Top Gear is back with new hosts, a new track and the highest expectations of any revamped show ever!
Let’s start with the titles. The overall style and theme song remained the same, but incorporated more cars and fewer explosions. This indicated a series closer to the original 70/80’s Top Gear and away from the usual antics of previous series. However, this was disproved as soon as Evans voiced over the titles. This was the first clue that not much had actually changed as his impression of Clarkson was very apparent throughout.
Probably the most confusing aspect of the revamp was who would be presenting the show. First we were told Chris Evans was on board, followed by Matt Le Blanc, and then we were treated to a promotional image featuring six presenters and The Stig. The show opened with Chris Evans presenting but he quickly introduced his co-host Le Blanc, which felt like the former Friends star was not as important, even though he was in fact a lead presenter. Sabine Schmitz, a German racing driver, appeared to be an equivalent of The Stig for certain challenges and there was no sign of Eddie Jordan as of yet.
Both lead presenters got an opportunity to present a short piece reviewing a car and there was a stark contrast in styles. Evans still appeared to be channelling Clarkson in his approach with loud exclamations, whilst Matt’s style felt more natural and calmer. Matt brought slightly more fun to the stunts and didn’t appear to be trying too hard, his use of Americanisms giving an international feel to the show.
Perhaps one of the most noticeable changes was the “Star in a reasonably-priced car” feature which this time had two stars (Jesse Eisenberg and Gordon Ramsay) and a new section of the track designed for them to go off-road on. The new rally-style challenge made for an exciting watch as it featured jumps and other interesting elements. What was disappointing was the high use of audience participation when talking to the guests; instead of the usual interview there was a small series of votes which asked the audience questions such as “who had the best first car?” amongst others. This felt really out of place and pointless for anyone watching at home, and instead would be something better suited to a live arena show.
Of course, Top Gear was always going to feature major changes – that was never not going to be the case. The show certainly has a more focused approach to the cars, which is well needed when Clarkson et al. will soon have a show that is more about the adventures. Inevitably, not all of the new features worked, but hopefully the show’s producers will take on criticism and improve the show to the high standards we all know it can reach. Style confusion was a huge problem with this revamped version of the show, as it felt halfway between the old 1977 review show and the much-loved Clarkson, Hammond and May show. Maybe it will get a new identity during the remaining episodes.
And on that bombshell… (Sorry couldn’t resist!)
Images sourced from BBC’s Top Gear, The Guardian and The Telegraph