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'Top Gear' recap: Brits are a tough act to follow, but Yanks make it work

November 22, 2010 | 10:52 am

Topgear It's been three years in the making. It's involved three different networks. Hundreds of hosts were auditioned.

Well, the U.S. version of Top Gear finally debuted on History last night, and I've got to say: It isn't the abomination I expected. In fact, it's actually good.

Tanner Foust, Rutledge Wood and Adam Ferrara are a solid trio, and the format is a fast-paced and beautifully shot mix of clever vehicular juxtaposition and sports-car fantasy, history, stunts and stats.

Although the American version is more fan-boy and less gear-headed and critical of cars than the British original, the three hosts have a genuine on-screen chemistry. And they're different enough from one another that it works. Representing American car culture from three corners of the country, Foust is a race- and stunt-car driver from So Cal, Wood is a NASCAR reporter from Georgia, and Ferrara is a stand-up comedian from New York.

Foust is clearly the most technically adept of the bunch. Without him, "Top Gear" would have absolutely no credibility. An expert flogger of four wheels, who not only drives a Dodge Viper but speaks about the car with authority in the debut episode, he's a pretty boy with a Playboy mouth. Wood plays the huggable, happy-go-lucky sidekick who's just happy to survive riding shotgun as Foust evades a Cobra military helicopter.

Ferrara is best when he's unscripted, dropping killer lines, including this brilliant metaphor: Speeding toward 180 mph in the Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera on an open desert highway, he says, is "like being aroused at gunpoint."

Bring on the Bugatti Veyron.

-- Susan Carpenter

Photo credit: History