Now since the scandal that was ‘fracas gate’ way back in 2015 the future of BBC’s Top Gear has been seemingly bleak, the departure of Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May seemed to seal the fate of Top Gear and the appointment of Chris Evans was the final nail in the coffin with terrible viewing figures and scathing reviews of Series 23 it looked like there was no way back for Top Gear.
Worry not though it seems like Series 24 could be about to change that. I was an avid viewer and MASSIVE fan of Top Gear hosted by Clarkson, Hammond and May ever since 2002. In 2015 I even got to drive around the test track (as talked about in another blog). After the departure of the iconic hosts in 2015 I personally think the BBC really needed to re-invent the show, a simple case of swapping out the presenters was never going to work. Chris Evans was also a massively unpopular choice amongst fans and critics and his shouting, wooden presenting and gobshite attitude put many fans off. Matt LeBlanc seemed to be the show’s saving grace (along with Chris Harris and Rory Reid who received high praise). The Star in a Rally Cross car, the abysmal interview tactics of Chris Evans and other subtle tweaks really weren’t enough to reprise the once award winning show and format.
Skip forward to series 24, 05/03/2017 Sunday 8pm BBC2 and I am pleasantly surprised. Unlike many Top Gear fans who enjoyed watching it fail under Chris Evans I really wanted it to succeed. As a car lover the thought of having 2 big car shows (the other of course being The Grand Tour on Amazon Prime) was amazing but sadly that was not to be, until now it seems. Matt LeBlanc, Chris Harris and Rory Reid are bringing the show back as a threesome. There is a new studio, new Star in a Reasonably Fast Car segment and some actual banter that we missed in the previous series. Although it’s not a total overhaul going back to the basics of what we loved from the Clarkson, Hammond and May era seems to have paid off.
The presenters gel well and actually get along, there is no awkwardness that we got from Evans presenting style and the show seems certain in its direction. Clarkson Hammond and May had their own version of Top Gear that will never be again, we have The Grand Tour for that and I think finally the BBC are starting to accept that and move on. We don’t need a bolshy presenter throwing digs and shade at Clarkson we just want a car show about cars presented by people who know and more importantly love cars. Back in 2002 when Andy Wilman and Jeremy Clarkson re-created Top Gear they created it for people who love cars . It was more than just a consumer advice show and evolved massively over the years into what it was in Series 22 when Clarkson was sacked, a show about 3 blokes mucking about and having a laugh. You didn’t need to be a car enthusiast to watch Top Gear before but in series 23 I think it went too far the other way back to ‘old Top Gear’. There was too much emphasis on cars and all the boring facts that come with them in series 23, the first segment of series being a pointless dog fight between Evans, and Sabine Schmitz that was neither fun nor entertaining.
Episode 1 of Series 24 was a good mixture between cars and fun, there was a segment about the Ferrari La Ferrari FXX-K and then a challenge to test the reliability of cars which involved Harris, Reid and LeBlanc each having to buy a car that had done over 480,000 miles and take part in a series of challenges. It was like being back in the good old days and I thoroughly enjoyed the episode and genuinely am looking forward to next week. I struggled through episode 1 with Chris Evans as host because I wanted to see what it would be like, I hated and cringed through every second and didn’t watch any more of series 23, which was a great shame. I was actually sad that I had lost the love I had once felt for my one time favourite TV show.
The re-creation of Top Gear was always going to be a tough job with big shoes to fill and was never going to be an immediate success but after watching Episode 1 of Series 24 I can honestly say that I think it is back on the right tracks and I can proudly say I am a fan again.