07th Jul2016

Let’s Talk About Top Gear

by Michael Chandler

top gear usa

Words by Michael Chandler

Some things happened while I was out.  Big things.  BBC Top Gear just wrapped up their first season post Clarkson, Hammond, and May; and Top Gear USA has been cancelled.  OH! And Chris Evans was let go/fired/what have you after that first season because of reasons that may or may not include arguing with producers, co-hosts, or a sexual assault investigation.  Whatever the reasons, he’s out and the Top Gear landscape is going to be different in the coming years.

Top Gear USA

Now I want to talk about Top Gear USA first, seeing as how 1. It’s dead and 2. I seem to be the only person who didn’t hate the show and wasn’t glad when it went away.  I’m still trying to figure out why it was so derided.  Was it because it was called Top Gear, but wasn’t the Top Gear everyone was used to seeing?  Was it the lack of studio segments and guests?  Car reviews?  Accents?  They had the films and challenges, which were pretty damn good, and it was arguably the best American car show on television.  Better than the “street racing” or “will they finish the build before the auction??” shows that serve as the other options.

Did it have its problems?  Oh yeah.  I liked the show, but I’m not an idiot.  Despite what it may look like, I’ll acknowledge the show’s flaws.  Here’s how every challenge went: Adam drove some giant American boat like someone with no regard for anything whatsoever, Rut drove something quirky for the sake of it being quirky,  and Tanner would be the boy racer in whatever garbage performance vehicle he could find.  They would deliver mail, make amphibious cars, try out the new crop of police cars, Tanner would win most of the challenges, and he would drive whatever super car the producers declared the “prize”.  Every.  Damn.  Time.  It became SUPER formulaic, and a bit boring, but the hosts gelled.  There were moments of camaraderie and genuine humor, something you’re not really getting from the other shows, with their hyper dramatized premises.

So it wasn’t Top Gear with Clarkson, Hammond, and May.  You know what?  It was never going to be.  Nothing, save for maybe their new Amazon show, will ever be that.  Not even their old show.

BBC Top Gear

Like the rest of you, I watched the whole season.  Unlike some of you, I waited until it was broadcast on BBC America, but that’s neither here nor there.  I watched, hoping that the massive hosting line-up would find some sort of equilibrium, or show signs of something like that.  Instead, we got a series where we barely saw some hosts, too much of others, and an after show which was better than the some of the episodes of the proper show.

I was really surprised by Rory Reid.  He was a superb presenter, one who showed genuine excitement to be driving and talking about the cars.  He also knowledgeable, something that can’t be said about other people on other shows.  And Matt LeBlanc was excellent as second chair.  In my opinion, he was better than Chris Evans.  Evans was too shouty, everything was in capital letters with him.  He was too wacky morning radio DJ, which was only amplified by LeBlanc’s quiet, subdued demeanor.  I felt Sabine was under utilized.  We saw her drive a Corvette Z06, an R8, and an A8… and that’s it.  Disappointing.  We saw Eddie Jordan break a small Mercedes SUV, and play the spoons on a train.  I think that’s about all we need from him.  Honestly I think the show can, and should, go on with Matt LeBlanc, Rory Reid, Chris Harris, and Sabine Schmitz.  And The Stig, that’s a given.  There’s definitely enough show for the four of them, and you don’t always need all of them at the same time.  A leaner cast would help the show flow better, but speaking of leaning out to help the show…

Why in God’s name were there two Stars on every show?  And why did that segment drag on for as long as it did every show?  I think that that had to have been either a concession the producers made to get Evans on as host, or a demand he made after he got the job.  Either way, it was awful and I hope they go back to the one star format they had in year’s past.  I did like Jenson Button coming on and driving a McLaren.  Maybe try and do more of that?  You could have Nico and Lewis crash AMG GTs into each other, Kimi fall asleep while driving a 488, and Kevin Magnussen drive an R.S. 01.  THAT is a segment that has some legs.  Tell me you wouldn’t want to see F1 drivers being interviewed while driving a supercar, then having to do a lap in a reasonably priced car.  BAM! fixed part of the show.  If that happens BBC, I expect to see my name in the credits and payment for my services.

 

Top Gear, et al., going forward is going to be different than what we’re used to, different than what we saw this season.  This time next year the old trio will have a season under their belt, and the BBC will have another season of Top Gear in the books.  Will The Grand Tour be what Top Gear used to be?  Will Top GEar find its footing?  Either way, I’m excited to see where this all goes.  What are your thoughts on all of this?  Join the conversation by leaving a comment.

And on that bombshell…

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