Don’t say it, don’t say it, don’t say it… oh dear – I’m gonna say, aren’t I?
I just watched the first episode of new, new Top Gear (although that should probably be new, new, new, new, new… for me, since I’ve been watching it from way back when good old William Wollard presented it – who else remembers him?).
Anyway I’m feeling right smug, innit?
Now I don’t wanna say I told you so, but… no actually I do want to say ‘I told you so’!
After pretty much watching the opening episode of season 23 of Top Gear with Chris Evans over-excited as the main host of the show, which itself was an over-inflated rehashed same-again-but-more version of the already-on-its-last-legs Top Gear under Jeremy Clarkson… I called it.
I said then and there – ditch all the presenters apart from Matt LeBlanc for the immensely likeable star value he brings, Chris Harris for the undoubted credibility and knowledge, and Rory Reid because he’s just so fresh, different, happy-chappy and well black. Yes black. Hang on, I’ll come back to that.
Plus revamp the format and pull the focus back on the cars.
So this first episode then, seem to go by my recommendations – have they been Obama-tapping my phone?!
They’ve pretty much all but thrown out the baby with the bathwater. There’s still a studio – but it’s massive and completely new.
There is a still a celebrity interview – but there’s just the one now, and he is almost sidelined – but in a nice ‘isn’t he just happy to be there’ sort of way. A far cry from the ‘I’m a celebrity, get me out of here’ gameshow that Evans had shoehorned into Top Gear.
And the celeb gets to drive a cooler car now at last. Another welcome change. I was fed up with the whole, star-driving-a-crap car – kinda demeaning to the rest of us for whom a new Suzuki would be a nice car actually.
Overall in the show there’s still plenty of silliness and outrageous nonsense, but there’s also proper car reports too. And the cheap car challenges are back, starting with a pretty epic edition with an unlikely hero triumphing.
Harris is far more comfortable in front of the camera, and while doing his lines, than he was in the previous series – someone’s definitely been getting some coaching. Rory Reid I maintain is a star in the making, and Matt LeBlanc already is one – and he is just so Joey!
But there’s something else. The success of the Clarkson, Hammond, May era was largely based on the chemistry between the three hosts. We’re definitely starting to see that developing on this Top Gear.
The relationship seems far less contrived, and relaxed, than in the previous series. And there’s not all that excess baggage of all those extra hosts, and the forced balancing of ego-satisfying on-screen equal time.
The interactions between the three feels more natural. The banter appears genuine – or better scripted – and when they hug at the end, it’s because it’s appropriate, not because everybody is constantly luvvy-hugging for no reason – as was the case last series.
Most importantly though, these three guys are likeable, they’re real car people, and they genuinely get a kick out of what they are doing – even Hollywood superstar LeBlanc (or he’s a way better actor than he was ever given credit for).
And now back to the black thing. Have you noticed something? This very British car show has gone fully Technicolor. There is now a black face, a brown face and an American. You know what? It really is British now. Take that Alt-Right!
And for that alone, aside from all the other improvements, I really want to give it a chance and will be rooting for these guys. And you should too.