The travelling circus of Top Gear Australia

While his co-presenters embraced a mega-schedule filming on the road around the world, Jonathan LaPaglia admits Top Gear Australia was a punishing shoot.

As any Top Gear fan knows, you can’t make the show unless you go big.

In its third iteration for Paramount+ (previously on SBS and Nine), a new-look Top Gear Australia does not hold back on its scale, visiting France, Italy, Colombia, jam-packed into 4-5 months of filming.

For host Jonathan LaPaglia, match-fit for Survivor in Samoa, it was a very challenging shoot.

“I found it tough. It really is a travelling circus,” he tells TV Tonight. “I mean you’re literally going from hotel to hotel almost every single day. On occasion we might be at a hotel for two nights, that was kind of a luxury. But otherwise it was every night. You’d get on the road and be shooting all day until sundown … then another couple of hours travelling to the next hotel, get some sleep, rinse and repeat, do the same thing again the next day.”

“It’s not as glamorous as you’d think,” agrees host Beau Ryan.

“There are days where it’s hard to get out of bed and do it again. But none of that comes across on camera and it shows how professional we were, because there was no whinging on set and these guys are holding 20- kilo camera packs and gimbals all day every day in the elements, in blizzards, in humidity, in water, in the cold, in the outback and never complained -so these guys can do it. I mean we owe it to them and the fans.”

Blair “Moog” Joscelyne is the third host and newcomer to Free to Air television in a presenting role. A skilled composer (National Geographic’s Tales by Light), he has co-presented hit YouTube series Mighty Car Mods, with more than 3.8m subscribers.

“Initially I didn’t know if I could do it. I don’t know if I can live up to the hype of being involved in such a big show. But I decided to go to the audition. These two fellas were there amongst a bunch of other people. Obviously, I can’t speak on why they chose us but chemistry is a big thing. We got offered the job and here we are. I’m glad it was the three of us because I can’t imagine doing it with anyone else.”

LaPaglia’s fascination with all things automotive begins with his father, leading to him building his own car in his garage.

“My father was a mechanic and then he became a dealer and had his own dealership in Adelaide. So I was always around cars,” LaPaglia reveals.

“But where it really kicked in for me was in the late 90s when I moved to LA and I needed a car. My first car was a Ford Bronco, that was the first V8 that I’d ever owned and something clicked.

“It was the sound and the power of the V8 that turned me into a gearhead and it’s just gone from there. I’ve had a bunch of cars that I’ve modified since and eventually worked my way to muscle cars. The current car that I drive is a 73 Dodge Challenger and that’s the one that you’re referring to that I built myself.”

“I’m all about the optics,” Beau Ryan confirms. “These two guys are all about having muscle cars or (Blair) loves his Japanese cars. I like big, over-the-top Jeeps. I do like Hummers. I’m trying to get a Cybertruck if you’ve got any contacts.

“But I think we complement each other because I’m like a supervisor when we’re doing it… but these guys get a lot dirtier than me. That’s why I have to get nude a lot.”

Viewers will witness those scenes in episode two when the show features a Colombian special, driving from Bogota to the Coffee Triangle to source coffee beans to export back to Sydney.

Not everything goes to plan but it’s all captured by GoPro cameras, drones and in-car cameras maintained by a 55 person crew.

“I’m used to travelling incredibly lean, either with no crew at all, or maybe one or two people at the most,” says Blair. “So when I first found out that we had key Australian crew, supplemented with the crew that had been making the show for years, I think at one point, there was maybe 55 people travelling together, including local support and helpers. To me that is a huge number.

“As a newbie to this industry, when there’s 55 people and I see one person holding a camera, I’m like, ‘What do the other 54 of you do? Like, what do you actually do?’ And, and then sure enough, you realise that everybody has a really important role. The story cannot be made without each of those people. They’re kind of running like a military unit… just heads down and working their arses off.”

Beau Ryan’s experience in global jaunts for The Amazing Race put him in good stead.

“The crew of 55 to be straight up with you, I thought it was a bit light,” he recalls, “considering how much trouble we had, having three hosts with our own independent crews, plus people operating drones out in the field. I actually expected more, which speaks volumes about the people working on the show. All of them were at the top of their class. The cameraman and audio have been doing this for 20 years, and you’ve got to be experienced in this because we’re not gonna go backwards. We’re not gonna try and re-shoot anything. If we need to get from Italy to Switzerland, we’ve got four or five hours and it’s a five hour drive, then there’s not much margin for error.”

“The UK EP who worked for many years on the original Top Gear, once said to us that we’ve gone to more countries in our series than the original would go to in one series. So that gives you an indication of the scope of the show,” LaPaglia observes.

Traditional Top Gear scenes at the show’s own base on Cockatoo Island includes a studio audience and popular Top Gear segments, with the exception of ‘Top Gear News.’

Yet for all the ‘first world problems’ and super-tight schedules Joscelyne wouldn’t have it any other way.

“We have that easy job in a way,” he acknowledges. “You know, the cars are ready for us, everything is set up and we just have to drive them. Sure you’ve got to bring some energy for screen but actually like a real the heroes of a show like this are the ones in Production.”

“I still think it’s tough,” LaPaglia adds.

Friday May 17 on Paramount+.

9 Responses

  1. Its a missed opportunity with a number of really good local motoring commentators (like Toby Hagon, Paul Maric) overlooked for two people whose link to the automotive industry is weak at best. Combine that with an unlikeable character in Beau Ryan (Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here anyone?), and you are looking at another misfire.

    1. I love the host options! Couldn’t feel more differently than you…. no offence but your suggestions sound great for a Sunday morning motoring show sponsored by the Herald.

  2. I’ve never given a stuff about cars. They bore me as much as cricket and Ed Sheeran. But the Clarkson/May/Hammond model of Top Gear proved that if you frame them with dynamic hosts, great chemistry, good humour and real passion for the subject, they become essential TV. All the signs are pointing to this new version ticking all those boxes again and I’m ready for it.

      1. I’m in the same boat. I’m not the biggest “car fan” out there, but loved Top Gear UK because of the trio of hosts, comedic execution and to an extent, the lovely scenic shots.

        Am hoping this third version of Top Gear Aus is in similar style.

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