Top Gear

Top Gear S24 E1-4 (BBC 2)

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A little under one year ago, everyone was watching the latest episodes of Top Gear with consternation as it struggled and faltered in its first post-Clarkson outing. The situation was so bad that at one point it seemed possible that the show – formerly one of the BBC’s most prestigious and profitable international brands – could even be summarily cancelled.

It didn’t help when Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May’s The Grand Tour launched on Amazon Prime later in the year and was everything that the BBC’s new take on Top Gear had failed to be – although naturally, anyone who had previously hated Clarkson on Top Gear continued to hate him in his new Amazonian habitat too. All of it piled new pressure on the BBC’s motoring show. Read the rest of this entry »

The Grand Tour S1 E1-2 (Amazon Prime)

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As I mentioned in a previous post, I recently succumbed to the never-ending parade of pop-ups and prompts and took out an Amazon Prime membership. It was the week before Amazon released the first episode of their latest original online streaming television production The Grand Tour, and while that hadn’t been one of the factors that make me sign up in the first place, it was certainly one of those ‘value added extras’ that I was keen on looking at now that I had access.

grandtourSometime in the future – if it’s not happening as we speak – someone will write a lengthy treatise into the Great Top Gear Schism and what it tells us about the media industry. You’ll recall that the show’s already-controversial presenter Jeremy Clarkson parted company with the BBC’s motoring show early in 2015 after a heated altercation with one of the production team, taking with him his co-presenters Richard Hammond and James May and the show’s producer Andy Wilman to start a new show called The Grand Tour, which is funded by the deep pockets of the world’s largest online retailer.

This split meant that the BBC retained all the rights to Top Gear – the internationally famous brand, the programme format that included the ‘Star in a Reasonably Priced Car’ and masked test driver The Stig – and all they had to do was find a new set of presenters to keep the show on the road. Clarkson and his team on the other hand had to start again from scratch and produce some sort of show that bore no (legally defined) similarity to Top Gear whatsoever if they were to prevent the lawsuits from flying in. It’s no wonder that when the first new shows of the two respective post-Schism series aired, one was rolling in verve, confidence and exuberance while the other was floundering and fumbling around, staggering like a new born foal trying to find its footing. Read the rest of this entry »

Top Gear S23 E1-4 (BBC2)

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As I hadn’t wanted to rush in and judge the show prematurely before it had been given time to find it’s feet, I’ve been putting off writing about the post-Clarkson reboot of Top Gear for a few weeks until now, four episodes in to the new era fronted by Chris Evans and Matt LeBlanc.

topgearThe good news is that the production is as stylish as ever. Not being a huge petrolhead myself, a lot of the pleasure of watching Top Gear for me was in the top-notch photography, editing and music production values of the show, and in this respect the standard is as good as if not even better than previous seasons.

Viewed objectively, therefore, this new series is a solid attempt by Top Gear to pick itself up after former host Jeremy Clarkson’s explosive exit from the series in 2015 after reportedly punching a producer. The BBC had no choice but to not renew his contract and so Clarkson duly left, taking with him co-hosts Richard Hammond and James May and executive producer Andy Wilman to set-up a still-to-air rival show on Amazon Prime called The Grand Tour. That left the BBC with a big problem over what to do with the now-gutted Top Gear. After some deliberation, the keys to the project were handed over to long-time TV and radio host Chris Evans who selected former Friends star Matt LeBlanc as his co-host.

That should really have put the show in safe hands, but the ratings for the new series of Top Gear have been tanking. There are even rumours that the show will be cancelled after its latest run, or at the very least that Evans will not be invited back. So what’s gone wrong? Read the rest of this entry »