I said I would reserve judgement on Top Gear with new presenters until I had seen the show. I have. Judgement made. And I’m not sure it’s good news.
Firstly, Chris Evans is just too annoying. Too shouty. It suited TFI Friday all those years ago, for a bit of a Friday night knees-up. When we were all young. Now, it’s just a bit much. He’s also not very good at coming up with actual words. I’ll admit I have often disliked Clarkson, sometimes to a very large degree. But, he is a wordsmith. His line “the boot is not big enough for a mouse’s pants” still makes me laugh today. For all that oafish man’s faults (and they are many), he really can write. So can May. To be fair, so could script editor Richard Porter, and he’s gone now too. (I’m not that convinced about Hammond).
But Evans just isn’t geeky enough either. The show desperately needs some James May input. Some actual facts, from someone who likes all cars. Even ones that are a bit rubbish. Half the time, Evans sounds like he’s just coming out with stuff he read in a magazine once. I get the feeling he doesn’t actually know what he’s on about.
LeBlanc is the surprise. He’s actually very watchable, despite the sometimes annoying smugness that typified his role in Friends. Compared to Evans, it’s Mr Hollywood who actually feels more rooted in reality. Which tells you a lot.
I’ll leave the ‘cinematic’ features and challenges for a while, but have to say that Sabine Schmitz was rather underused. She just seemed to swear a lot. I’m sure she could actually give some genuine insight into a car rather than just shouting as much as Evans.
The most enjoyable part of the ‘star in a rallycross car’ piece was the engine noise of the MINI. That sounded great. Gordon Ramsey boasting about his LaFerrari is not good television. Not is you dropping a subtle hint that you also own one (it was quick, but it was there). And oh, look at this! More ridiculing of ‘first cars.’ No Mr Evans. Owning a Fiat Strada is not laughable. I’ve no idea who the other guest was (I don’t get out much) but he actually seemed quite likeable, though he proved to be another whipping boy for first car jokes. The crowd voting for they favourites was excruciating too.
The rallycross element was a good one, especially as the off-road tyres seemed ill-suited to dry tarmac. It made it entertaining to watch. Credit where credit is due, I liked that. The ‘reasonably priced car’ format badly needed an overhaul. It had never recovered from Tom Cruise ‘setting’ the fastest lap. Fair play, I’d say job done. On the actual driving bit at least.
I wasn’t keen on any of the studio segments. Too much bloody whooping for a start, but also the chemistry between Evans and LeBlanc just isn’t there. It could develop with time – I remember how utterly dreary ‘new’ Top Gear was in the early days, before May came along and it still look a series or two to get good. Some of the dreadful rubbish Evans came out with was nothing short of painful though. “The best thing about these cars, is that they’re built for pleasure alone,” he bellows, making a fist at the camera. WHAT?! You can hear the confusion in the crowd, as if they’re going, “did he just actually do that?” I’ve cringed less during episodes of Alan Partridge (which I absolutely hate by the way). Not cool.
The ‘fast car goes around a track’ thing is dull these days too, especially with Evans’ clueless commentary. It would have been better if he’d just shut up and let that V10 do the talking.
But, the biggest problem is that rather than come up with new ideas, the team have just gone in for blatant Top Gear copyism. I’d already tired with Top Gear, because the ideas were stale and the challenges absolutely false. The new show brings nothing new to that party, and it’s a party I just don’t want to be at. No, I don’t want to watch Reliants get ridiculed and destroyed (especially as one of them was apparently rather nice before they got hold of it). No, I don’t want to watch really rather nice Jeeps and Land Rovers being thrashed up a hillside. It’s just disrespectful to nice, old vehicles. There are lots of genuinely shit cars out there! Use one of those instead.
This strikes me as a missed opportunity, and the biggest reason why is Roadkill. It’s where two very knowledgeable and funny Americans do silly things with cars. But it isn’t staged, it isn’t fake. It just feels like it catalogues their lives. They work on the cars themselves. They have very little (compared to Top Gear) budget. But, they have skills, they have chemistry and they have lots and lots of knowledge. And V8s engines. They have lots of those too.
So, in conclusion, new Top Gear just isn’t new enough for me I’m afraid. It failed to grab me just as the latter years of the Clarkson era also failed to grab me. That’s a real shame. I was fully prepared to give it a go. I refused to jump on the bandwagon of rubbishing a show that hadn’t even happened. Even now, I’m not going to rant that it’s a waste of TV licence payers money, because it’s tiresome. I was hoping for better though. If it improves, do let me know, because while I’m no desperate rush to watch another episode, I do still hold out hope that better times are coming. There do need to be some serious improvements though.