Revhead favourite turns into lo­cal lane

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv - Top Gear Aus­tralia 7.30pm, SBS Ian Cuth­bert­son

WHEN there’s al­ready a per­fectly good, high- rat­ing motoring pro­gram called Top Gear, it’s ev­i­dence of ei­ther se­ri­ous pro­gram­ming co­jones or ut­ter stu­pid­ity to make an Aus­tralian ver­sion. Ac­cord­ing to SBS, the orig­i­nal has been seen by 500 mil­lion peo­ple in 120 coun­tries. The wait­ing list for au­di­ence tick­ets to the Bri­tish show is ru­moured to be ridicu­lous: some­thing like 40 years.

The prece­dents for mount­ing a lo­cal ver­sion of a hit life­style show from over­seas aren’t ter­rific. The cringe- in­duc­ing lo­cal ver­sion of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy springs to mind. ‘‘ Oh my God,’’ you could al­most hear the pro­duc­ers yelp, ‘‘ we for­got to get a per­son­al­ity.’’ Per­haps we shouldn’t be so hard on the lo­cal ver­sion of that pro­gram, as the Ger­man, Span­ish, French and Bri­tish ver­sions all met with a swift demise; only the Por­tuguese ver­sion sur­vived for an en­tire sea­son be­fore get­ting the chop.

It would be very easy to look at that and sug­gest that pro­duc­ers across the world made one grave er­ror: they imag­ined the charisma and ap­peal of the orig­i­nal Queer Eye team was a prod­uct that could be du­pli­cated.

And how many al­ter­na­tive in­ter­na­tional ver­sions of Top Gear, in its 10th year in its present form, are in pro­duc­tion across the world? Nada. Not one. That is un­til our own brave lit­tle pos­sums Char­lie Cox, War­ren Brown and Steve Piz­zati stick their heads above the para­pet tonight.

Cox has long ex­pe­ri­ence as a broad­caster and has demon­strated his pas­sion for per­for­mance cars by winning sev­eral Bri­tish Tour­ing Car Cham­pi­onships.

Brown is a man I see reg­u­larly in the lift on his way up to The Aus­tralian ’ s sis­ter pub­li­ca­tion The Daily Tele­graph , where he is the car­toon­ist lau­re­ate.

View­ers, how­ever, will likely know him as the bearded crack­pot who, in 2005, came up with the idea of re­trac­ing the fa­mous 1907 car race from Pek­ing to Paris, us­ing 100- yearold ve­hi­cles. The re­sult­ing tele­vi­sion show was com­pul­sive view­ing and re- runs keep turn­ing up on pay TV.

The Mel­bourne- born Piz­zati is an ad­vanced driv­ing in­struc­tor and a race driver for Porsche Aus­tralia.

So, will the show dif­fer suf­fi­ciently from its sar­donic yet in­cred­i­bly en­ter­tain­ing Bri­tish par­ent? Will it demon­strate enough charisma to hold motoring audiences cap­tive, and cap­i­talise on its abil­ity to re­view cars that are avail­able here, test- driven in lo­cal con­di­tions?

Will it be a case of send in the clones or shall we wit­ness the de­but of an ap­peal­ing hy­brid?

As SBS de­clined to send out preview tapes, we’ll all find out to­gether when the green flag goes up tonight.

Brave try: Aus­tralian Top Gear ’ s Char­lie Cox, War­ren Brown and Steve Piz­zati

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