It hasn’t been an easy journey for BBC’s Top Gear, following the departure of Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May back in April 2015. But last night’s series opener showed some promising signs of life, and the show looks to be finally heading in the right direction.
Following on from Series 23, expectations among viewers were always going to be low – and so far the figures reflect this. Just 2.8 million people tuned in for the start of Series 24 on Sunday, which is considerably less than the 4.4 million who watched Chris Evans scream his way into the studio for Series 23. But what these figures don’t tell you is how good the episode actually was.
In our opinion, it was very good. So much so, that we think The Grand Tour should be glancing nervously into its rear-view mirror right about now.
From the off, it was clear that the revised presenter lineup of Matt LeBlanc, Chris Harris and Rory Reid do indeed have some chemistry between them – which is a promising thing to see after just one episode. Sure, some of the studio segments were awkward, with some of the banter feeling a little forced and a few jokes falling flat – but it was a different story out on the road in their three high-mileage cars.
Going in with an open mind, I honestly have to say I laughed more watching Top Gear Series 24 Episode 1 than any episode of The Grand Tour. Surprising to hear I know, but in my case it is the honest truth. There were some really funny moments and one-liners scattered throughout the episode, and most importantly, none of it felt scripted, fake, or over-the-top. Many of you will disagree of course, but hey – that’s just me.
While The Grand Tour has become something more like ‘Old Men Falling Over In Exotic Locations’, Series 24 of Top Gear at its core appears to have gone back to being a car show – and it is all the better for it. It feels like what Top Gear was 5 or 10 years ago before everything got too silly. It felt good, man.
The Ferrari FXX K film was something of a revelation for me. For a start, it was filmed absolutely fxxking beautifully – which surprisingly is something you can’t say for some of The Grand Tour’s car tests. Harris also has a way of explaining things so that even non-car people can understand why he liked the car, and enjoy an otherwise nerdy segment.
The trip to Kazakhstan though, was even more enjoyable. Top Gear was always at its best when the boys were on an epic roadtrip or a cheap car challange, and the opening episode for Series 24 was no exception. It was through this segment that we got our first proper taste of how LeBlanc, Harris and Reid interact with each other, and surprisingly enough it was all much better than I expected.
It was nice to see that all three presenters genuinely seem to like each other’s company, which is a far cry from the contempt which Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May seem to have for each other – scripted or not. It felt like you were watching three people who cared about their work and enjoyed what they were doing, rather than three tired old men who were arguing as per the script and simply going through the motions.
After just a single episode, Top Gear appears to have The Grand Tour by the balls well and truly – but it remains to be seen whether they can continue to bring the fight for the remainder of the series.
I for one, can’t wait to find out.