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NBC orders pilot for an American adaptation of the U.K.'s 'Top Gear'


By Christopher Rocchio and Steve Rogers, 01/16/2008 

NBC announced it has ordered a pilot for Top Gear, a British reality series that combines cars and comedy to throw gearheads into overdrive.

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Top Gear, which first premiered in the U.K. back in 1977 before being relaunched in a revamped one-hour format in 2002, features several different types of regular segments that will be part of the show's stateside adaptation -- including races to various destinations using different modes of transportation, road tests of new vehicles, and challenges that range from building a car to modifying existing vehicles and decorating interiors.

"We've had our eye on Top Gear for a while now and think this show can really click with viewers," said NBC reality programming executive Craig Plestis. "The concept taps into America's obsession with cars and is unlike anything else on television."

Top Gear is produced by BBC Worldwide America and has been the BBC Two network's most-watched program in the U.K. since its relaunch.

"Since its revival over five years ago, the UK show has been a phenomenal success. The bar has been set so high, that replicating it will be the challenge - one we truly relish," said BBC Worldwide America executive Paul Telegdy.  "Casting is well underway and we are confident that Americans will fall in love with the attitude and irreverent spirit of Top Gear."

Top Gear's U.K. version is hosted by Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, James May, and "Stig," a masked test driver.  Casting is currently underway to find hosts for the U.S. version, The Hollywood Reporter reported Tuesday. 

In addition, Plestis told The Reporter that given the show's naturally advertiser-friendly format, NBC has already received "numerous inquiries" from car companies interested in participating in Top Gear.

"This is a favorite of all automobile companies as it shows their cars in such a great light," he told The Reporter. "It all comes down to subject matter -- it's a cool show about cars.  It's very compelling for us because we have a great platform and space on the network to have such a show."

In the U.K., Top Gear has featured numerous celebrity guests, including actors Hugh Grant and Ewan McGregor; American Idol judge Simon Cowell; and foul-mouthed Hell's Kitchen star Gordon Ramsay.

"It's a show with a very edgy point of view," Telegdy told The Reporter. "It's a celebration of car ownership but also a celebration of attitude and anti-establishment in every sense of the word."

Top Gear's pilot episode will be shot in-front of an audience at a "secret location around Los Angeles equipped with a race track and hangar," according to The Reporter

BBC America began broadcasting Top Gear's U.K. edition in the U.S. last year.  The network will premiere the U.K. edition's tenth "series" (the show typically airs two 10-12 episode "series" per year) on Monday, February 25 at 8PM ET/PT.  Cowell, Academy Award-winner Helen Mirren, the Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood, Doctor Who star David Tennant, and Absolutely Fabulous star Jennifer Saunders will be among the season's guests.  The 10-episode run aired on BBC Two late last year.

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