Five reasons to give Chris Evans and his team a chance
Just about everyone in the Driven office by now has already seen episode one of the new season of Top Gear, which makes its grand Kiwi debut this Sunday on Prime.
And there's no two ways around it — it's bad.
I know, I know, with a headline that asks for an olive branch of consideration for the brand, you'd think that we'd bolt out of the gates to the defense of its every whim. But facts are still facts.
However, things that are bad can become good. And all of the ingredients are there for 'new' Top Gear to become truly great. So why not give it a chance?
Well, here's five reasons why the new crew should be given some consideration.
The first episodes of the original were dreadful
Cast your mind back to the roots of Top Gear as we know it; the debut of the show in 2002.
It was as quaint as it was awkward. You’d never imagine any hyper slow-mos, any wild exploding caravans, or Brad Pitt on the celeb couch.
Instead you had awkward discussions, a completely mute crowd, and no James May.
The show has come an incredibly long way since then. But, it’s silly to expect the new group to simply march on where it left off at the end of season 22. They all need time to develop their own brand of chemistry, learn each other’s foibles, to figure out who’s shortest and drag on jokes about their height for episode after episode.
Give them that time, and it will come.
Rory Reid and Chris Harris
Most of the attention, both pre and post premiere screening, has centered on Evans, LeBlanc, and Schmidt. But, Reid and Harris deserve their own share of attention.
On debut, the pair were both great. Despite both being new to this kind of show format (I guess Harris has done a few similarish things with the likes of Drive), they excelled. They both showed a decent amount of chemistry, and — more importantly — they both know their stuff.
For years people have complained that Top Gear had become too much of a show about the hosts rather than a show about the cars — so here’s two that are passionate about cars and talented at their craft. Let’s support them.
As an aside, their inclusion in the weird ‘Extra Gear’ spin-off instead of the main show makes me wonder whether the show’s producers are ‘testing the waters’ with them, so to speak, by excluding them from the main squad but giving them their own separate exposure in a bespoke slot. Or maybe I’m cuckoo.
The BBC aren't idiots
The producers and people involved in the show will listen to complaints (aka, watch their viewership plummet), and over time because of this we should expect the show to improve and adapt.
Look at Top Gear USA. Panned universally in its first seasons, it's now regarded by many to have turned a corner. It ditched the UK show's format, and the hosts all embraced each other. Now, it has a solid viewership and following worldwide.
The BBC aren't idiots, they know how to turn something around from being a dumpster fire into a darling.
This is the tip of an incredible opportunity
The David to Top Gear’s Goliath, Fifth Gear, was recently cancelled — sad news then those like me who have a mad obsession with Tiff Needell. Sad also for those who simply wanted a good, solid, informative car show.
Fifth Gear never really had the tools (cough, the funding) to succeed and truly rival their mates at the BBC, despite the fact several of Top Gear’s old stars found a home there.
What we now have, with both the ‘new’ Top Gear and the upcoming Grand Tour on Amazon are two shows about cars that both have wanton budgets consisting of endless amounts of zeros.
Top Gear’s success, as annoying to admit for the purist, has helped spur on a huge amount of interest in the automotive world from the mainstream audience. Even websites like Driven can thank Top Gear to a degree for helping foster a new generation of car people. Sure, a lot of them are dullards compared to the impossibly nerdy car anoraks that populate the scene, but some there’s a few that escape the woodwork and become truly passionate.
Anything that can help create those people is a good entity to have. And to have two of them would be incredible.
The Star in the RallyX car
We all loved or loathed the Star in the reasonably priced car segment, depending on who the star was. The you can guarantee the best thing it dished up wasn’t the suspense of “so, where do you think you’ve come on the board?”. Instead it was the carnage of celebrity failure. (Gambon corner was named after one such failure after all).
For season 23 they have taken the basic time attack premise, turned it up a notch by making things much, much harder. By adding not only a Mini RallyX car, but gravel, deliberate hand brake turns, jumps, and a “water splash”, there are way more opportunities to see our favourite celebrities fail. Who doesn’t love seeing that?
How it can get better: Tone down and cut the waffle
Everyone hates shouty adverts on television, so having Evans bounce all over the show yelling like a banshee does not make for compelling viewing. Nor was it the style of the Infamous Three. He should be given a chance to tone it down if he wants us to come to his Top Gear party each week. And while they are at it, perhaps Evans, LeBlanc and the producers can tighten-up their filmed segments.
And remember that even on its first-time out, this version is better than any episode Top Gear Australia.