The Biz: History Feels the Need for Speed

Since the late 1990s, British imports such as Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, Dancing With the Stars and American Idol have become ratings blockbusters in the United States. But stateside success has eluded one of the biggest Brit hits of them all.

It's Top Gear, the rollicking reality/talk-show hybrid from the BBC that features three British automotive journalists gabbing about cars and performing elaborate and occasionally breathtaking stunts and challenges. The series, which has been shown here on BBC America, has been a worldwide sensation for almost 10 years and was recently the subject of a 60 Minutes profile. The studio segments are a must for celebrities — Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz have stopped by.

On November 21, a U.S. version of Top Gear finally arrives on cable network History. So why has it taken so long for a version of the show to originate in the nation where the automobile was born? It wasn't for lack of trying. Discovery Channel gave it a shot. So did NBC, which offered the series to Jay Leno (he passed) and made a pilot with comic Adam Carolla.

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