Category: History

'Top Gear' recap: Finger lickin' good

TopgearmoonshineThe moonshine for Sunday night's episode probably cost more than the cars, which, I've gotta say, performed more than admirably for the grand they cost apiece.

Once state of the art, the '87 Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe, the '76 Cadillac Coupe de Ville and the '87 Nissan 300ZX each displayed their ultimate value in this low-brow, high-concept romp that took the boys to the Deep South and pushed their rides to the brink. Who knew the wedding of white lightning and crap cars would be such a perfect vehicle to tell NASCAR's historic beginnings and the ideology of aged vehicular icons?

My money was on the Ford, trashed as its interior was when Rutledge Wood took possession. Good thing I'm not a betting woman, because its performance was a bit leaden. The Nissan was sure to win the J-turn challenge, if only because it was helmed by drifting champ Tanner Foust. As for Adam Ferrara's champion spin on a motocross track frequented by dirt bikes and billy goats, one thing can be said about the Caddy's once-plush interior: It had some decent padding, allowing Ferrara to be able to walk away from the jump he took, and to do so without a limp.

A demo derby can't be too far off in this series' future. 

-- Susan Carpenter

Photo: Tanner Foust, Adam Ferrara, Rutledge Wood. Credit: History

'Top Gear' recap: Blind drifting and other stunts

618296I liked last week's kickoff to the U.S. version of "Top Gear." And I loved this week's episode, which saw Tanner Foust going wheel to ski in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution down the snowpack of Mammoth Mountain.

When Foust first opened the episode  singing the praises of the Evo, I thought "Top Gear" was getting dangerously close to advertorial. But Foust and the car walked the talk, showing this race car/family sedan really could do what it claimed. And they did it in the best possible way: in a "Jackass"-style competition that displayed the talents of everyone (and everything) involved.

I'm waiting for Rutledge Wood and Adam Ferrara to show they can properly flog a car. But I figure that will come with time -- that Foust will school his co-hosts as he did the blind stand-up comedian, who beat Wood and Ferrara in this week's hilarious drifting-competition segment.

Wood is great with the one-liners, including his Southern take on the Mitsubishi: "It looks like it fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down." And so is Ferrara, who watches Foust drift a Nissan 370Z and quips, "In New York, we call it grand theft auto."

If "Top Gear" keeps bringing on guests like "Lost's" Dominic Monaghan, who was a great guinea pig for the big-star small-car segment and an intriguing interview, throwing out some pretty wild ideas for his dream car, this show could really hit.

-- Susan Carpenter

Photo: "Top Gear" in motion. Credit: History


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

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


Greg Kinnear, Katie Holmes to star as JFK, Jackie in upcoming miniseries

Katie_holmes What do Greg Kinnear and Katie Holmes have in common?

They’ll soon be appearing in “The Kennedys,” the upcoming History channel miniseries about the Democratic royalty.

Kinnear (“As Good As it Gets”)” will play John F. Kennedy; Holmes (“Dawson’s Creek”) will play Jacqueline Kennedy. They’ll be joined by Barry Pepper (“Saving Private Ryan”) who will play Robert F. Kennedy and Tom Wilkinson (“John Adams”), who takes on the role of the family patriarch, Joseph P. Kennedy.

"We could not be more pleased that these incredibly talented actors have agreed to sign onto the miniseries," network president and general manager Nancy Dubuc said in a statement.

It’s the first time the network has delved into the scripted miniseries arena. Steve Kronish is writing the screenplay, which is currently being annotated and vetted by History’s resident historians, according to a network release. The revisionist series -- produced by Joel Surnow, a creator of the Fox action series “24” -- has already received criticism for inaccuracies by historians who viewed early drafts of the scripts with the help of the liberal filmmaker Robert Greenwald, who hasn't been mum about his outrage over the project. 

The eight-hour miniseries, which will cover the time period from Joe Sr.'s time at Harvard until RFK's  assassination, is scheduled to air in 2011.

--Yvonne Villarreal

Photo: Katie Holmes at ELLE Magazine's 16th Annual Women in Hollywood Tribute in Los Angeles last October. Credit: Associated Press

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