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Jerry Seinfeld and Keanu Reeves are among Hollywood gearheads making appearances on the third season of Car Matchmaker, premiering Wednesday on the Esquire Network.
Spike Feresten, writer of the Seinfeld “Soup Nazi” episode, returns to host the 16-episode series that matches prospective buyers to their dream cars.
“When we have the Jerry Seinfelds and Keanu Reeveses on this season, we introduce them to a real person: I want to introduce you to Keanu Reeves and he’s going to tell you what to look for in a first-year motorcycle,” Feresten said in a statement. “I love opening up that world, that access I have, to regular folks.”
Car Matchmaker is part of a trend of cable networks turning to automotive reality-based shows in the hopes of emulating the success of the BBC’s Top Gear, which is worth $75 million to BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the U.K.’s public broadcaster.
Top Gear rebooted to mixed reviews and muted ratings in May with a new cast, including former Friends star Matt LeBlanc. The show’s original cast — Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond — are set to star in a new car adventure series, The Grand Tour, to debut on Amazon this fall in a three-season deal estimated to pay them $250 million.
While nowhere near in the league of Top Gear, some recent car shows are showing promise. Jay Leno’s Garage, which began as an Emmy-winning web series before moving to CNBC’s primetime lineup last year, was the most-watched first-season show in the network’s history. Motor Trend OnDemand recently expanded its streaming content to include more than 20 years of archival Formula 1 races and 1,500 hours of live and original auto-themed programming. And in addition to Car Matchmaker, the Esquire Network this fall will debut Wrench Against the Machine, a design competition among top motorcycle designers.
While Car Matchmaker casts unknowns with unusual professions (such as a sommelier in need of a pickup to haul cases of wine), the series isn’t at all conflicted about tapping sports stars and supermodels.
“The network this year asked for some pretty girls,” said Feresten. “And who am I to say no to that?” Wednesday’s season opener features Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Genevieve Morton, whom Feresten pairs with the choice of a vintage Mustang, Corvette or Camaro. In the second episode, Los Angeles Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs contemplates replacing his Chevy Tahoe with supercars from Audi, BMW and Maclaren.
Feresten traces his infatuation with hot cars to David Letterman, who encouraged him to test drive his Porsches and Aston Martins, and later to Seinfeld, whose decision to auction 17 cars from his immense collection — “a Sophie’s Choice for a guy like him,” said Feresten — is documented on Car Matchmaker this season.
Seinfeld and Feresten garage their collections — the latter’s includes a 1968 Porsche 911 and 1971 Land Rover — in hangars at the Santa Monica airport, where they meet weekends and drive up Pacific Coast Highway for coffee at the Malibu Country Mart. Feresten said he’s witnessed Seinfeld escape a speeding ticket after the traffic cop recognized him, but not when he was stopped in a borrowed Lamborghini and told the officer that he hosted Car Matchmaker.
“He knew the show,” Feresten recalled. “And he wrote me the ticket.”
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