Top Gear's Richard Hammond is Taking a Crash Course in American Jobs
Richard Hammond's Crash Course, which, like his other show Top Gear, is super cool.
In Crash Course's first season, Richard crashed his way across America learning to drive everything from a U.S. Army tank to a track hoe. In Crash Course's second season (BBC America - Monday, 10pm), Richard is putting a spin on the words "crash course."
Like a student cramming for a test, he's challenging himself to learn how to do jobs that test his skills - and nerves, like driving a taxi in New York City, setting himself on fire as a Hollywood stuntman and, gulp, performing at a stand-up comedy club.
Richard spoke with TVFirstLook about Crash Course, signing on for another three seasons of Top Gear and misperceptions about Americans.
TVFirstLook: So, what's it like to work in America after working for many years in the U.K.?
Richard Hammond: One of the reasons I did this in the first instance is that I have done this job for a couple of decades in the U.K. But America is the home of modern TV. So, to work with an American crew on an American show to be shown on an American network is something I just couldn't pass up.
TVFirstLook: What is your impression of working on an American TV show?
Richard: I'm a foot soldier. I'm out there on the front line doing my thing. I'm no bigger a player than the cameraman, the sound man, the director or anyone else on the ground alongside me doing their work.
I find Americans to be tremendously disciplined. They are very hard working, which makes Americans sound dreary. They are not. But the fun comes from doing the job.
They don't care what time they need to get up in the morning. If it's 5am to be on location by 6am, I haven't heard anyone complain about it or about having a late day. They just get on with it.
So, it's quite different. And it has been quite enjoyable doing something differently from the way I have been doing it for a very long time.
TVFirstLook: Do you have a good feel now for what American TV viewers want to watch?
Richard: Around the world, we have this impression that the American TV audience has a two-second attention span. But that's misleading. Americans will really just sit back and watch something in a way that other TV audiences won't.
But I made no bones about it with executive producer Tod Mesirow.
I said, "I will be guided by you. I don't want a script. But you must make sure that the show is fit for an American audience." I'm more than happy to be guided by him.
TVFirstLook: OK, so a lot of us breathed a sigh of relief when you recently signed on for three more seasons of Top Gear. Any changes going forward?
Richard: There's no artifice with Top Gear. It's very much the result of three guys (Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson, James May) and executive producer Andy Wilman getting together and setting out to make the best damn show we can. That's all we do. We just started making a new season. We'll evolve but it will happen naturally.
TVFirstLook: Last thing, on Top Gear you and the guys drive cars all over the world, like last season in California, Texas, China and many other places. It great! Any more travel episodes coming up?
Richard: Yes, we will travel. It has become one of the signatures of the show.
I remember when we got together 10 or 11 years ago, when we got the show off the ground, we all agreed to a few ground rules: no fancy cars and no traveling.
Boy, did we mess up! That's the way it happens. It just happens.