The first episode of Speed's The Car Show with Adam Carolla, Dan Neil and others somehow found its way into our hands just about 12 hours before the show's official premiere.
We've watched it. Twice. We've studied it. We've formed opinions and now we're passing them onto you. Warning: Thar be spoilers ahead.
After a brief "welcome to our show" monologue by Adam, Speed's The Car Show starts off the way a cable access version of Sports Center would; with the four hosts seated at a desk that should probably only hold three dudes. And this, friends is the low point of the show.
The first segment, 0-60 (clever...clever), is essentially the news portion of Top Gear with a timer. They've got 60 seconds to talk shop or, in AC's words "geek out" about cars. This is our first time to hear from Dan Neil, Matt Farah and John Salley. Neil is clever and clearly a car guy. Matt Farah, who's super-annoying on The Smoking Tire, is restrained but passionate. Adam is Adam turned up to 11 -- first show excitement? John Salley is present and clueless. They talk Corvette, Porsche 918, in car gadgets and ask the question on everyone's mind, "Why do people buy so many Camrys?" It's a good segment. Well timed and well moderated.
They follow this up with a trip to the Reno 24 Hours of LeMons where our good friends (and co-workers) at EyeSore Racing get a shout-out. The team compete in a '94 Nissan 300ZX and get to enjoy all of the fun of driving a crapcan around a track with none of the work that goes into it. There's some easy crashing, some mechanical failures and a tow-strap incident. And once again, the hosts are personable, funny and know their cars.
But then they take a Porsche GT3 RS, you know, the track-going high downforce car, to the Mojave Mile. Why not just bring a Viper ACR to the Salt Flats....sheesh. This is perhaps the biggest surprise of the show: Matt Farah can carry a segment. We've seen his website and the videos and they've got good idea and love burnouts as much as we do, but really, he never seemed to have that star quality. He was just...there. Here, however, Matt carries what is otherwise a fairly boring piece. There's no real challenge, there's no drama, there's no competition, but it's interesting none-the-less. Somebody on TCS staff, be it the producer, director or cameraman, knows how to get good stuff from this guy.
If I were a betting man and you'd asked me a week ago who I thought should be canned from the show, I'd have probably said Farah. Now, not so much...
There are more segments including an interview and a road test of a Rolls Royce by Dan Neil. I won't spoil those, but I can say that it will hold your attention.
Production values are OK. It's not Top Gear or Top Gear USA, but it's better shot than, say, Motor Week. Not a glaring misstep but when your biggest competitor is the world standard, it's worth mentioning. The best thing about The Car Show isn't the production or even the stories from the first episode, it's that it has personality. It has a soul. Unlike Top Gear USA, The Car Show doesn't have a format to follow or a reputation to live up to and that freedom, combined with the hiring of presenters with personality, make the show watchable as a stand-alone property and not filler in between episodes of the Real Top Gear.
Unfortunately there is another low point -- besides the odd desk -- and that's John Salley. It's not that he's bad as a host, he's a funny and personable guy, but he's completely out of his league on a car show and there were precious few times when the show could have benefited from the skills of a 6'11" power forward. Three people would fit at that desk better anyway.
In any case, this show now enjoy's a "Save until I delete" designation on my DVR. Tune in to Speed at 10 pm Eastern tonight to decide for yourself. And don't forget to let us know what you think.