We know him best as the loveable Kenny, but tomorrow night Shane Jacobson becomes one of the new hosts of Top Gear Australia.
Joining Steve Pizzati (the sole remaining host from its SBS incarnation) and Top Gear Australia magazine editor Ewen Page, Jacobson brings a love of all things automotive extends back a long way.
“I’ve actually got a license to drive everything on the road,” he says. “I’ve got a motorbike license, car license, bus, truck, semi
“I’ve always said if I get dropped in any country from an aeroplane even if I can’t speak the language, if I can drive everything that’s around me then I’m a chance of being employed.
“Some people say ’you’re a petrol head’ but I’ve never had a hotted-up car and I wasn’t the guy that turns up at a set of lights when I was young and did a burn-out, but I do love cars like a fashion accessory.”
The local series had two sets of hosts in its life on SBS. Nine’s purchase of the UK rights requires them to air a local version, produced once again by Freehand Productions, part owned by BBC.
Jacobson attracted interest from Producers when he put his hand up for a Celebrity in a Reasonably Priced Car appearance. That prompted Producers to consider him as one of the three hosts.
“Then I got a phone call to to be one of the people involved in the show,” he says.
“They said ‘Would you be interested?’ Absolutely! Getting paid to go out and do your hobby while someone documents it under the heading of entertainment …its ticking every box.
“So it wasn’t them going ‘We want you to be the host of Top Gear‘ and it wasn’t me going ‘I’d love to host Top Gear,’ it all came about, dare say, organically through conversation.”
Although he is predominantly actor, the hosting role is one he feels comfortable doing because he sees the Top Gear format as an entertainment show with a motoring premise.
“It would be from different with me presenting a game show because then I would really need to be a Presenter,” he says. “There are certainly pieces you are going to present to the audience: ‘Here we are about to show you something we filmed and look what we did.’ But from that point of view I don’t have to act. It’s actually just me getting round in a car having fun while someone in the background has got a camera.
“This show is so much about the journey and not about the destination. You get in the car and go ‘Let’s have a look at this car, and see if we can get to the other side of Australia in this car’ or something like that. And that’s when it becomes a journey.”
Following the SBS series, which attracted its fair share of criticism, is a tall order. The Top Gear audience is ferocious in their affection for the UK hosts. There are also versions in Germany, Russia and next the USA. But Jacobson says the Australian series has been postiviely received by the UK originals.
“Jeremy Clarkson said to Steve Pizzati the first season that they did on SBS was good as their fifth year,” he says.
“The question people are going to ask undoubtedly is why is there a need for Top Gear Australia when the one in UK was so good? And we agree with the question in that we are all fans of Top Gear UK. But we are different, not in competition and nor do we want to become a tribute band. Absolutely that show needs to stay, it’s the mother ship.
“This is an adjunct in that we are Australians presenting Australian cars on Australian soil and telling Australian stories. So there is there is definitely a case for both.
“But we are not going to compare ourselves to it, we are definitely part of the Top Gear family hence the fact that we’ve been over there shooting with them. But they go ‘Go back to Australia and tell your stories and then we’ll be telling these stories’ …and between the both we’ve got it covered.”
With as much secrecy as its UK original, Jacobson won’t be drawn on the finer details of the stunts which have been filmed across much of Australia. This week sees Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May compete for ‘The Ashes.’
“The UK visit was fantastic but at same time it’s a little bit like comparing cheese, wine, beer and meat pies, they’re all great and some days you feel like beer and some days you feel like a glass of wine.
“But reviewing Australian cars in Australian conditions was equally as much fun,” he says.
“We’re like mature age men acting like backpackers with cars!”
Top Gear Australia returns 7:30pm Tuesday on Nine.