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‘Top Gear’ and the Fate of TV’s Most Famous Car Show Hosts

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Whether or not you’re a car enthusiast, you’ve probably heard of the British show Top Gear. For decades, the show has entertained audiences with the latest car reviews and news, but in a way that reaches the non-automotive types like no other show. As Car Talk is for radio, Top Gear was lightning in a bottle.

Then it all came to an end.

While filming an episode for the latest season, host Jeremy Clarkson went ballistic on one of the show’s staff for bringing dinner to him late. Clarkson has a colorful history of enraging nearly every special interest group in England at one time or another, but the latest outburst at one of their own was just too much. Filming was halted and Clarkson was given the boot.

The producers claimed the show would go on, but co-stars James May and Richard Hammond stand in solidarity with Clarkson (seen below), meaning Top Gear as we knew it would cease to be. Here’s why that’s a good thing.

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For a long time, American’s got the show as something of a hand-me-down. Episodes would air on BBC in the UK, and then make their way to either some form of public television in certain markets, or eventually BBC America. By the current season, the show would air the same week in America as in the UK, but it was a long road get to that point. In the past, a whole season would run before we could see all the high-powered car reviews, and entertaining competitions. For the American fans, that was a long wait.

But rumors are flying around that the three presenters could be making a move to streaming video. It is widely speculated that they would star in a car show on Netflix, and that could be just the thing-not only for American viewers, but for those who watch the show all over the globe.

According to its Wikipedia page, BBC America is available to more than 78 million (67% of) cable and satellite customers in the US, but not nearly that many watch. The highest number of viewers to ever tune into BBC America was for a Dr. Who 50th Anniversary special, and only 2.4 million watched.

Meanwhile, Netflix has 40.4 million global subscribers. 31.2 million of those subscribers are in the US. Netflix does not release its viewership numbers or ratings for shows, but certainly blows BBC America’s viewership out of the water.

Running a car show on Netflix with three presenters that have international appeal has the potential for a home run. Many, many others have tried to capture the success of Top Gear and failed, and it simply comes down to the chemistry of the hosts. Top Gear America was a total flop, and Adam Corolla’s The Car Show was never given a fair chance, but its presenters never jelled the way Clarkson, Hammond and May could.

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Top Gear will bring in new hosts, and the show will go on, but not with the same perfection as when hosted by the three hosts that brought the show into international significance.

Though it is unclear what will happen to Clarkson, Hammond and May, we really hope they end up hosting a show for Netflix. The streaming service has proven time and again that they can pony up for quality production teams as well as producers and writers. From House of Cards to Orange is the New Black, Netflix has proven it has the chops to make world-class shows, and give them the freedom to push the boundaries of television. Clarkson has been doing just that for decades, and so the former Top Gear hosts and Netflix are a perfect fit.


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