Chris Evans and the new Top Gear crew are on a hiding to nothing when the first episode finally appears on Prime tonight.
Top Gear fans in this country have already been subjected to repeated analysis of how bad the first episode, screened in the UK last week, was. The immediate social media reaction was scathing and dismissive. But wait and watch the viewing phenomenon that is Top Gear rebuild in the wake of the departure of Clarkson, Hammond and May.
Certainly the first episode has its faults — Evans is too shouty, and his co-star Matt LeBlanc simply doesn’t have the authority the former trio had more than a decade to establish.
The links between items are still poor, and many of the filmed items are far too long. But they were the same faults on the old show, when the trio often seemed more intent on amusing themselves than viewers. Even so, Top Gear became easily the world’s most popular television motoring show.
In tonight’s episode (7.30pm on Prime) there is an attempt to generate some heat and competition between Evans and LeBlanc, but the chemistry just isn’t there. The American actor was clearly sticking to his script while Evans was too excitable and over-the-top.
We have yet to see what the other presenters lined up, such as German Sabine Smitz, contribute. She has a token role in the first episode, and yet provides one or two of the most memorable lines.
Her credibility will not be questioned and it is doubtful she would be able to follow a script. LeBlanc establishes himself as a genuine sort of guy in tomorrow’s episode, and there are glimpses of him coming up with his own lines. He appeared more comfortable during the filmed segments than those before a live audience.
If Evans calms down and gives up trying to ape his predecessor Clarkson, he’ll be fine, too.
There is enough to keep me watching, even if the stunts are as juvenile as ever.
Tonight’s first episode of the new series of Top Gear airs at 7.30pm on Prime.