Car lovers are like others who have an interest in a specific thing. They immerse themselves in their interest or hobby and surround themselves with information, objects and entertainment that features their item of choice. In the case of car fans, identifying and watching TV programming about cars or featuring cool and unique cars, is a priority. With the explosion of available channels, their choices are no longer limited to first-run network and syndicated programs. They can find shows on cable — many of which originated in other countries or are reruns of shows that were cancelled long ago.
These programs generally fall into two categories: fiction and non-fiction or, collequally, drama/comedies and reality shows. Reality shows that focus on cars far outnumber those that are scripted fiction, but a number of shows have really cool cars, trucks, motorcycles, or vans that appeal to car lovers even if the subject matter isn’t limited to cars.
To find a television show that features an iconic car, look no further than Knight Rider, that 1980s action/drama that centered on an AI car that at times seemed smarter than it’s driver and set the standard for stylish, futuristic car design. Other famous hot rods appeared in TV shows like The Dukes of Hazzard, Starsky and Hutch, and Magnum PI. Other memorable vehicles include the A-team van and the antique Ford F1 truck from Sanford and Son. And even kids have their favorite animated cars, like Speed Racer and the Mystery Machine van from Scooby-Doo. And what list of TV cars would be complete without mentioned the 1960s version of the Batmobile.
When it comes to reality shows, the options are astounding. There are shows that follow racing and racers, programs that show how to rebuild or outfit vehicles, and even reality shows that follow people learning to drive or attending traffic school. Pimp My Ride showed viewers how to customize their vehicle while American Hot Rod and American Chopper followed businesses that offered custom built hot rods and motorcycles respectively. Perhaps the most popular car TV show of all time is Top Gear. Originally broadcast in England and exported to American audiences on cable TV, the show reaches an estimated 350 million viewers and is broadcast in 170 countries. There are local versions of the show produced in Russia and Australia as well as an American version and numerous imitators.
Perhaps the ultimate indicator of the popularity of automotive television can in October 2011 when Discovery Channel launched the Velocity Channel – a cable network devoted to HD programming related to expensive and fast cars, including auto sports.