Thursday, April 19, 2018
TV and Media

Tampa Bay segment of 'Top Gear' show features Bugatti Veyron

When Rutledge Wood showed up at the Gandy Bridge in a $2.5 million sportscar last November, he had no idea what was waiting.

Thanks to an advisory released early by state officials, the press and public had learned that the TV show Wood co-hosts — History channel's Americanized version of the British car geek show Top Gear — would shut down the bridge so one of the program's hosts could drive a Bugatti Veyron Super Sport car from St. Petersburg to Tampa.

Given that the Bugatti Veyron is the fastest street-legal sports car in the world, with a top speed of 267 mph and a price tag big enough to choke Donald Trump, it's no surprise the bridge was surrounded with onlookers and local TV news crews, all hoping to get a look at the tangerine-colored wonder.

"For us, it was really cool to see that kind of interest in Top Gear. We had three helicopters around the shoot and they weren't even ours," said Wood, an auto racing analyst and self-described "car dork" from Atlanta who co-hosts the show with race car driver Tanner Foust and comic Adam Ferrara. "I think that's the first time we've had that kind of a turnout for anything that we've done."

The episode Wood and his crew created finally airs at 9 p.m. Tuesday, featuring the three hosts competing to see who can find the cheapest car capable of driving 150 mph.

Along the way, Wood drives the Bugatti Veyron around Tampa and St. Petersburg, starting off at the Tampa Museum of Art, grabbing a police escort through the center of downtown, winding his way along Bayshore Boulevard and eventually pulling the car up to valet parking at the Vinoy Renaissance Resort.

"That car is mostly made for traveling at a really high speed and looking like a baller pulling up to a club," Wood said, comparing the experience of driving it around Tampa Bay to an earlier Top Gear stunt where he wound up piloting a $400,000 Lamborghini sports car through the drive through window at a McDonald's. "That's not a car you can take to the grocery store."

The Bugatti's multimillion-dollar price tag probably helps explain why producers were so tight-lipped during their time filming in the Tampa Bay area.

But the gathering crowd, alerted by local news coverage and social media, led producers to follow advice from local law enforcement and scuttle plans for a Gandy Bridge drive, said executive producer Russ McCarroll.

"This is the first time word got out early enough that we got that big a crowd," added McCarroll. "We try to keep these things secret, more for public safety than for anything else."

Instead, they took the car to a cordoned-off stretch of Highway 27 near Miami, where one of the hosts attempts to drive the car close to its top speed (to avoid spoiling the episode, can't say which of the three is driving).

The American version of Top Gear debuted in 2010 and remains a lower-profile cousin to the British version, which has aired since 1977 in the U.K. — revamped with more attitude and edgy humor in 2002.

History's version is much tamer, with Wood and his co-hosts tackling challenges resembling what college roommates might dream up at 2 a.m. after a few too many slices of bad pizza.

In Tuesday's episode they'll try to nudge used cars bought for a few thousand dollars to speeds the Bugatti could handle easily.

"Part of the experience with Top Gear is to just be a normal person in an extraordinary setting," said Wood, whose scraggly beard and thick glasses leave him looking more like the bass player for Mumford and Sons than an obsessive car geek. "The people at home get to experience the car at the same time you do; which is amazing."

 
Comments

Thursday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYBaseballOrioles at Tigers1 p.m.MLBBlue Jays at Yankees6:30 p.m.MLB; 1040-AMMarlins at Brewers8 p.m.FSFBoxingFeatherweights: Roach vs. Cruz9:30 p.m.ESPN2College baseballFlorida at Kentucky7 p.m.SECVanderbilt at Missouri8 p.m.ESPNUGolfPGA Europe: ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Bring yourself back online: ‘Westworld’ returns with a vengeance and even more head-spinning narratives

Bring yourself back online: ‘Westworld’ returns with a vengeance and even more head-spinning narratives

The violent delights and violent ends have returned.Westworld premieres a second season Sunday on HBO, and this time the artificial intelligence "hosts" are in charge of the high-tech theme park.If you thought the first season was brutal, you're in f...
Published: 04/18/18
‘Night Court’ star Harry Anderson, 65, found dead in home

‘Night Court’ star Harry Anderson, 65, found dead in home

Harry Anderson, the actor best known for playing an off-the-wall judge working the night shift of a Manhattan court room in the television comedy series Night Court, was found dead in his North Carolina home Monday. Mr. Anderson was 65. A statement f...
Published: 04/16/18
Video: Meteorologist goes on epic on-air rant during another cold forecast

Video: Meteorologist goes on epic on-air rant during another cold forecast

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The winter that won’t end has taken its toll on a TV meteorologist in western Michigan.Garry Frank of WXMI-TV in Grand Rapids, Michigan, went on a rant to colleagues because they weren’t excited about his forecast.Video of the r...
Published: 04/16/18
Blockbuster stores are still open, and soon to receive a special gift from John Oliver

Blockbuster stores are still open, and soon to receive a special gift from John Oliver

Blockbuster is still open in Alaska, and about to receive some interesting movie memorabilia from "Last Week Tonight" and John Oliver.
Published: 04/16/18

Monday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYAutosMonster Energy Cup: Food City 500 (resumption, 296 laps left)1 p.m.FoxBaseballRangers at Rays7 p.m.Fox Sun; 620-AMCardinals at Cubs7 p.m.ESPNAstros at Mariners10 p.m.MLBCollege softballMississippi State at Mississippi7 p.m.SECN.C. State at ...
Published: 04/15/18
St. Petersburg's Movies in the Park lineup announced

St. Petersburg's Movies in the Park lineup announced

Want to see a free movie in North Straub Park?
Published: 04/13/18
Updated: 04/16/18
$13 tattoo for Friday the 13th? You can get one in Tampa Bay

$13 tattoo for Friday the 13th? You can get one in Tampa Bay

Among the things you probably shouldn't try to save money on, tattoos rank right near the top. But if you're feeling lucky on this supposedly unlucky day, you can score a $13 tattoo in honor of Friday the 13th at a number of Tampa Bay tattoo shops. ...
Published: 04/13/18
Mariska Hargitay takes her advocacy for sex crime victims to HBO documentary

Mariska Hargitay takes her advocacy for sex crime victims to HBO documentary

NEW YORK — Portraying a heroic sex crimes detective on television has provided Mariska Hargitay with a platform to help sexual assault victims in real life. Hargitay, who stars as Detective Olivia Benson in the police procedural Law and Order:...
Published: 04/13/18
Watch this weekend: ‘Lost in Space,’ ‘Fear the Walking Dead,’ catch up on ‘Westworld’

Watch this weekend: ‘Lost in Space,’ ‘Fear the Walking Dead,’ catch up on ‘Westworld’

Danger, Will Robinson: Lost in SpaceDon't write off the new Lost in Space as just another science fiction reboot. Few things in this reimagining are the same as the 1960s original. Lost in Space is set 30 years in the future, when space colonization ...
Published: 04/13/18