Good and Bad
When Clarkson, Hammond and May left Top Gear back in 2015, one thing was clear: the Top Gear we knew and loved was over. Like the 2002 reboot of the original original Top Gear, it had the same name but it turned into something different.
That's... actually quite a cool poster.
We knew whoever took over the show was going to make changes and have a revamp, or keep to the tried and tested formula with some tweaks. The changes that this new version of Top Gear have had isn't as radical as everyone was expecting. Yes, it has new presenters (which was given), tweaks to the format (which as also a given). Aha I hear you say, it has a new parent show, Extra Gear! True, but even that is just an extension of the main show.
Either way, the first series of this revamped show has now aired. So what worked and what needs improving? Let's find out. Before I start my list, I'd like to point out I wrote this list after Chris Evans called it a day and quit the show. That saves me from writing two massive paragraphs!
What did work
1) Great cinematography and editing - It's clear that a lot of the original editors and camera men are still hard at work, as it still looks stunning with that trademark look and feel.
2) Great use of celebrities - While the interviews are a little off (see below) the selection of celebrities on this series on the most part has been pretty decent. Hats off with Jensen Button, who made a great impression in just 5 minutes! I also liked Seasick Steve in South Africa.
3) The new rally cross track - This change to the celebrity laps has had a mixed reception, but I like it. Having some rally style driving with the traditional circuit is a good mix and adds something we haven't really seen before. While I’m not a big fan of the new Mini in general, it’s a good fit for the segment.
4) Some great new films to add to the list - While none of the films this season will make my top 50 films from the series list (that I’m currently compiling) some films like the trip to South Africa and the race to the Jaguar show were pretty good. Hats off to the Ken Block film - that is definitely my highlight of the series, and that in itself gives me hope for upcoming series with Matt, Rory and Chris.
5) A Couple of great presenters… I quite like Matt LeBlanc, with his comedic timing and dry sense of humour. Chris Harris knows how to review cars but for me, it's Rory Reid that is the new highlight. He is great at the news segment, interviewing guests and the various car reviews he has completed for the main show and for Extra Gear. Matt is great at presenting and Chris for the track stuff. Sound familiar?
The former test driver for Jaguar, Norman Dewis. What a great guest.
And here's what didn't work
1) … and a couple of ok presenters - I won't mention Chris Evans again, since that problem has solved itself, but there is the problem with Eddie Jordan and Sabine Schmitz. Both of them lack chemistry and seem very out of place in the current format. I think Eddie Jordan will work better if they played a bit more on the “strange uncle” side of him.
2) Lack of banter between presenters - This was always the best thing about Jeremy, Richard and James, they would pick on each other, take the mickey out of each other, make fun at each other's cars, but then they sit down for a pint after the show and have a laugh. You don't seem to get that with the new presenters... Yet. Obviously, it still early days but the original presenters didn’t take much time to gel, so let’s see how this pans out.
3) Lack of polish in films - There has been some pretty good films this year, but there could have been a lot more... with more polish. The U.K. Vs USA challenge just felt a bit cold (and I'm not talking about the weather), and the cheap car challenge mixed with a race was as good as eating a crisp smoothie... it just didn’t work.
4) lack of building or modifying challenges - In most group films, Clarkson and the gang would either build something or add modifications to their cars. Doing something that ordinary car shows don't do is always been one of Top Gear’s strengths, and is one of stronger parts. While the boys have continued that tradition on the Grand Tour, I still missed it.
5) Celebrity interviews are just boring, awkward and too long - Now my least favourite aspect of new new Top Gear. Where do we begin? Getting rid of those interesting stories from the celebrities? The awkward intros of the celebrities reading off the autocue? Or the best car/first car segment? The whole segment needs changing back to the original format – actually talk with the guest, show practice laps (but this could be an online thing) and the lap.
The Top Gear team need to decide on what direction they want to take the show. Do you want to do more of the same of the original trio’s show, which is an entertainment show about cars or a
car show with some entertainment aspects?
At the moment they are trying both, and it's not quite working. To answer the original question, it isn't as doomed as everyone is saying, but it's not as good as it should of been either. Let's see if the new presenter line-up, coupled with any further tweaks in series 24 does the trick. Hopefully things improve, because we will have two good car shows to watch, and that can’t be a bad thing can it?