Set to debut in the spring, the series marks the latest effort to put a U.S. spin on the enduring U.K. franchise that celebrates the automotive world by putting the hosts through a series of racing- and travel-related challenges, among other elements. The Motor Trend announcement includes a photo of the hosts with a new incarnation of the show’s famed mystery driver — whose identity is always shielded by a helmet — known as “the Stig.”
“Top Gear America” will be produced mostly out of Los Angeles but will incorporate a “never-ending road show” around the U.S., according to Alex Wellen, global president and general manager of MotorTrend Group.
“This show has to be unapologetically fixated on American car culture and its influence around the world,” said Wellen said he has high hopes for the trio of hosts to generate the kind of chemistry that made “Top Gear” a worldwide hit. “This show is one of those where talent is everything,” he said. He confirmed that appearances by the Stig will be a feature of the series.
“Top Gear America” will be produced by BBC Studios, with Craig Armstrong as showrunner and Travis Shakespeare serving as executive producer for BBC Studios. A U.S. version of the show was previously produced for BBC America in 2017 with Antron Brown, William Fichter and Tom Ford as hosts. An earlier version, “Top Gear USA,” aired on History from 2010 to 2016.
“We’re thrilled that the U.S. fans of our global franchise will be able to continue to relish in all that is ‘Top Gear’ — excitement, fun and passion. The clear chemistry between Dax, Rob and Jethro, in combination with the challenges and car stunts – ranging from the ordinary to the extraordinary – are certain to make ‘Top Gear America’ a new fan favorite,” said Matt Forde, BBC Studios’ managing director of international production and formats.
The dawn of “Top Gear America” on Motor Trend is a sign of Discovery’s investment in original content for the streaming service, which has a different programming lineup than the linear channel of the same name (Discovery Inc.’s Velocity was rebranded Motor Trend Network in November 2018. The streaming service — which does incorporate advertising but also offers an ad-free version — has 20 new original series are on tap for next year, along with 20 returning originals, Wellen said.
“Top Gear America” episodes will be exclusive to the streaming platform although they may eventually wind up on the linear service, Wellen said.
The U.K. series has its roots in the 1970s. The series caught fire when it was relaunched in 2002 with hosts Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May. That trio made the show a global phenomenon, but behind the scenes turmoil led to Clarkson getting sacked — after what the BBC described as “an unprovoked physical attack” on a “Top Gear” producer in March 2015 — which spurred Hammond and May to depart the show. In late 2016, that trio reunited for a similar series for Amazon, “The Grand Tour,” which begins its fourth season on Dec. 14.
The series order for “Top Gear America” grew out of Motor Trend’s deal with the BBC for domestic streaming rights to the “Top Gear” library. That deal, completed earlier this year, includes 170 episodes and numerous specials, as well as spinoff series including “Top Gear: Extra Gear,” “Richard Hammond’s Crash Course” and “James May’s Cars of the People.”
(Pictured: “Top Gear America’s” Jethro Bovingdon, Rob Corddry, the Stig and Dax Shepard)