Two episodes in, and it looks like Top Gear Australia is in some serious trouble, dropping 250,000 viewers to come in a 674,000 viewers and last in its time slot.
It may be an SBS show, but this is an SBS that does advertising now, and it relies on viewers to work that; low viewers, high production costs = not going to last.
So what’s wrong with Top Gear Australia? The answer is quite simple: it’s just a car show.
The original and best Top Gear out of the UK is a car show as well…but it’s also entertaining, and it’s also great to watch visually. I’m not a “car person” as such, I don’t follow motorsports, I don’t have a big or flash car, and my technical knowledge of cars is limited, but I watch every single episode of Top Gear.
There’s the entertainment angle. I know the Australian producers didn’t want to copy the UK format and have their own Jeremy Clarkson, but it’s the character narrative that makes Top Gear UK so special. From Clarkson’s buffoonery, through to the interaction with May and Hammond, and even their own characters, playing on their own strengths and weaknesses that just works. The Australian hosts don’t have the same chemistry, nor are they nearly as entertaining.
Then there’s the visuals. Top Gear UK is visual porn. Beautiful cars, beautiful and interesting scenery, often combined with some fun challenges as well. It’s part travel show, part personal diary (side stories around the key story). It’s also the editing as well: the way the visuals are presented, mixed, and with the music and voices overs added. Even if you hate cars, there’s something in Top Gear UK you will enjoy every episode. Top Gear Australia tries hard, but it doesn’t come close visually.
There’s also the content side. Top Gear Australia just did Ford vs Holden, a giant yawn for me, but something rev heads would have loved. On other cars the focus in on the tech specs, the functionality, typical of people heavily into cars, but not quite as interesting to others. Top Gear UK provides a full narrative, from Clarkson’s humorous comparisons, through to practical use cases. You do get the specs, but its part of a broad picture, that is more accessible to more people, even those who might not fully get the value of the specs provided. You don’t have to be a brain surgeon to know that 1000hp is powerful for example, but you don’t need full discourse on how that’s important to rev heads.
My only compliant: I wish Top Gear UK wouldn’t take such a long summer break…I need a Clarkson hit 🙂