Today’s cuppa: Hi-test
Watching "Top Gear" on BBC America (it’s on tonight!) has helped me rediscover my inner car girl (I come from a family of auto-racing fans, mostly Formula 1 and Indy cars), and the idea of NBC remaking the show has me both excited and anxious.
Both of these conditions have resulted in more than one conversation with and e-mail to the lovely and patient Craig Plestis, the senior vice president of alternative programs, development and specials at NBC Entertainment, which makes him the executive responsible for the development of the show.
I even took this picture of a Lamborghini in a rather startling shade of Halloween-pumpkin orange outside the Beverly Hilton Hotel just to show Plestis.
He e-mailed back, "I’ll take two!"
Anyway, on a recent visit to CBS’ "Million Dollar Password," I caught up with celebrity contestant — and host of NBC’s "Top Gear" — Adam Carolla and got a few of his thoughts on the show so far and whether he’s nervous at all.
"We did the pilot," he said. "It came out pretty good. I’m encouraged by that, so I’m looking forward to it. I think it’s going to work out OK.
"I’m really weird and cosmic, whatever. There are a couple of things. A, I think I’m really good at it, so I’m not that worried about it. And B, even if it doesn’t work out, it’s put me together with the subject of cars and then let me improvise. Pair me with some guys I can screw around with, and we’re done. That’s as much as you’re going to need.
"I’m not going to get nervous about stuff I’m good at. I’ll save that for stuff I’m bad at. If I was hosting a spelling bee, I would be very nervous about it, but I’m going to be talking about cars and cracking wise."
Asked about the effect of the oil crisis and rising gas prices on "Top Gear," Carolla said, "In a way, people are talking about cars even more than they ever were.They’re just talking about different cars. And you can do supercars with diesel. Audi’s R8, the next one’s going to be a diesel."
Last but not least, here’s this week’s edition of my print column "We’d Like to See," which takes on the question of how this car show can survive reports of an energy crisis.
NBC is still working on its version of the hit BBC car show "Top Gear," which airs in the States on BBC America.
The hosts have been announced: radio and TV personality Adam Carolla ("The Man Show," "Dancing With the Stars"); stunt and rally driver Tanner Foust, the host of "SuperCars Exposed" on Speed Channel, and former soap opera actor and construction expert Eric Stromer, the host of HGTV’s "Over Your Head."
If it’s anything like the original, which has aired in some form on the BBC since 1977, "Top Gear" will discuss auto trends, feature test drives of superfast supercars, and do wild and outrageous stunts, turning cars into everything from a boat to a space shuttle.
With the addition of host Jeremy Clarkson in the late ’80s, the formerly sedate "Top Gear" became a boys paradise, with luscious shots of gleaming sports cars speeding through puddles and across brightly lit runways at night.
Unfortunately, each of these cars also burns gas at a rate only slightly under the entire consumption of certain Third World nations.
This raises the question of whether rising gas prices in America will put the brakes on the freewheeling style of "Top Gear" when it comes to NBC (on the other hand, gas costs a lot more in the U.K., but that hasn’t slowed the show down over there).
So I’d like to offer a few humble suggestions to keep its tanks topped off.
On the British show, there was an attempt to grow fuel, as the hosts tried to pilot tractors across a field and plant rapeseed, which can be converted into biodiesel.
The scheme was a miserable failure, but perhaps NBC could buy a large portion of some flood-ravaged Midwestern state and devote it entirely to growing plants that could be made into ethanol. If that also fails, the network might get a gardening show out of it.
NBC could fund the building of a new oil refinery, with a certain amount of its output designated for the Porsches and Lamborghinis of "Top Gear." Hey, we need a new refinery. Maybe Jay Leno could write the check. He drives cars, too.
NBC could buy one of each of the new models of sports cars, gut them and convert them to burning vegetable oil. We don’t have Smell-O-Vision, so viewers won’t suddenly get a yen for popcorn or tacos.
The "Top Gear" hosts could take up bicycle racing instead.
The show’s test drives could all be simulated in front of a green screen. If it was good enough for "Speed Racer," it should be good enough for "Top Gear."
All the world’s supercar manufacturers could make hybrid models that look just as good as the real thing. Of course, you couldn’t rev the engines in park, but that’s what sound effects are for.