Car shows to binge before the pandemic ends
While you wait to be vaccinated, here are 10 shows worth watching
As we near the end of more than a year of staying home and socially distancing, many car enthusiasts are excited to finally get back on the road, visit the racetrack or just spend time grabbing a coffee and going on a Sunday drive with their friends.
We are not out of the woods quite yet, and we need to be patient a little while longer, but in the meantime, there are plenty of car shows to cure your wanderlust while we wait to be vaccinated and for stay-home orders to end.
“The Grand Tour”
No show has, and presumably ever will, be able to replicate the brilliant dynamic shared between Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May on “Top Gear.” This is still mostly a car review show mashed into a travel show, but at its core “The Grand Tour” feels like you are hanging out with old friends; they may annoy you, but you wouldn’t want to go on treasure hunt through Madagascar with anyone else.
The first and last word in car review shows, “Top Gear” never really bounced back after Clarkson, Hammond and May left the program. The current iteration has tried out a variety of different hosts, including Matt LeBlanc, but hasn’t quite yet captured the humour and camaraderie of the originals.
Luckily, all the classic episodes are still available on Amazon Prime. You can swatch Clarkson, Hammond and May be chased out of Alabama and Argentina, as well as get a much-needed retrospective on how far car performance has come in the last 15 years.
“Top Gear America”
(Motortrend on Demand)
While the British version of Top Gear has really struggled to find a voice over the last few years, the American version, which unlike the watered-down “Top Gear USA” from a few years ago, seems like it has the potential to outperform its current U.K. counterpart. What has “Top Gear America” gotten right? The hosts. Dax Shepard and Rob Corddry carry a lot of the show’s humour and charm, leaving auto-journalist Jethro Bovingdon to play the straight man. The dynamic seems to be working so far and the drama feels much more authentic than anything the U.K. version has attempted recently.
A blue-collar fantasy, the premise of this show is simple: A usually overprivileged and cartoonishly villainous (although occasionally amicable) exotic car owner is matched up against three seasoned drivers who have all built their own cars for a drag race. The winner of each episode is then selected to move on to a final race at the end of each season, in an effort to find the fastest car and to determine if built really is better than bought.
“Rust Valley Restorers”
This TLC-style docuseries follows Rust Bros Restorations, a classic car restoration shop nestled somewhere in British Columbia’s interior (a.k.a. Rust Valley). However, unlike so many reality shows, there isn’t any glitz or glamour to watching as the Rust brothers extract the husks of once beautiful cars out of a rain-soaked fields before struggling to rebuild the vehicle and flip them for a razor-thin profit. While all the uncomfortable reality TV tropes are present, there’s a more human element to “Rust Valley Restorers” that keeps the show feeling authentic and grounded.
Real street racers attempt to make it through absurd and cartoonish automotive obstacle courses in a show which you can only imagine was pitched as “American Ninja Warrior” meets “The Fast and The Furious.”
“Le Mans: Racing is Everything”
This is docuseries is as much an insider look at six hopeful Le Mans teams, and the absolutely mind-melting degrees of pressure they face as they prepare, as it is a retrospective of the world’s most dangerous race itself. The show is extraordinary dramatic and self-serving, but also, perhaps unintentionally, a deep examination into obsessions.
“F1: Drive to Survive”
“F1: Drive to Survive” focuses primarily on the drivers themselves and their hyper-competitive nature, while offering an insider-look at the indulgent, disciplined and overall extreme world of Formula One racing. While the series serves as a fascinating look at the remarkable determination of F1 drivers to stay competitive or, in some cases, to pick themselves out of a fiery crash, you also get to see a side of them complaining about small inconveniences and scraped knees.
“West Coast Customs”
Views of this show may recognize the shop featured in “West Coast Customs” as the same one made famous by MTV’s “Pimp My Ride.” This new series is a look at what the talented team at the custom shop is really capable of. Some reality TV-show staples are still present — such as an arbitrary deadline, themed builds and hyper-specific customer requests – however the builds are nonetheless fascinating to watch, and the finished products speak for themselves.
“Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee”
Let’s face it. This is the most true-to-life car show ever made. Granted, most of us will never drive a 1960s Porsche 911 or take former president Barack Obama out for a cup of coffee. But most car enthusiasts can relate to the simple joys of showing up to friend’s house with an interesting car and taking a trip for no reason other than to get a cup of coffee and shoot the breeze about nothing. It is especially bingeable and it never gets old to see what car Jerry Seinfeld has determined is the perfect one to drive his guest around.