. Does this mean that they all watched them live? Or are they using the NBC site downloads? Or are they just not that important? I am also always suprised at the following of the Simpsons and Family Guy when I don’t relate well to them either.

Another note about these stats, when you look at who owns a DVR machine it is most certainly a young male dominated group. (probably 70% male and 30% female is my guess) This is probably the DVR stats for the 25-40 yr old male (tech oriented) group more than anything else.

If you have a DVR what did you record?

TV Premier Week update

I promised to review some of the new TV shows I have been able to catch this week on TV. I don’t have cable, so free TV is it for me. This stuff is what I have as an option or I am stuck with Netflix and the Internet. But then again sometimes my cat is the best entertainment ever. I don’t get much CBS coverage since the signal in Chicago is weak and I usually hate their shows anyway. I also rarely watch FOX because they go with lowest common denominator programming and a lot of sports and their signal is weak and fuzzy as well. If you are a TV exec or work for a network and are reading this, remember I am a 32 yr old single female yuppie professional. So these opinions are pretty related to that demo only.

Bionic Woman: Every critic has said this show either sucks or will not catch on. I don’t know why. I liked it. I got a very Alias feel from it and liked the discovery phase of not knowing what capabilites she has and the decision to embrace them. It feels very Alias to me. I hope people do watch it. It also has the whole action comic book thing going on too. Female heroines are very popular right now. Don’t count this one out.

Dirty Sexy Money: I thought this was good, but predictable. I think it is because it has been pretty heavily promoted and almost the entire pilot has been shown in bits on commericals and clips on the net. I think it will get better in the next few eps.

Dancing with the Stars: This is always interesting to me because I used to dance. I am always interested to see who is good and who sucks out of their element. I do think that the costumes are rediculous though.

Gossip Girl: A sometimes painfully obvious soap oera for teens. I think it will do well with the Teen Demo, but not much else.

Beauty and the Geek: I like this show even though apparently the ratings aren’t doing so well. I think they should keep going with it and I hope people keep watching.

Chuck: Again not much suprise when the entire plot of the pilot was in commericals but I think it has legs. A good combo of geekery and spy stuff. Comedy and Action drama stuff. And the word “nerd herd” is now part of the american vernacular.

Boston Legal: Always a pleasure to see. Always suprising and funny. This week’s closing arguement was a bit weak though. Need to keep good writers on this show that can feed James Spader good stuff.

Private Prctice: Ok show, although some shockingly awkward moments were so weird I had to change the channel. (guy dies while trying to submit sperm for artificial insemenation of girlfriend and exwife and girlfriend spend the entire show arguing over posession of dead guy’s sperm, while new doctor gets aclimated to practice with other Dr’s that didn’t know she was coming to work there) It’s a bit much over the top not believable sometimes. But than again that was the same problem I had with Grey’s Anatomy. But Kate Walsh is good. I like her a lot despite her not being able to dance really. (that was painfull too despite her being really pretty)

The Bachelor: Bad. Bad. Bad. This should have been canceled years ago. Please cut this show ASAP. Only the lowest intelligence women watch this show.

Heroes: I am not a fan of the premise of this show so I can’t really watch it. I am sure people will tune in though, people in my office were going home early to get ready to watch it, and talked about it the next day.

Cavemen: I am not giving this show the recognition of watching it.  It’s Stupid.

What did you think of all the shows you have watched in premier week? Any predictions on what will get cut?