Britain may have lost its actual empire, but it still retains global domination in the form of the hit car show, Top Gear, which has the distinction of being the most-watched factual program on the planet.
And there’s not just the original British version of Top Gear, the one that begins its 23rd season on Monday, May 30 at 9/8c on BBC AMERICA.
There’s also a handful of homegrown spin-offs from different nations. So while we’re waiting for the maiden voyage of the newly-staffed mothership, we thought it might be fun to take a quick look at some of the programs in the fleet:
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose
The more Top Gear changes, the more it stays the same thing. The French version includes segments where the hosts were given 1500 euros to buy their childhood dream cars, electric car races in Paris, celebrities who drive cheap cars really fast on a race track. And, mais oui, Le Stig!
And a million French people can’t be wrong: when Top Gear France premiered last March, its first episode attracted roughly 1 million viewers, breaking all records for RMC Découverte, the channel on which it aired.
The three Top Gear France presenters were chosen from more than 200 candidates. Producers picked actor Philippe Lellouche, the professional racer Bruce Jouanny, and musician/journalist Yann Larret-Menezo, whose nickname is “Le Tone.”
Top Gear in Korea: “Anything that has a motor”
No matter where in the world you are, Top Gear is about cars—and about a lot more, as well. On the first episode of Korean Top Gear, host Kim Kap Su pledged that “the history of Korean cars will be rewritten on this show.” But his co-host Kim Jin Pyo proclaimed, “On Top Gear, we not only plan to show cars, but show anything that has a motor.”
In the first episode of Top Gear Korea, which aired in August 2011, the Korean Stig crashed a homegrown sports car, an Oullim Spira S.
During a race between a sports car and a helicopter for the fourth season of Top Gear Korea, the helicopter crashed while making a U-turn in the air. The crash took place not in Korea but in Arizona. Fortunately, and amazingly, no one was seriously injured:
Top Gear China
Top Gear has even been exported to China, where it premiered on Shanghai Dragon TV in 2014. And it should surprise no one that it’s an enormous hit: episodes of the second season, which aired last year, had an average weekly viewership of 9 million, making Top Gear China the highest rated Chinese cable show in its timeslot, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The combined TV/Internet audience was upwards of 215 million people.
Top Gear USA
Of course, Americans have risen up against their former colonial master and created their own version of Top Gear. The presenters—all right, hosts, this is the U.S., after all—are race car driver Tanner Foust, comedian Adam Ferrara, and racing analyst Rutledge Wood. The show just started its eighth season last month on the History channel.
In this clip, Tanner Foust goes to … Sweden: