Jay Leno on US TG: I hope we don't ruin it (his words)

Labcoatguy

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http://driving.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/driving/features/article3638037.ece

Like everyone in Britain I have long been a huge fan of the television show Top Gear, although we get it only sporadically here in America. You can find it on BBC America and occasionally it pops up at odd times on other cable channels. There have been rumours circulating that the show would eventually come to America. I hoped it would come with Jeremy Clarkson and the gang, but NBC seems to have bought the show and I got a call one day asking if I would be interested in being a part of it.

I do my show full time, and these programmes take a great amount of time to make, so right away I had my concerns about fitting it in. The general rule of television is that it takes an hour for every minute that you see on screen. My other fear is that the show will not be made by car people.

So someone calls me from the network and is clearly not a car person. He says: ?You like cars, right?? I say yes. ?Like, all kinds of cars?? Well, yes. I like all kinds of cars. Why? ?Well, the network has bought the TV show . . . um . . . High Gear? Top Gear? Top Gear! Top Gear, yes. We know you like to build cars.?

I ask: what?s the plan for the show? ?Well, like, one week you build a car that flies and the next week you make a car that goes under water.? So I said: you know you can?t build these things in a week.

In my mind I can just see Jeremy lambasting Americans for what they did to his show. So I think: I?ve got to run away from this as quickly as I can. So I tell him that, as much as I like the show, I try not to make my hobby my job.

I like the show just the way it is. Jeremy and the guys are extremely talented, so maybe it would be an idea to do an American show similar to Top Gear but not with the same name, because I think it would be impossible to recreate or live up to the standards of the British show.

Another problem for Top Gear in America is the biting humour and criticisms of the cars. My great fear in America is that, for instance, if Kia was our sponsor this week, we?d have to say the car was fantastic.

I said on The Tonight Show recently that the new Kia was available with a heated rear window, so if people needed to push it in winter they could keep their hands warm. Boy, the phones did not stop ringing. So imagine what Jeremy would have to put up with.

I don?t think you could be quite as freewheeling with your opinions as you can on the BBC, because sponsors pay for the programmes. Sponsors would be unlikely to embrace any criticism.

Americans don?t really see personalities like Jeremy on commercial television. They know that they have to be somewhat watered down. When Jeremy rips into some sponsor such as Ford or Chrysler, well, that?s the last time they sponsor that show. Then what you have is ?the meeting? after the show, where they tell him to tone it down. That?s just not what they do at Top Gear.

Some British shows translate quite well here - The Office, for example. But with Top Gear I have such respect for the original show, I feel if they asked me to do it I would be a pale imitation of Jeremy.

It would have to be something completely different, coming from a different angle. But when you see something that?s sort of perfect as it is, it?s difficult. Are you outright stealing, trying to imitate? What are you doing? I would prefer to do a different show rather than try to copy something that works so well already.

Cars are my hobby. Television is my job. When you make your hobby your job it becomes a whole different thing. For me, my great release from any sort of pressure is to go to my garage.

I have a friend who was an attorney but always wanted to open a hot-dog stand. So he opened a hot-dog stand and it was doing okay. Then he opened one on the other side of town and that was doing okay but never really did well. Then he ran between the hot-dog stands and the law practice and he lost all three of them.

So I go to my garage and I shoot my web pieces (see www.jaylenosgarage.com) and we talk about the cars. I do it for free - there?s no money in it. We just passed 27m hits, so it?s quite popular, and that?s what I like to do. It?s great fun because it?s like sitting with a bunch of car friends. I don?t want it to be my job.

Well, we know who won't be in it. And the whole "hobby vs work" separation is something that doesn't always exist...if you're good enough at your hobby (which might have nothing to do with how much you like it), it's viable as a job.
 
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That Jay Leno has a good head (and chin) on his shoulders hasn't he?
It's good to know he's well aware of the situation.
 

watisdis

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Excellent article, pretty much sums up what's already been discussed here on the forums.
 

Jay

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I think he speaks the truth. Wait and see, I suppose; and after this article, I think many members who read this article will be watching the pilot show with a lot of cynicism.
 

Phila

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^ Indeed, and I'll probably be one of them.

Leno is absolutely right with everything he said there. The show is going to be stupid bullshit like series 9 and 10 of Top Gear- not having anything actually to do with cars.

He's smart to stay away. I feel like the show would go: Up next, Jay tests the flying Escalade to see if it really works! Now a word from Chevrolet.. This is oouurrr country...
 
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fbc

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Agree entirely with Jay - as I've always said, I'll certainly give Gear a go, but I don't have high expectations. It would be great if it turns out to be a decent show - it will be a pleasant surprise.
 

argatoga

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So someone calls me from the network and is clearly not a car person. He says: ?You like cars, right?? I say yes. ?Like, all kinds of cars?? Well, yes. I like all kinds of cars. Why? ?Well, the network has bought the TV show . . . um . . . High Gear? Top Gear? Top Gear! Top Gear, yes. We know you like to build cars.?

I ask: what?s the plan for the show? ?Well, like, one week you build a car that flies and the next week you make a car that goes under water.? So I said: you know you can?t build these things in a week.

Not a good sign.
 

leviathan3k

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He says Clarkson'd lambast this show if they mess it up too terribly...

..but wasn't there some earlier report that *he* was involved with the show to ensure it worked out well?
 

Viper007Bond

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He says Clarkson'd lambast this show if they mess it up too terribly...

..but wasn't there some earlier report that *he* was involved with the show to ensure it worked out well?

Yeah, but he only has so much influence. Money (sponsors) > some Brit.
 

nist7

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Well, I can see why he wants to keep work and hobby separate. But if Leno is not in on this....this will be a HUGE loss. Leno is a true "car guy." I was hoping that he would bring true "car enthusiasm" into the public.....where its more than just stereotypical jokes and goofy stunts and whatnot.....bah!

And Leno is right, USA should not try to imitate Top Gear.....the USA should do a different show....where it gets a good balance of your average eye candy (Ferraris, etc.) and of littler known cars that can be equally "fun" and "cool".....
 

GusinCA

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Americans can make good entertainment, believe it or not.
And we NEED a good car show. What else is there? Motorweek? Motor Trend? Car and Driver TV? Give me a break.
I do hope that they make it completely different than Top Gear, but look at it this way:
MOST PEOPLE IN THIS COUNTRY HAVE NEVER HEARD OF TOP GEAR OR JEREMY CLARKSON.
Don't forget, just because we, on this forum, follow this show religiously doesn't mean that the VAST majority of viewers here will have ANY idea that this show is modeled on a show from another country. Look at it from that perspective, as someone who has never seen TG and you'll understand what I'm saying.
That said, people here (maybe not the die hard Top Gear fans here) may very well love it, no matter what we think it's downfalls and comparisons might be...
 

smib

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Fuck corporate sponsors. Leno's little shot of reality reminded me why I am so skeptical about this show. When people like Ryan Seacrest are being hailed as creative geniuses and the greatest presenter to ever be on TV, nothing can do well.
 

Wizegui

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I've been long fearing that it might come to his, but my fears have been confirmed. Gear is probably just going to be just like Top Gear, except without the car reviews or anything that's strictly car related. It's just going to be a carbon copy of three guys doing stupid things with cars or whatever. I applaud Jay for not joining this show. He comments were spot on. This is why the whole concept of a show similar to Top Gear would not work on prime time American television.
 

nist7

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Fuck corporate sponsors. Leno's little shot of reality reminded me why I am so skeptical about this show.

I've been long fearing that it might come to his, but my fears have been confirmed. Gear is probably just going to be just like Top Gear, except without the car reviews or anything that's strictly car related. It's just going to be a carbon copy of three guys doing stupid things with cars or whatever. I applaud Jay for not joining this show. He comments were spot on. This is why the whole concept of a show similar to Top Gear would not work on prime time American television.

Oh come on people....have some hope! This thing is still in its very early stages.....who knows what kind of show it will turn out to be?

Maybe they'll get their act together and NOT try a Top Gear imitation......hell, even if they did most of Americans wouldn't notice since most Americans have NEVER heard of Clarkson or Hammond or May.....
 

ja404

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Am I the only one GLAD to not see him on the show? He collects cars, big deal. I don't think he's funny, and no matter how hard I try I can't see him hosting the show.
 

nist7

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Am I the only one GLAD to not see him on the show? He collects cars, big deal. I don't think he's funny, and no matter how hard I try I can't see him hosting the show.

Okay, some people may not like his humor. That's fine.

But Leno is not just another Hollywood celebrity who has too much money and time on his hands and so he just buys up a bunch of cars. Sorry, the man does a LOT MORE than just collecting cars. He actually shows up to meets with average Joes, he works on the cars himself, he helped Brammo get the ECOTEC engine for the ameican Ariel Atom, he works with GM to promote concepts and various consults, he's also been a guest test driver for Porsche, etc. etc. The man is not another brainless bank account grabbing the latest Ferraris and Lambos and Rolls.....the guy knows his shit.

It's quite sad when I hear people bash Leno and lump him into the same pool of celebrity idiots like alot of rappers and sportsmen and whatnot. Leno doesn't collect the cars and bikes just because he can or he wants the attention, he actually enjoys it and is knowledgeable about it.

edit: oh....and seriously....if you had read his comments in the first post....you would get a clue that this guy is more than just a rich dude buying a lot of cars. Most celebrities wouldn't give a rat's ass about ANY of this.....while Leno has a Honda S600, an Espada, Duesenbergs, a Ford Shogun, an Ariel Atom, etc. etc.
 
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Ilpav

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I agree with Jay. If "Gear" starts while he's still doing The Tonight Show, then he simply won't have time to do it. He's getting replaced by Conan O'Brien in 2009, so maybe he'll do it after he leaves the show. He's only saying this now because he's doing The Tonight Show and he's afraid that his schedule will be too packed. He'll probably do something related to cars after The Tonight Show and I really don't care if he's in "Gear" or not.
 

skylock

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I think the only way Gear will stay on the air is if they stick to only cocking about with a car theme.

Anything like Leno's comment on the kia will be their death.

To be honest, I would not believe them on anything they said about an actual car's performance. Due to the fact of a "meeting" if they didn't have only glowing comments about whatever car.
 

argatoga

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To be honest I would be happy if Leno just expanded his garage show instead. For instance he could spend an hour or so on a single car. Boring to most people, but I am sure there would be a niche like myself who would love it.
 
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