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Opinion: New-new Top Gear was pretty good

Kamil Kaluski April 26, 2017 Top Gear 6 Comments

A new era of Top Gear started when the Jezza, Hamster, and Captain Slow departed BBC. New hosts, many of them, new producers, and new desperation to keep a dying show relevant. And it stunk. I couldn’t take after watching the first episode.

Then The Grand Tour came on Amazon and… and after much hype it was kind of disappointing. It was the same supposedly unprepared travels, same old ideas, same dick jokes now improved with random cussing. It did have some great parts, such as James’ Ford GT film, but it was overall underwhelming. 

It was with great doubt I tuned into the new season of Top Gear, call it new-new, several weeks ago. Three hosts – Harris, LeBlanc, and Reid. New studio. Same track but a much better reasonably priced sports car. Less Stig because Harris can actually drive. Weird guests – I’ve never heard of most of them. Same ideas but somehow refreshed. New jokes, now with less dick. 

I have to say, it all worked for me. I truly enjoyed the whole season, aside from guest interviews which given their different format weren’t as bad as they could have been. Perhaps it was because the focus was more on cars than the people around them? Perhaps because it was well produced? It was the rally simple things made a big difference in my opinion, such as when they built a boat out of an SUV that was actually pretty cool and did not fail.

I’m looking forward to the next series of Top Gear, sometime in the fall. I am also hoping that The Grand Tour people watched it and recognized its strengths and their shortcomings. 

  • Ross Ballot

    I was very pleased. It felt like they were having good, genuine fun, and we were along for the ride. That’s how TG used to be, and where TGT failed. Yes, TG still has ultra-high production budgets and such, but it didn’t feel anywhere near as scripted or as forced as TGT. Perhaps Clarkson, Hammon, and May have just lost some of their mojo; it seems like LeBlanc, Harris, and Reid have picked it up and inherited it as their own. The slight changes in the show worked for me as well, like the GT86 as the test car and the new format for guests, so what’s new and fresh was a success in my mind.

    Of course there were some silly, unnecessary bits. The boat segment that ended the season would have aggravated me quite a bit as the way to close out the “series” if it hadn’t been for the seemingly throw-away “Seaman Harris” joke that left me laughing way harder than it should have. Juvenile can be funny, but not when there’s too much of it; TG hit a good ratio of it in my opinion.

    As for the review segments themselves, they were fantastic; Harris’ FXXK and 718 bits in particular stood out to me. But that’s not to say LeBlanc or Reid weren’t great in their own right, because they were. There’s a cool, calm feeling to the show, like they know what they’re doing and they’re comfortable with it. That the cinematography, sound and video editing, narration, and scripting are fantastic as well certainly helps.

    I’m looking forward to the next series much more than I am season 2 of TGT, and even more so than I used to when the old trio were at the helm of TG. To me, that says it all.

  • Fred Talmadge

    A lot of TV sucks because it’s the same show over and over again. TG is one of those. Still compared to all those cranky hot rod builders on Velocity et al, it’s a 1000 times better.

    • Yup: start with a car I might see once in the wild but probably never, then try putting one moderator into an expensive sports car and the others into [insert here] and see who’ll reach a distant goal first? Spice it up by [insert activtiy]? Sounds familiar.

      I do like the new folks better though, and the fact they have Jordan and Schmitz to extend the characters, and none of them is a 1D stereotype (although the scripted bits seem to try hard to do so). Of the old triplet, I’d be interested to chat only with May.

      Obligatory: Reid’s Rolls Royce slam: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yd_6P_AQj6U

      • Fred Talmadge

        It’s been awhile so I watched it again last night. The trip to Cuba was interesting. Watching them smash sheds with a material handler and the MB GTR super car review were cliche. I’ll watch it again in a few weeks.

        • outback_ute

          At this point it must be pretty hard to do something really original. I’d be happy if it isn’t as scripted and repetitive (eg crashing into each other’s cars _every single time_)

  • crank_case

    The king of the hammers episode has to be my fave so far, no ironic “oh we’re so rubbish haha”, two race drivers from different disciplines just totally going for it.