The return of Top Gear has been met with more negativity than almost any other show I can think of, except for maybe Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. We’ve heard all the rumours about the supposed difficulties making the show, about Chris Evans apparently being unable to talk to camera and drive, and the ratings have dropped slightly week-on-week since the premiere. So does this mean all the haters were right? Is the new Top Gear crap? In my opinion, definitely not.
For starters, the last two episodes have been legitimately good – Episode 4 in particular. Chris Harris’ runs in the Ferrari F12tdf and Aston Martin Vulcan were not just good by the low standards for new Top Gear, they were good even by Clarkson, Hammond, and May standards. Likewise, Rory Reid’s Focus RS and Model X reviews are segments that also rated well by Clarkson, Hammond, and May-era Top Gear standards – as was the team’s epic race to Venice against the Orient Express.
It seems that the issue people have with the new Top Gear is that the show has retained the old name and much of its format while a new cast of characters has taken the baton from the original trio. The task that was laid before Chris Evans and crew was monumental, to say the least. They had to continue a brand that had been synonymous with the previous hosts and somehow attempt to live up to the lofty expectations that they previous three had set. Thing is, Top Gear hasn’t always been great. While there are truly epic episodes of the show, Clarkson, Hammond, and May have had their share of bad episodes too. And the start to their relationship on camera wasn’t always gold. Top Gear is essentially in season one again but expected to perform like its a seasoned veteran. There were bound to be hiccups.
I’ll be the first to admit that there’s a myriad of issues which need to be addressed with the show. The Star in a Rallycross Car segment isn’t as good as the already boring Star in a Reasonably Priced Car of the old series, and some of the presenter and audience interactions are a bit cringe-worthy (must they waste time cheering at things?) – but the new Top Gear team need time to refine the formula and take the show in a new direction. The name might be the same as the show which preceded it, but this version of Top Gear is a different show and should not be compared. The focus is on the films, not the studio – there’s no news segment, the interactions between the presenters solely exist to bridge the gap between films. But the films of the last two episodes have been stand outs in the classic Top Gear vein.
Not everyone will like the new version of the show. Others won’t watch it out of principal because they feel like Top Gear should only be Clarkson, Hammond, and May and nobody else. But if the new series continues with shows this strong, we’ll have at least two great car shows when The Grand Tour debuts on Amazon. And two great car shows is better than one, or none.