After its highly-publicised change of personnel and six episodes that, after a rocky start, seemed to be improving as the season went on, the all-new Top Gear line-up is already looking for a new presenter.
It was hoped the new team would step into the talismanic role left behind by Messrs Clarkson, May and Hammond, but not even the smooth, relaxed colonial Matt LeBlanc has saved the show.
And so we’re left with a Top Gear team with one “main” presenter, and little indication as to what’s going to happen next. We see it in two ways: what needs to go, and what needs to be added, to give the public what they want…
Time to ditch the catchphrases?
While we appreciated Clarkson and co’s range of catchphrases, there’s only so far you can push them – they’re part of a presenter’s character, not the show. Top Gear is so much more than stock lines, and that was proven as soon as the new team replicated them. The lines in question include:
· “Some say … all we know is, he’s called the Stig.”
· “And across the line!”
· “And on that bombshell…”
One Stig Pony?
The helmeted speed freak was a good little money spinner in the good old days of the BBC merchandising push, he now seems out of place, with no real cohesion between him/her/it and the current staff. Perhaps it’s worth shelving him, or signing him off to join the old gang on Amazon Prime, where they can continue to invent yet more culturally questionable “overseas cousins” (e.g. fat USA Stig, Chinese martial arts Stig).
Be our guest – or not?
There was a time, when Graham Norton wasn’t broadcasting and Jonathan Ross had shipped off to ITV, where Top Gear became the show of choice to see some truly big stars. Alongside home-grown talent that was more willing to make it onto the leaderboard (e.g. Tom Hiddleston, Benedict Cumberbatch), we were also treated to the likes of Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz. Quite a high point, in some ways, for the brand.
Yet it wasn’t all that perfect – the aforementioned Hollywood stars’ segment was to promote Knight and Day, an average film that still had a free trailer promotion in exchange for their services. That was six years ago – and aside from the start-of-series madness of six-to-ten guests hitting the track to get a new leaderboard up and running, it always felt like it was a way to cross-promote things. Why not ditch it altogether? It only takes one guest you don’t like to effectively write off 15 minutes of the show.
A Host of Changes?
Steve Coogan – who’s now 4/1 odds with Paddy Power to step up to the job –has a multi-decade career that isn’t truly specialised with cars. He could drive well, but his background wasn’t in motoring journalism. He missed the finer points, and appreciations, of motoring that his predecessors clearly displayed.
Motor journalists aren’t in short supply. Their desire to make a name for themselves in print can jump nicely to the screen. It worked with the original trio, who had to really carve names for themselves from relative obscurity. Why not try this formula again? It saves the usual articles before the start of a series saying “Ugh, not him again!”
Reinvent the (steering) wheel?
Jeremy, Richard and James have, at some point: sent a Mini down a ski jump; played a game of football with cars; raced buses and trucks around a destruction derby-style rally circuit; raced Le Mans in a knackered BMW; sent a car close to space; driven a Toyota Hilux across the Channel; and rolled Robin Reliants around South Yorkshire.
Naturally, the latest Top Gear line up seized on its carte blanche to… have the team driving Robin Reliants. Time for something new. We loved the changes to the Top Gear racetrack (with its rallycross stage), but there needs to be a major focus on doing something different. The only thing that’s limiting the team is their creativity, and the production team lost a lot when the former trio embarked on their new careers.
We love fast cars, but is there a way to make serious recommendations to people in a fun way? Take the second-hand market. Even daft challenges like this were enough to educate the masses on what to look for with cars of a certain ilk; others set a limit on family cars under £3,000, or two-seater run-arounds under £1,500. It doesn’t need to be serious in tone – but not everyone’s going to drive a Porsche 911 GT3 R.
What do you think? What would you change about Top Gear? Please let us know by tweeting @insideclassics