Top Gear – out with the old in with the new?

Top Gear is back!

In the world of motoring, no show on Earth comes close to Top Gear. Since 2002, the show has dominated the television screens across the globe; being ranked the most viewed factual television programme “in the world“. This was, of course, primarily due to the witty, humorous and occasionally controversial TV-trio;  Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May. Their brotherly bond which grew over the years was the main driver for Top Gear’s success. Since Jeremy’s fracas last year, the departure of the trio from Top Gear had left the world wondering how the newly recruited Top Gear presenters will do. After a year long wait, the first episode of Top Gear officially kick-off having a somewhat successful start. Bringing in 4.4 million viewers during the course of the show and attracting 22.8% of the audience,  Top Gear was BBC’s most watched programme at 8 pm.

Verdict

Chris Evans is a man of many things, Jeremy Clarkson is not one of them. From the get-go, Chris appeared to be a little nervous. This is understandable as he is not only hosting the largest TV car show “in the world“, but was replacing the much-loved (or loathed) Jeremy Clarkson. Almost immediately, Twitter users were mocking Chris Evans Jeremy Clarkson impersonations.

He seemed to be trying too hard and not allowing his natural talent as being a radio talk host to flow. Chris introduced Matt LeBlanc as the first ‘non-UK Top Gear host’ with a massive round of applause from the audience. What started of as a joyous welcome turned into an awkward situation. The lack of chemistry between Chris and Matt was apparent and the scene was quickly shuffled over by Matt passing the host baton back over to Chris.

Matt LeBlanc - BBC2

Matt LeBlanc – BBC2

The whole experience of watching the show felt familiar but unfamiliar at the same time. The first stunt was set in the Nevada desert and saw Chris and fellow German host Sabine Schmitz race around an in-use ‘Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Center’. Here, the two hosts pitted the new Dodge Viper ACR and Chevrolet Corvette Z06 in a dogfight, kitted out with laser-firing weapons. This stunt in particular had the old Top Gear written all over it. Back in series 19 episode 2, the trio raced around a circuit in Willow Springs California being chased by Aermacchi SF 260’s equipped with laser guns with a similar objective – Don’t get hit by the lasers.

Matt LeBlanc in Nomad - BBC

Matt LeBlanc in Nomad – BBC2

Matt LeBlanc is a breath of fresh air. His chilled, laid-back stance to hosting is probably one of the reasons why this new Top Gear will see the light at the end of the tunnel. He is blunt, funny and in some occasions witty. His coverage of the Ariel Nomad took him to Morocco where he battled against adrenaline fueled paparazzi, or as he put it, blood-thirsty evil villains. This action packed scene consisted of a motocross dirtbike ‘photographer’, a paraglider ‘photographer’ and an aerial drone ‘photographer’.  His mission? to not get caught with a clean paparazzi photograph. This part of the show was by far the most exhilarating, living up to previous showcases like when Richard Hammond drove around a 6-wheeled Mercedes Benz in an Abu Dhabi desert; or when the trio went rallycross racing in cars that cost less than a set of golf clubs.

New additions to the Top Gear show include a brand new ‘rallycross car’ (yes, now replacing the much-loved reasonably priced car) and new sections to the Top Gear test track. The new car is a rallycross Mini Cooper, kitted out with all things necessary for the new rallycross parts of the Top Gear track. The new segment forces drivers to face a bumpy muddy road with pools of water and jumps. The new track means star drivers finish laps slower, however, it also adds a new dynamic to the time trials. A 360-degree Youtube video below gives a great First-person view of the track from within the car.

This week’s episode saw worldstar chef Gordon Ramsey battle it out with Jesse Eisenberg to claim the title as ‘fastest driver’ around the track. The layout has changed a bit, having replaced the small television with a much larger screen. The new set up is definitely an improvement on the previous series, allowing more of the audience to witness the stars in their rally cars.

Gordon Ramsay and Jesse Eisenberg are stars in rally cars. BBC

Gordon Ramsay and Jesse Eisenberg are stars in rally cars. BBC

The last showcase portrayed Matt and Chris going head to head in a set of UK vs USA challenges. The first challenge saw Matt and Chris drive convertible three-wheeled Reliant Robins from BBC London headquarters to Blackpool (or Leblanc-pool), 250 miles away. The second challenge saw the duo do numerous mini-challenges on Blackpool beach in a WWII American Willy’s Jeep (driven by Matt) and a Series 1 Landrover (driven by Chris). Lastly, the third challenge saw them race their 4×4’s up Muncaster Fell in the Lake District, towing their Reliant Robins behind them. Accompanying both hosts were one of the world’s strongest men, Nick Best and British Olympian Alistair Brownlee. This challenge was, like the first dog fighting, taken right out of the old Top Gear playbook. Their challenge was to find the quickest route to the top of the mountain, using the help from their friends. Several years ago  a similar challenges like the off road motor scooter challenge of Series 18 Episode 4, which saw Jeremy, Richard and James race their homemade motor scooters against injured war veterans to the top of a mountain.

Yes, they were using different modes of transport, however the principle is still the same. They haven’t moved on and need to in order to succeed with this show. 

It’s difficult to judge the new series and its presenters of just one episode. The lack chemistry will definitely exist due to the limited amount of time the hosts have had with each other. Jeremy, Richard and James were co-hosts for over a decade and throughout the years developed the strong bond we enjoy and love so much. From the outcry on social media and just by watching the show itself ,it’s clear that Chris Evans needs to loosen up a bit and be more original. He needs to go back to his roots and host Top Gear the way he hosts his radio station. His limited ability to even come close to impersonating Clarkson, is not only making the show receive negative reviews, but also makes it incredibly awkward to watch at times.

The thought of Matt LeBlanc being a familiar face on British television is actually pretty cool. His experience of being an actor has paid off in this show, allowing him to take a relaxed stance to hosting. His humour and analogies were on-point this episode and was a truly pleasurable experience to watch.

The Grand Tour - Amazon

The Grand Tour – Amazon

Only time will tell how far the new Top Gear will go. Jeremy, Richard and James recently announced the name of their upcoming television car show, The Grand Tour, and from the basic synopsis given it looks like it will be really interesting.

Oh and if you were wondering why I kept putting “in the world” in bold, it’s because I felt a little part of me die every time Chris repeated those words throughout the episode in a semi-Clarkson way. Chris, please this has to stop!.

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Saad Bhatty

Blogger, journalist, geologist and Tech-enthusiast. There is always something to write about!

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