Top Gear Australia

When you’re charged with the task of producing a local version of an overseas format, international producers invariably insist you follow a tried and true format. So You Think You Can Dance Australia looks the same as the American version. For years Sale of the Century was copied around the world right down to Tony Barber’s bouncy entry. Sticking to the format is considered one of the only safeguards in ‘fool-proofing’ any new version.

But it brings with it the challenge: how do you make it your own? So it is with Top Gear Australia.

We love the British prototype for a myriad of reasons. Front and centre are the charismatic hosts. Add to that the brilliant storytelling of a potentially dull product (cars). Throw in the lavish cinematography, the production values, the stirring music, the political undertones, and, dammit, the absolute hide of the stunts.

All of these have been readily identified by the Australian producers, Freehand (part-owned by the BBC). All of these have been attempted in one form or another, with the brazen task of “Australian-ising” the content in look and tone.

In episode one, the three hosts were all confident, fluid and engaging in their presentation. If there were any nerves, they weren’t apparent here. For three disparate strangers to click with relative ease is something of an accomplishment in itself. That said, it is also clear that so far they are yet to dig deep and eke out their own group chemistry. These three seem to have carbon copied the heirarchy of the Brits.

Charlie Cox is, like Jeremy Clarkson, the alpha-male, the team leader, the voice of wisdom. Steve Pizzati is the cheeky, fresh-faced larrikin a la Richard Hammond, and Warren Brown is the left-of-centre counterpart to James May.

All three spent the episode deriding one another, insulting their motoring skills, yearning to top one another. This is a branding of the UK hosts, borne of true chemistry. As the Australian series progresses, the local hosts will need to find a way of interacting that, like the show, seeks to stand on its own feet.

The production values from the Aussie team are excellent. Here is our big, brown land, a better off-the-road destination than the UK can ever dream of. With their clever use of filters and aerial shots, the show excelled on this level.

The stunts in the first episode were also formidable, scaling the sand dunes, battling the icy elements, and, just when you thought “yeah but where’s the weekly stunt that is so Top Gear audacious?”, Warren was sunk into shark-infested waters in a Moke.

If the show can upkeep sequences that also speak to the ‘everyman driver’ it will chart an impressive course.

One comment from Charlie Cox about a standard Porsche being more economical than a Toyota Camry by “a poofteenth” was completely unnecessary, and coming from a diverse broadcaster such as SBS certainly disappointing. Jeremy Clarkson once apologised for calling a car “a bit gay” -it seems the locals are formatting plenty from the UK.

We all know The Stig isn’t really The Stig. There’s only one Stig, guys. Studio segments were somewhat overcooked with commentary, no doubt the show will gain more confidence to allow itself a little breathing space.

For a first episode, Top Gear Australia was nonetheless an impressive first lap for a show with such a high bar.

Top Gear Australia airs Mondays at 7:30pm on SBS.

42 Comments:

  1. The third show (13th Oct) was actually quite good, the reviews were informative and non-bias (especially the BMW X6) the challenge was funny (for once) the studio audience and host actually got into it and were more comfortable with eachother, and even commented about the ‘poof-tinth’ and feeback. Great show and it’s FINALLY starting to get it’s own feet and not a UK know-off.

    But Cox has got to relax, he is still too over the top!

  2. Well it looks like Australians have voted with their remotes … first episode was rubbish, second episode (of which I stomached about 13 minutes) was even moreso … cmon SBS give us a break and bring back the UK series,
    They may be old episodes but a) we haven’t seen them here in Australia, and b) they’re 100 times better than this Australian-remake crap.
    And as for people saying the first few episodes of the Aust. version were better than the first few of the UK version… Give me a break!!!!!!! They were shot like 11 years ago. Please people have a little commonsense. Of course they would look better, have you ever watched re-runs of Richie Benaud hosting the cricket years ago?? It looks better now but that doesn’t mean it IS better.

  3. It could be said that it is sour grapes as I sent in an audition tape.

    However my view is based from a love of the UK version past and present.

    I had hoped they may have given the show a real chance by finding some genuine aussie characters.

    Monday night was embarrassing and a little bit tragic.

    Have a look at you tube and you can see a dozen blokes that with a bit of direction and time would make the show a stand out in its own right.

    Sure you need to follow a proven format to a certain extent, but those 3 are wrong on so many levels.

    WHAT the HELL is with John Farnhams Brother ????

    Did he pay to get the gig ?!?!?!

    The casting crew MUST be doing some serious arse puckering !!!

    Heads on the block !!!

    Cheers

    Hooch Industries

  4. I liked it. Some of the cinematography was brilliant. Yet the filming at the track just didn’t cut it! Hopefully they’ll fix that over time.

    I expected not to like Warren Brown after seeing him of Difference of Opinion, but he was the one I liked the most. The others just seemed to be trying too hard. Steve just looked awkward and uncomfortable. And there were far too many cringe moments.

    But I’ll definitely watch it every week. Hopefully over time the presenters will relax, and develop their own style more.

  5. Kinda crap and a little dull.

    We all know why SBS was showing old eps of the UK version – they knew the aust version was going to look cheap (remember survivor australia) against the UK 2007/2008 top gear and suffer in comparison. How stupid so they think we are?

    Honestly the best they can come up with for the first ep was mincing round on sand dunes and getting stuck in the snow – UK vers is good cause there is that danger element to it? That segment in the shark cage was utterly pointless and dull. The “track” – if you can call it that – was a complete joke and the best they can come up with is some C grade actor (who next, lemme guess..toni pearen, shannon knowles, tom williams,some tosser from sunrise, any total Z grade celeb can apply lol).

    It was a bit bogan and yob as well – seriously, “grouse” – i didnt know it was 1987. The whole point of the UK vesr is that it INST a bunch of yobs.

    Cringe – Next week – ford vs holden – again, it keep forgetting its 1987. How bout audi vs renault and bring it into the 21st century.

  6. I must say I am more interested in seeing the ratings for the second episode than the actual episode itself, will people tune in again? Will it beat Idol once more?

  7. Gave it about ten minutes (having come in about halfway), and couldn’t bear anymore after the “Aussie Stig” and the whining about the luxury car tax. Also thought that only Charlie Cox looked comfortable in front of the camera. Warren Brown and especially Steve Pizzati were deer-in-the-headlights awful.

  8. The Poofteenth comment? Oh come on Dave, don’t start turning into one of those super politically correct-instantly take the worst meaning of a word in a second types! It was such a good review up until that trivial whinge! it was like it was just thrown in there for the silly reviewer invented word “balance”
    It wasn’t being derogatory, it was simply a reference to a large abundance of a certain section of society. No need to be biased! And if the show is out of Sydney, how else do you describe the large amount of a certain section of society around with the playful tone of the ordinary person?
    The media peeps seem to remind me of the type of people who want words like “ice” and “coke” changed due to its drug references. Soon t will be “Fancy a glass of black fizzy feel good with some solid frozen water?”
    And err SBS? Should expect more from them? Hello! SBS IS the left wing freedom station. They have South Park on which constantly puts homosexuality, race, war, politics and even conspiracy into light and takes the mickey. Nudity and tabloid “sex education” shows, Iron Chef has even shown live animals being cut up and eaten, not to mention the dozen or other racy shows that cover everything from polygamy to fanatical religious sects right down to raw footage of things like the holocaust.

  9. An Aussie Stig would have been better or even a Stig relative, but to call ‘that tame racing car driver’ The Stig, defies belief. We all know that he’s not the UK Stig, but we could believe that he is an Aussie cousin.

  10. I thought the show was a pretty good first up effort even if Charlie Cox looked like a puppet waving his arms around every few seconds.
    Steve and Warren were far better presenters… Probably better for SBS to give Warren the reigns and let Charlie take a back seat (or get rid of him completely).

    Top Gear Australia will always be miles behind the UK version as they won’t get the same budgets, access to cars or the on air talent as the brits. Still, it will be a good alternative to the rubbish that has been on the commercial networks while the UK version is off the air.

  11. I thought the show was a little average…

    Although, as the other people who posted comments said, if you compare this to the first topgear uk episodes, this comes out on top.

    Also, I agree with the comments that they should let loose. Why not come up with their own unique styles and stop trying to be like the UK presenters?

    All in all, I did enjoy the first episode tough and will be watching next week 🙂

  12. Charlie was shouting all night and it got on my nerves. But they’ll relax into it and it will get better. Loved the cinematography and the driving in the snow.

    Having said that, compare this first ep with the ‘first’ ep of the current Top Gear incarnation and it’s much better. The first season of British Top Gear with Jeremy, Hamster and the um … rotund bloke … was a bit dull.

    Maybe that’s why SBS was running all the old eps before launching into the Aus version, so we’d look better by comparison?

  13. Not bad at all really, but I didn’t care for the UK version.

    Things will change for the better as they work out their own groove, and SBS will probably allow that to happen.

    About poofteenth – not a great choice of word for anyone in the media, no matter how old or innocent the original use was.

  14. Its a bit of an insult to the aussie tv audience who are ardent fans of TG UK (like me) to think that we would be entertained with a carbon copy of the TG UK show.
    And did anyone else notice that they called one of the corners on the test track “Clarkson” !?!?! Spare me.

    A very disappointing first episode – especially after the build up and the hype leading up to the launch.

    Bring back Jezza, May and the Hampster. This is worse than any american attempt at adapting british humour.

    BTW – Does anyone even use “grouse” any more?
    Oh – and whoever was offended by the term “poofteenth” must have grown up in a test tube. That term has been around for (oh….. i feel an aussie-ism coming on….) – yonks.

  15. Rainier Wolfecastle

    IF I wanted to see the exact hanger that TG UK is filmed in, the same camera tricks employed by TG UK, three guys chosen for their relatiive similarity to TG UK, the same segments (star in reasonably priced car) then I will watch TG UK!

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